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Hello Gang!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be presenting a digital workshop on Friday, July 26th hosted by Mahin of Phoenix.

Dancers in Orientalist Art Friday, July 26, 2019
​5:00 PM PDT /  8:00 PM EDT
Tickets: $15 till July 15
$20 till July25 Registration includes
attending Live Online
+ 45 Days Streaming Access

“Dancers in Orientalist Art” is a 90-minute slide-show style presentation of the subject of the dancer in Orientalist Art.  During the course of this talk, I’ll be sharing more than 100 images, so if you love looking at beautiful images and learning about art, this is the class for you.

  • What does the term Orientalism mean?
  • Are all Orientalist paintings with dancers harem fantasies?
  • Who is Edward Said and what his book “Orientalism” meant for belly dancers?
  • How can contemporary dancers engage with Orientalist art in this post-colonial world?

The course includes a printable .pdf that includes an overview, timeline of Orientalist Art, and suggested readings.

I’m very excited to have this opportunity to combine my academic work in Art History with my love for belly dance.  Help me spread the word about my lecture by sharing this blog post with your favorite dancers.

I Hope to See you on July 26th for “Dancers in Orientalist Art,”
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
July 6, 2019

The post Dancers in Orientalist Art – A Digital Workshop, Friday July 26 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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Hello Gang,

I’m checking in to let you know that I plan on getting back to my regularly scheduled content the week of July 15.

While I was on a planned hiatus, tragedy struck my home.  My friends here are helping me make it through these dark times by lending a hand with all the work that needs to be done, lots of hugs and long talks over tea, and helping me with some of the projects that were up in the air.

In June, Zemira aka Alisha Westerfeld stepped up to the plate and got our little troupe Swirl rehearsed and costumed so we could appear at a fundraiser for Fuse Theater hosted by Lizzy Darkheart and Amanda Baer.

I’ve got a lot more work ahead of me before July 15, but I look forward to getting back to work here on the blog, over on my YouTube channel, and the upcoming book “Pose.”

Thank you for your patience,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina

Fusion Belly Dance with Troupe Swirl - 6/23/19 - YouTube

The post Swirl Performs – June 2019 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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Do you ever have that moment when you bite off a little more than you can chew?   Well, due to a variety of things I’ve fallen incredibly behind. I’m a feeling a little like that frog that is jumping from lily pad to lily pad. Or in my case, from project to project?

In March, I launched a series of posts on belly dance history to celebrate women’s history month. I shared this series on my FaceBook wall and it went pretty well.  It ran a little behind, but I finished in early April, only a few days late.  Many people enjoyed this series, but as it neared the end of the series, many people asked me to move it over here so the content is more searchable and shareable.

Sharing the content on this blog sounded like a really great thing!  So without taking something off my plate, I said “SURE!”  Well, the hard truth is that it takes a lot more time to put up a blog post than it does to whip up a social media post.  I did get as far as day 16, but other time-sensitive business projects were more pressing.

Two Blog Series?

So the big issue was that I had made a promise to start a blog series without carefully thinking about the amount of time putting these blog posts would take. It wasn’t until after I jumped right in when I found myself realizing that I had lost my way.  I simply used up all the extra bandwidth in my work schedule.

I also inadvertently interrupted the flow of the posts about the creation of this gold costume. Several people were following this costume design series and were confused by my sudden change in direction!

The Gold Goddess costume was finished in March has been seen at several restaurants in San Francisco and beyond.  I’m looking forward to planning a formal photoshoot to get photographs on Shalimar.

Catch a clip of Sara and her troupe Neshee Dolu at a recent halfa

Writing Projects

This history blog was also threatening to derail my work with my co-authors Sara Shrapnell and photographer Alisha Westerfeld on our next release, Pose.  I realized that I had quickly dashed off my Belly Dance History posts on FaceBook. Each post needed either a good edit or even a full rewrite. In addition, the blog images all needed to be formatted and resized. All that “writing/blogging” time was eating away at the time I had already committed to the Pose Book!

The truth is, I can only write and wordsmith for several prime hours a day. The new blog series was threatening to derail our book schedule!  After three posts, I found myself abandoning the new project in order to spend quality time on the book in progress.

Sewing Projects

In the world of self-employment, the key to economic success is to develop multiple streams of income.  For me, that means devoting time every day to progressing my sewing and design projects.  Over the past two months, I’ve worked on three bedlah sets that needed me to put hours in at the sewing table.

Spring is the start of the belly dance season and there are lots of costumes that need adjustments, refurbishments, and redesigns. Before the end of April, I need to finish off two other smaller projects as well.  All-in-all, it’s quite a bit of work on the agenda.  I’m feeling a bit of pressure because I “stole” some time away from sewing at the beginning of the month for the blog.

Meanwhile, over on Social Media

For the month of April, I’m sharing Orientalist images and discussing this cultural phenomenon by sharing paintings, illustrations, and photographs. Each day, I’m picking an artist, subject or theme and sharing it on Facebook. Although these are short little posts, they contain a lot of information about Orientalism and the 19th century.  While the days are quite aligned I’m planning on rolling through with this series into May to get a full 30 posts completed.

Moving Forward – Resting, Regrouping & Refocusing

I really need this time to play catch up on my other outstanding projects and to make a better plan for the upcoming quarter.  It’s time to give the sewing studio a big deep clean, touch base with all of my design customers, and basically, finish up outstanding time-sensitive projects.   When I return in May, I will resume the Golden Goddess Costume Design project first, and then I will press onward with a couple of long history posts until both of these projects are complete!

I hope that you have a great couple of weeks, I’ll be back in May!

Happy Dance & Costuming
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
April 17, 2019

The post Regroup, Recap, and a Spring Break 2019 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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March is Women’s History Month – Part 3

Hello there!  Today I’m doing something a bit different.  In honor of International Woman’s Day, which falls in Women’s History Month, I’m sharing a bit of belly dance history each day over on my FaceBook page. I’ve decided to put up five posts this month that round up those entries for the week.  This is post #3 in this series. If you haven’t read them all start with the first post and here’s the second post.

Day 13 – Johanna and Turhan, 1960’s – Black and White Glossy Promotional Photo

One of the sources of 20th-century belly dance costume information is black and white glossies. For more than 40 years, from the 40s through to the 80s professional entertainers would supply venues with photographs to use for promotional purposes. These 8″ by 10″ photos might be sent to the press as part of a promotion, placed in signholders outside of the venue, or used as interior decor to share past stars.

These photographs were as essential for a dancer’s marketing and publicity then as a website is today. Black and white glossies offer the belly dance costume historian a wealth of information from eras before amateur video recording made it easy to document performances.

This 1960s era black and white glossy features a dancing duo from New York, Johanna and her dance partner and husband Bill who danced “Middle Eastern Style” under the name Turhan. Johanna founded “The Oasis Ballet” and the troupe performed in NYC and beyond.

Johanna’s daughter by her second husband, Belly Dancer Aziza Al-Tawil, wrote a detailed biography of Johanna along with lots of great photos.  https://azizaaltawilsworld.blogspot.com/…/johanna-white-was…

Watch Johanna perform a Spanish style dance to Malaguena

Johanna: Malaguena Spanish Dance - YouTube

Here’s a later performance of a scarf dance

Johanna: 1960's Belly Dance Star - YouTube

Day 14 – Uknown dancer on Arcade Card c. 1918-1925

During the first quarter of the 20th century, before the advent of TV and talkie movies, people living in metropolitan areas would go to coin-operated arcades for entertainment. These penny arcades came in different styles and varieties and might be more child and family oriented. Others were more adult in theme and tone and might be attached to a bar or tavern.

Coin-operated machines would include games, like pinball, flip-show action animation and in the 1920’s you could even see short movie clips. While there were dedicated arcades at pleasure destinations, individual or small groups of coin-operated machines could also be located in other entertainment venues. They were especially popular at early theme parks, especially those at sea-side pleasure Even in today’s movie theaters, small arcades are included, a tradition left over from the silent movie era.

There were three ways you could get a collectible photo at the arcade. The first was to buy candy, gum or cigarettes with a collectible card inside. This practice dates back to the very beginning of the penny arcade. Later, companies like the Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago 1900 – 1966, produced post-card sized images like the one I’m sharing today. Cards were produced in “Sets” and they often featured dancing girls, sports figures, Hollywood celebrities.

This lovely is from my collection. You can find these vintage postcards at ephemera and collectible shows, at antique dealers both in person and online.

Day 15 – Mata Hari

Well, Facebook didn’t want this post about Mata Hari on their site – apparently, they thought you could see her nipples or that the shadow in the image below didn’t obscure enough of her body. I only see jewels and strategic shadows, but ya know, it’s not their site, so here it is on mine!  Unfortunately, I lost the original text I wrote!  However, I wanted to share that she is probably the best-documented Orientalist dancer due in large part to her reputation as a spy. There are many movies have been made about her, television documentaries, and loads of books, both biographical and fictional.  I have quite a few in my library and recommend this one.

During more public performances, Mata Hari wore “Pinks” or flesh-colored body stockings that created the illusion of nudity. However, she became notorious for dancing in various levels of nudity.  We definitely know she frequently went nude for still photographs.  Compare the two shots below, both taken in 1905.  The left photo is from a public performance at the Musée Guimet.  While in the studio photograph below that became a widely traded post-card, she is partially nude, but with strategic shadows.

Day 16 – La Belle Otéro.

In Paris c. 1900, The Follies-Bergère was one of the most popular places to go for variety entertainment in Paris. The shows included music, singers, comedians, and dancers.

Between 1900-1910, the Spanish born, La Belle Otéro was considered THE star of the show. Though she started off her career as a dancer, she was also known for her acting abilities and her numerous love affairs with wealthy patrons of the art. During her career, she became fabulously wealthy and quite notorious.

She was best known for her sultry Spanish Gypsy style. We can get a sense of her style in the one surviving movie clip from 1898. In it, she’s performing one of her signature Spanish dances. You can spot this vintage clip as part of this informational video.

"La Bella Otero" - YouTube

As Salomania swept the globe, Otéro also created a Salome dance. Due to her high-ranking status at the Follies, her costume was captured in a photo shoot for a series of postcards. Unfortunately, there’s no surviving video of her performing in this piece.

In 1954, French actress Maria Felix portrayed the famous dancer. Notice how her Oriental costume designed for the movie reflects the style and taste of 1950’s bedlah sets.  Here is a clip from the movie of with Maria performing a Spanish dance.

MARIA FELIX La Bella Otero - YouTube

Sculpture of La Belle Otéro by Camilo Seira, located in Valga Spain. If you are interested in learning more about Caroline Otéro aka La Belle Otéro, many research libraries hold copies of her 1927 memoir.

I really hope that you are enjoying this series!
Happy Dance and Costuming, 
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 25, 2019.

The post Women’s History Month & Belly Dance History – Part 3 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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March is Women’s History Month – Part 2

Hello there!  Today I’m doing something a bit different.  In honor of International Woman’s Day, which falls in Women’s History Month, I’m sharing a bit of belly dance history each day over on my FaceBook page. I’ve decided to put up five posts this month that round up those entries for the week.  This is post #2. If you haven’t read the first post – check it out here.

Facebook, the site we love and hate

As I’ve worked on this project over on Facebook, I ran into a few troubles. One day in March, Facebook and Instagram had a global outage.  While it threw off my timing by a day, it was just a minor inconvenience.  A bigger problem was Facebook removing two posts due to the illusion of nudity.  While it was just an illusion, they are sticking to their guns and disallowing the images. Consequently, I had to change up some of my plans for later posts.  History is broad and deep and there are many, many images and anecdotes to share, so I just had to change things up a bit.

Day 9 – Nai Bonet and Shirley MacLaine

Back in the 1950s and 60s, many popular films featured belly dancers either as important characters or as part of the backdrop for the flow of the story.

Throughout the 1950s, belly dancing scenes appeared most often in quasi-historic “Sword and Sandal” flicks, spy films, or Orientalist Fantasy pictures. By the 1960s, belly dancers began appearing in more humor films.

One of these more humor-focussed films was “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home” of 1965.  In this film, Shirley Maclaine appears in a scene with a group of belly dancers.

To prepare for this film, she took some classes with then Las Vegas-based belly dancer Nai Bonet.  In this photo, you can see Shirley, an accomplished Broadway-style dancer, learning to do a classic belly dance move.

Nai, however, is the star of the belly dance scene.  But if you follow this link and watch this entire clip, you can catch Shirley’s shimmy!

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! - YouTube

Day 10 – Serena of NYC

During the 1970’s the first wave of belly dance instructional books hit shelves and every major publisher connected with a belly dance teacher to share the mystic art of belly dance with readers.  Belly dance had gone mainstream.

Serena of NYC published her book, “The Serena Technique of Belly Dancing: The Fun Way to a Trim Shape” in 1972.  This book went through several editions appearing in hardback and paperback versions.  My mum had this book when she was dabbling in learning the dance.  I bought my first copy from a Goodwill in San Diego for .25  Today you can pick up a vintage copy for as little as $3 on Amazon.  – https://amzn.to/2Tz4bYs

This photo was part of the publicity campaign for the book release. A photographer from Life Magazine went to her New York studio to photograph the celebrity dancer in action.  It appeared as part of a photo essay on the last few pages of the Feb. 4, 1972 edition.  It’s nice to know that “Perfectly Respectable” women were taking up the hobby.

After her passing, her studio, and later the NYC store Belly Dance America hosted an exhibition of her memorabilia.  Mahin of Phoenix  visited the exhibition and documented in this video:  

Mahin Visits The Serena Bellydance Museum in NYC! - YouTube

Day 11 –  Rue du Caire Poster,
The Exposition Universelle du 1900, Paris

Today’s image is a promotional poster from the Exposition Universelle of 1900, a world’s fair to celebrate the artistic and industrial achievements between 1800 and 1900. There was a new arts sensibility sweeping France called Art Nouveau and this poster really captures the essence of the style.

By 1900, the World’s Fair exhibition model was well established and codified. So along with the newest technology, like the telegraphone, the first magnetic audio recorder, and the escalator, there were repeat pieces such as the iconic Tour Eiffel and the imported Ferris Wheel.

During this era of Imperialism, there many cultural exhibitions, many of which were reimaginations of exhibits from the previous Paris exhibition from just 11 years before.

The Rue du Caire was an exhibition for the 1889 Paris Exposition and it was so popular it was reborn for the 1900 exhibition. In this poster, our dancer is in the act of a mighty hip thrust with arms held high. You get a real sense of what her costume looked like, with her transparent chemise and wide-legged striped pantaloons and cropped vest. These pieces are the iconic Turkish costuming elements worn by dancers throughout the lands once or still ruled by the Ottoman empire.

Artemis and Yasmin of www.Serpentine.org put together a great video about the Rue du Caire from the 1889 Exhibition available for view on YouTube.

Exposition Universelle 1889: Rue du Caire & les Almees - YouTube

Day 12 – Özel Turkbas, “Music For Belly Dancing”

In the 1970’s one of the most acclaimed belly dance performers was the lovely Özel. And, very much like today, she worked hard to develop multiple income streams to support her career. In addition to performing and teaching, she also was involved in a series of albums, books, and back in her native Turkey, she starred in several films.

Ozel Turkbas on the Dinah Shore Show - YouTube

In 1977, Özel published a cookbook entitled “The Turkish Cookbook” and went on a book publicity tour which included several stops on the talk show circuit including the Dinah Shore show. Her appearance on this show includes a short performance, her teaching a few moves to the other guests (including the stuffy actor Ted Knight) and then a demo of how to prepare the Turkish Dish Lamb Papillote.

Her book, The Belly Dancer in You, is still on my bookshelf and I really enjoy pulling it down and thumbing through the pages.

Today I’ve included the front and back of her album “Music For Belly Dancing” so you can enjoy reading the blurb on the other side.

Thank you for sharing the obsession!

I appreciate you joining me for this 31-day series. If you have questions about belly dance history, and I know the answer I’m happy to share.  It’s been a pleasure to put together these posts, and I’ll be back next week with two more posts.

Happy Dance and Costume
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 22, 2019

The post Women’s History Month & Belly Dance History – Part 2 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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March is Women’s History Month

Hello there!  Today I’m doing something a bit different.  In honor of International Woman’s Day, which falls in Women’s History Month, I’m sharing a bit of belly dance history each day over on my FaceBook page. I’ve decided to put up five posts this month that round up those entries for the week.

Day 1 – Palmolive Soap Advertisement, 1920’s

When I was a young girl, this was one of my favorite pictures.  I loved historical advertising, and I thought that I looked a bit like this lovely lady.  When little kids are asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I secretly wanted to grow up to be her.  To my eyes, she looked like she was getting ready to dance.  It didn’t hurt that there was a bit of resemblance between her face and mine.

My mom took belly dance classes in the mid-1970s and though she didn’t stick with the hobby, I certainly was hooked. When I started taking classes myself at 17 and soon started performing in Milwaukee Wi, I knew I was making my dream of being a professional dancer come true.

As a “Triple Threat”  (in my case, dancer, costumer, and historian) I am most happy when I get to share my favorite photos – so let’s embark together on this historical adventure!

Day 2 – A scene from the Algerian Theater – Columbian Exhibition, Chicago 1893

The Chicago World’s Faire in 1893 is often used as the starting point for tracing the history of belly dance in the United States.

The truth is, there were middle eastern dancers spotted at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 as well as individual dancers performing in major cities like New York.

And while Sol Bloom made a big deal about “Little Egypt” doing the “Belly Dance” in the Streets of Cairo Exhibit at the Columbian Exhibition of 1893, there were middle eastern dancers performing in various exhibits along the Midway Plaisance.

In this illustration, you can see a dancer performing an Algerian Scarf dance. If you look close, you can see that she is holding a small scarf in each of her hands. Her costume is very Turkish in cut and style, which is to be expected as Algeria was part of the Ottoman empire at this time and urban clothing was influenced by the Turkish style.

Day 3 – Omene – Turkish Dancer – New York 1880’s

One of the earliest recorded middle eastern dancers to perform in the US was the Turkish Dancer Omene.  She appeared in the variety theater circuit of NYC and beyond. Throughout the 1880s, newspaper printing technology improved and illustrated newspapers became much more popular.  As the decade progresses, more line illustrations like the one to the right begin appearing in regular newspapers like the New York Times. 

Omene lived a scandalous life. New York City newspapers documented her outrageous activities. The press was especially fascinated with sharing the melodrama of her tumultuous relationship with her husband Yank-Hoe.

As a testament to her popularity, she appeared in a series of Cigarette Cards in 1890 and there is a very nice article about the collection of the Met Museum in New York City. Read more about Omene and her adventures in this informative article by the New York Metropolitan Museum.

Day 4 – Unknown Egyptian Dancer, 1940s

This is one of my favorite photographs of an Egyptian dancer wearing an assiut robe and a classic dowery necklace. Wedding dresses made of assuit were traditional in Upper Egypt during the last quarter of the 19th century. Wedding attendees – especially married women – would also don assuit shawls.

Dancers would wear assiut to henna night and other wedding celebrations, especially for the zeffa. Although no longer tied to wedding traditions, dancers continue to wear assiut.

Have you read my book about assiut?
Only $24 through the end of March at my Etsy store.

If you are interested in assiut, make your way over to my assiut Facebook group where we share loads of images and discuss the history and use of assiut through the ages.

If you would like to see assiut in action, I’ve got a YouTube playlist that includes vintage and modern performances.

Day 5 – Autochrome Lumière of an Unknown Dancer – Georges Lékégian – 1907-8

Autochrome Lumière was the first camera capable of taking color photos. This technique used glass plates that were dyed with red, green and blue potato starch and a layer of emulsion. When the light passed through the glass, a softly colored image was created. Subjects had to pose for quite a length of time to capture the image so they are often slightly fuzzy from holding poses.

Georges Lékégian’s father Gabriel was part of the large Armenian community living in Cairo after the diaspora in the 19th century. Gabriel opened a studio and turned out a wide variety of photos including landscapes, portraits and “types” for postcards. His son inherited his eye and his business. It’s often confusing which G. Lékégian created any particular image at this time.

Georges experimented with the Autochrome process when it was new. What’s great about this photo is that we know it’s provenance. This image was made in the Cairo based  Lékégian studio. So unlike the numerous undated black and white postcards, this image offers us a tiny slice of costume history.

Note that this Ghawazee dancer has chosen to wear a matching vest and skirt of red with contrasting yellow/gold tabs with tassels on her hip treatment.

Read an overview of this photo process over on the Wikipedia site.

Day 6 – Gilda Gray dance with the Ziegfeld Follies

Gilda Gray was an early 20th-century dancer who performed on stage with the Ziegfeld Follies. She is often erroneously credited as the originator of “The Shimmy.”  Gilda’s career moved from stage to screen. This promotional photo is from the 1927 movie “The Devil Dancer.”

By the 20’s the show-girl costuming formula of a cropped top or bra, embellished belt worn below the navel, and a full skirt was de rigueur for a belly dancer. In this image of Gilda’s ensemble features all of these costuming elements. Though this style dates from the ’20s, you might see a similar ensemble worn on stage at your next dance event. Moving forward through the 20th century, belly dance ensembles will change and evolve with shifts in tastes and developments in technology. But the three-piece set remains the emblematic uniform for the modern professional belly dancer.

While Gilda didn’t invent the shimmy, she was a master of the art and you can see her bust out a few shimmy moves in this clip from the 1929 movie “Piccadilly.”

Day 7 – Samia Gamal by Loomis Dean for Life Magazine 1952

Today I’m sharing this beautiful black and white photo of the incomparable Egyptian dancer Samia Gamal by photographer Loomis Dean shot for Life Magazine in 1952. This beautiful composite photo captures the elegant movement of the great dancer through an overlay multi-exposure darkroom process.

In 1952 Samia was performing at the prestigious and very upper-class dinner theater the Latin Quarter in New York City. Headliners of the club included Frank Sinatra and the Andrew Sisters. It ran from 1942 to 1969. (Fun Factoid: The Latin Quarter was founded and run by the father of broadcaster Barbara Walters)

Life Magazine was instrumental in sharing ideas about US culture, not only with Americans but throughout Europe and around the globe. Life not only recorded our culture, but it shared, reinforced, and directed the zeitgeist. This magazine shaped opinion and created celebrity with its gorgeous photography and easy to read articles.

Brief article about Samia in Life Magazine

Day 8 – Lys and Lyn Gamal

The Gamal Twins were beautiful sisters, not twins. They created their act and took the name Gamal to make them more appealing and unique to the Egyptian audiences.

Specialty acts like the Gamal twins stand out for their uniqueness are often better documented in the historical archive. They get more attention because they are different and distinct.

Their real names were Helena (Lyn) and Berta (Lys). Berta had kept mementos from her career, like press clippings and magazine articles.  Berta’s step-daughter wanted to share Lys’s story after her passing in 2016 and donated this ephemera collection to the Jerusalem National Library. The collection is now available for dance researchers.

Read more about Lys and Lyn in this article.
Watch a video clip from the 1954 film “Al Anisa Hanafi”

There’s More To Come

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the first 8 Days of my Woman’s History Month series devoted to belly dance costume and history, I hope you will subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter where I share my latest blog posts, publication updates, and a selection of blog posts, videos, and articles that I’ve been enjoying from around the web.

Happy International Woman’s Day!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 8, 2019

The post Women’s History Month & Belly Dance History appeared first on Studio Davina.

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Take Measurements

Once I’ve collected all the materials and supplies together, I reconnect with my customer for a fresh set of measurements. I also take any specialty measurements that are unique to this particular costume. I use a ready-made client measurement sheet that I label and date.

When I’m finished with the project the measurement chart gets added to my client binder.  This is especially important if it’s been more than three months.  Bodies change through time, so having a fresh accurate set of measurements is essential for getting the best fit.  Studio Log on Etsy

Make the Patterns

The next step in the process is to make the patterns for all of the components of the costume.  For this bedlah set, there are 7 parts to the costume:

  • Bra Cups
  • Bra Straps
  • Bra Bands
  • Belt Front
  • Belt Back

For each of these components, I choose the best approach for making patterns for these components.  In the greater world of fashion and costume design, there are only three main methods for making patterns: drafting, draping, and flat pattern.

Flat Pattern Method for the Belt

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Shalimar before, and I have a good belt pattern.  I like to use manila file folders for their perfect combination of durability and affordability. I create a basic belt pattern using a sloper pattern like the Butterick B5627 for ladies and Butterick B5628 for women’s sizes.

The nice part about using manila file folders is that I then easily store the pattern pieces because they have built-in folds that make them convenient for storage.  Active customer patterns I keep in a filing system.  For customers I work with infrequently, I store their pattern pieces in a large envelope.

Drafting Method for the Bra Band

When it comes to the bra band, I draft the pattern using a clothing ruler.  (I recommend investing in an affordable fashion curve set like this one to experiment with before buying more expensive curves. The curve picture is long discontinued.)

Every commercial bra is completely different so I make a fresh new bra band pattern for each project.

Draping Method for the Cups

My key to having beautifully covered bra is to drape a pattern for each belly dance costume.  For this costume, I used a very simple draping technique like the one I demonstrate in my book “Embellished Bras.”  If you haven’t gotten a copy of this book, you can pick one up directly from me on Etsy or on Amazon.

Build The Structure

One of the key things that separate costume construction from simple household sewing is the high level of embellishment and the durability of the inner structure.  I break down the costume construction process into three major phases:  Structure, Embellishments, and Finishing.  Between each of these sewing stages, I plan a fitting with my client to ensure that the costume fits, and we’re moving in the right direction.

I use the same method of construction for the bra band and I keep the materials and supplies in stock.  To keep the construction costs down, I buy wholesale in bulk and that way I can pass on the savings to my clients.  These are the layers of the inner structure.

  • Buckram – This is a cotton mesh that’s impregnated with starch to make a stiff layer that will support the costume, but also mold to the body of the dancer over time.  I like to buy this in the 10yd bolt.
  • Grosgrain Ribbon – Because the buckram will stretch, I like to use grosgrain ribbon to help control the shape of the costume.  This increases the durability and longevity of the costume. I keep white and black in stock and it saves a ton of money buying it by the spool over purchasing it by the yard in your local fabric store. I also buy discontinued colors when I have the opportunity to save even more!
  • Thickening Layer – Depending on the project I will choose a different product.  Some of my favorites are to use Heat’n’Bond Fusible Fleece which adds a little bit of loft, up to using sew-on white fleece.

I use a combination of sewing and fusing to create the bra bands and belt structure.  Last year I wrote a blog post that has some photos of this structure from a previous costuming project.  READ: “Building Firm Belly Dance Bra Bands.”

Making Straps

For the bra straps, I take a very simple construction route.  I simply use two layers of grosgrain ribbon stitched together.  Because I like to change up the width of the straps on for my designs, I also keep narrower and wider versions of grosgrain ribbon for variations.

Fit the Costume – Client Meeting Three

Next, I schedule a fitting with my client for a fitting after the inner structure is built.  If there are changes that need to be made in fit, this is the time to adjust. My goal is to always have the structure fit perfectly before I cut into my expensive embellishment fabric.

After this fitting, I make any essential fitting adjustments and prep the costume for the next phase of construction.

If you have any questions about the design and construction process, come join the conversation on FaceBook in my Studio Davina Group.

Next week – my favorite part – embellishing the costume!

Happy Dance and Costume,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 5, 2019 

Golden Goddess Series

The post Golden Goddess Belly Dance Costume part 3 – Building the Structure appeared first on Studio Davina.

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This is part two of a multi-part series where I share the design and construction process for a glamorous show-girl style costume I’m calling the “Golden Goddess.”  If you haven’t checked out part 1, you might want to go here to start this series from the beginning.  To start at the beginning of this series click here.

The Design Process

Let’s get real.  Planning, budgeting, sourcing, and organization aren’t the most glamorous parts of costume creation.  So before we can get to the second fitting stage where we have a lovely garment, I need to step through the dull, yet essential planning and prep steps.

Set up Project Boxes

The project boxes are where I stash all the materials and supplies as I source them.  Every project gets at least one box. However, due to the complexity of the design, this project has two boxes.  One holds the fabrics including the cotton lining, micro-sequin, passementerie lace for the bedlah set.  The materials box also contains the skirt’s accent fabric, a polyester mesh with gold polka dots.

This project also requires smaller embellishment box that holds all of the surface embellishments.  For this costume, there’s sew-on rhinestones, sequin-on-string, and rhinestone chain in various sizes. At the end of each project, I sort the leftover materials into their proper storage locations leaving this box free for the next costume.  I think I’ve had this flip-top shoebox for more than 20 years and have used it for hundreds of projects.

Revise the Design

While it’s good to have a preliminary design when you are planning the costume, it’s just the first drawing. While you might have a great concept for the style, cut, and embellishment of your costume, you might find it difficult to source the materials needed to fully realize your design.

For this costume, we selected materials and supplies from various places both locally and via mail order from a variety of websites.  Once the materials have been gathered, it’s time to spread them out and see if the initial design will work.  In this case, I needed to do a redesign, as the large square rhinestones were proportionally too big for my initial design.

In the picture at right, you can see my preliminary costume sketch on the top right of the page.  But once all of the materials were in my hands, I realized that I need to make some adjustments.  The adjusted costume is on the bottom left. We also looked at the budget and our materials and decided to simplify the design.  This is a page from my studio log book that I use to record my project notes.

Communicating with Clients

I use my studio log book to hold all my project notes, measurements, and rough sketches. This is often quite raw and not very visually appealing. So when I’m working with a client, I use a Project Planner form. This document is used for costume planning.

On this document, I include notes about my dancer’s needs, a sketch of the garment, a list of materials and supplies, and preliminary dates for the first, second, and final fittings.   It’s important at this stage of the game to communicate openly and transparently with your client and establish a timeline for the project. You might look at this form and wonder where the financial information is located.  I use a good old fashioned two-part receipt book for financial info.  The customer will get one half, and I will keep the other.   I always date the Project Planner sheet, scan it, and give my client a copy, and put the original in a client binder. If you like this form, I sell it as part of my Studio Log & Planner printable on Etsy.com.

Create the Build List

Each and every costume I build is unique, so I always make sure to make a build list or order of construction for the project. The build list steps through the process and workflow of costume creation. From the abstract tasks of designing a costume with a sketch and flat illustration to the more concrete tasks like making the pattern or sewing a seam, the build list helps me keep track of what still needs to be done and where I am in the project.

I refer to the build list before each work session so that I keep on track. Checking off the steps is very satisfying and keeps me on track. Sometimes I realize that I’ve missed something because it’s on the build list and not checked off.  If you look carefully at this list, you will see that I completely disregarded constructing the straps. As I took a photo for this blog post, I realized I had missed them.  I went into the fitting with the client missing straps, so we did the fitting with plain grosgrain ribbon. While this isn’t a great tragedy, it did impact how the costume looked at the time of the fitting!

Although I picked up my current to do notebook in the UK, I have in the past used a similar one like this.  However, any notebook will work for this organization method.

Make a “Realistic” schedule

How fast do you sew?  After working on for clients, friends, family, and on my own projects for more than 25 years, I’ve got a good idea of how fast I can sew.  But I’m limited in how many hours a day I can physically maintain my peak performance sewing.

For this ensemble, I’m spending 16 hours on the bra and belt, and 5 hours on the skirt.  However, though you might look at those numbers and think, “Wow, that can be done in a week!” I have to consider my limited “per-day” requirement.  So I’m allowing a full month to finish this entire ensemble.

Another component of scheduling is planning client meetings. When I’m working with clients, we schedule three meetings. There’s an initial consultation, a first fitting, and a second fitting. We have already had our initial meeting where we decided on a budget and style.  The First fitting will happen next week.  Before the first fitting, I need to have all of the components of the bra and belt finished for this try-on.  If there are any design changes or adjustments necessary, this is the time we make those choices and adjust the production schedule.

Tracking for Business

I use a vertical planner as a time tracker and business log.  As you can see in the image above, when I am working on one or more sewing projects, I assign that project a color.  Then when I’m working on the costume, I log it in my book.  I use a waterproof pen so I can go over the words with a highlighter. Using this system, I can see at a glance how many hours I’ve worked on sewing projects.  If I have more than one project under construction, I will choose a different color highlighter.  Since I charge by the hour, keeping accurate track of my billable hours is essential for me to accurately bill my color.  I’ve been using the Passion Planner for the past several years, but you can find loads of vertical planners and if I were to switch to another brand, I might consider this planner or this one.

If you have any questions about how I track and log my sewing projects, come join the conversation.  I have an active FaceBook group where you can ask questions, share sewing and costuming project, and commiserate over sewing projects.

Happy Costuming,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 25, 2019

First Post in this series – https://www.davina.us/blog/2019/01/golden-part-1/
Next Post in this series – Coming Soon

The post Golden Goddess Belly Dance Costume – part 2 – Sketches and Illustrations appeared first on Studio Davina.

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This is part two of a multi-part series where I share the design and construction process for a glamorous show-girl style costume I’m calling the “Golden Goddess.”  If you haven’t checked out part 1, you might want to go here to start this series from the beginning.  To start at the beginning of this series click here.

The Design Process

Let’s get real.  Planning, budgeting, sourcing, and organization aren’t the most glamorous parts of costume creation.  So before we can get to the second fitting stage where we have a lovely garment, I need to step through the dull, yet essential planning and prep steps.

Set up Project Boxes

The project boxes are where I stash all the materials and supplies as I source them.  Every project gets at least one box. However, due to the complexity of the design, this project has two boxes.  One holds the fabrics including the cotton lining, micro-sequin, passementerie lace for the bedlah set.  The materials box also contains the skirt’s accent fabric, a polyester mesh with gold polka dots.

This project also requires smaller embellishment box that holds all of the surface embellishments.  For this costume, there’s sew-on rhinestones, sequin-on-string, and rhinestone chain in various sizes. At the end of each project, I sort the leftover materials into their proper storage locations leaving this box free for the next costume.  I think I’ve had this flip-top shoebox for more than 20 years and have used it for hundreds of projects.

Revise the Design

While it’s good to have a preliminary design when you are planning the costume, it’s just the first drawing. While you might have a great concept for the style, cut, and embellishment of your costume, you might find it difficult to source the materials needed to fully realize your design.

For this costume, we selected materials and supplies from various places both locally and via mail order from a variety of websites.  Once the materials have been gathered, it’s time to spread them out and see if the initial design will work.  In this case, I needed to do a redesign, as the large square rhinestones were proportionally too big for my initial design.

In the picture at right, you can see my preliminary costume sketch on the top right of the page.  But once all of the materials were in my hands, I realized that I need to make some adjustments.  The adjusted costume is on the bottom left. We also looked at the budget and our materials and decided to simplify the design.  This is a page from my studio log book that I use to record my project notes.

Communicating with Clients

I use my studio log book to hold all my project notes, measurements, and rough sketches. This is often quite raw and not very visually appealing. So when I’m working with a client, I use a Project Planner form. This document is used for costume planning.

On this document, I include notes about my dancer’s needs, a sketch of the garment, a list of materials and supplies, and preliminary dates for the first, second, and final fittings.   It’s important at this stage of the game to communicate openly and transparently with your client and establish a timeline for the project. You might look at this form and wonder where the financial information is located.  I use a good old fashioned two-part receipt book for financial info.  The customer will get one half, and I will keep the other.   I always date the Project Planner sheet, scan it, and give my client a copy, and put the original in a client binder. If you like this form, I sell it as part of my Studio Log & Planner printable on Etsy.com.

Create the Build List

Each and every costume I build is unique, so I always make sure to make a build list or order of construction for the project. The build list steps through the process and workflow of costume creation. From the abstract tasks of designing a costume with a sketch and flat illustration to the more concrete tasks like making the pattern or sewing a seam, the build list helps me keep track of what still needs to be done and where I am in the project.

I refer to the build list before each work session so that I keep on track. Checking off the steps is very satisfying and keeps me on track. Sometimes I realize that I’ve missed something because it’s on the build list and not checked off.  If you look carefully at this list, you will see that I completely disregarded constructing the straps. As I took a photo for this blog post, I realized I had missed them.  I went into the fitting with the client missing straps, so we did the fitting with plain grosgrain ribbon. While this isn’t a great tragedy, it did impact how the costume looked at the time of the fitting!

Although I picked up my current to do notebook in the UK, I have in the past used a similar one like this.  However, any notebook will work for this organization method.

Make a “Realistic” schedule

How fast do you sew?  After working on for clients, friends, family, and on my own projects for more than 25 years, I’ve got a good idea of how fast I can sew.  But I’m limited in how many hours a day I can physically maintain my peak performance sewing.

For this ensemble, I’m spending 16 hours on the bra and belt, and 5 hours on the skirt.  However, though you might look at those numbers and think, “Wow, that can be done in a week!” I have to consider my limited “per-day” requirement.  So I’m allowing a full month to finish this entire ensemble.

Another component of scheduling is planning client meetings. When I’m working with clients, we schedule three meetings. There’s an initial consultation, a first fitting, and a second fitting. We have already had our initial meeting where we decided on a budget and style.  The First fitting will happen next week.  Before the first fitting, I need to have all of the components of the bra and belt finished for this try-on.  If there are any design changes or adjustments necessary, this is the time we make those choices and adjust the production schedule.

Tracking for Business

I use a vertical planner as a time tracker and business log.  As you can see in the image above, when I am working on one or more sewing projects, I assign that project a color.  Then when I’m working on the costume, I log it in my book.  I use a waterproof pen so I can go over the words with a highlighter. Using this system, I can see at a glance how many hours I’ve worked on sewing projects.  If I have more than one project under construction, I will choose a different color highlighter.  Since I charge by the hour, keeping accurate track of my billable hours is essential for me to accurately bill my color.  I’ve been using the Passion Planner for the past several years, but you can find loads of vertical planners and if I were to switch to another brand, I might consider this planner or this one.

If you have any questions about how I track and log my sewing projects, come join the conversation.  I have an active FaceBook group where you can ask questions, share sewing and costuming project, and commiserate over sewing projects.

Happy Costuming,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 25, 2019

First Post in this series – https://www.davina.us/blog/2019/01/golden-part-1/
Next Post in this series – Coming Soon

The post Golden Goddess Belly Dance Costume – part 2 – Sketches and Illustrations appeared first on Studio Davina.

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After taking a month off in December of 2018, I’m now diving back into a project that I began last summer.  I sometimes am asked why I need so much “lead time” to make a costume, and the answer is simple.  Everything takes time.  From designing the initial concept to meetings, fittings, patternmaking, and sewing, there’s simply a lot to do for each garment.  In this blog post, I’m going to map out the steps that I take when working with a client to design a custom costume.

Last year, I completed this lovely ensemble for Bay Area professional dancer, Shalimar. I was thrilled that she was happy with the performance and audience response to this costume.  She commissioned a new costume that we are calling “The Golden Goddess.”

Shalimar’s Idea: A head to toe gold and rhinestone costume suitable for close-up performances in dark restaurants. 

Design Brief

When I’m working on a project with a customer, it’s a good idea to create a design brief and project contract.  This can be a formal negotiation with a contract or an informal goals list.  Every designer is different, but at a bare minimum, you want your contract to include budget, timeline, and costume summary. For more detail about the design brief, check out this blog post.

Initial Sketch

Once you have hammered out the fine points of your contract, it’s time to design. For the Golden Goddess costume, I did these initial design sketches.

I generally have some ideas on the types of materials we are considering for use in this costume.  For the Golden Goddess, we choose a micro-sequin base with individual rhinestones, rhinestone chain, and sequin on string.

This type of sketch is called a flat, and I like to draw in pencil on gridded paper to help maintain the proportions of the costume.  These initial sketches are a point of discussion and development when working with the customer.  Often these designs will be refined and adjusted as the project progresses.

Budget

Agreeing on a budget is always an important part of the contract between designer and client. In my business, the budget is broken into two parts.

Cost of Materials

When calculating the total cost of a project, I always begin with materials.  The materials, fabrics, and trims that you choose to use in your costuming project play the biggest role in determining how lush or sparse a costume will appear.  Often, more expensive fabrics are so spectacular, they require less work to craft into a show-stopping costume.  As a designer, I always have estimates of what each element in the costume will cost when budget planning.

Cost of Labour and Time

The second part of the budget is my labor and time. My time falls into three categories.  The first is design services, and that’s the time it takes to sketch the designs, source materials, project planning and set up. The second category of the budget is time. This includes meeting times, fitting, and shopping and sourcing time. The third section is sewing and construction. This is simply the time I spend during the build of the costume.  With experience, I’ve learned how much time it takes to design, source materials, and construction, so my estimates are accurate, barring design changes.

Sourcing Materials

Once my client and I have decided on a design, set a budget, and tentatively chosen the materials and supplies needed for a design, we begin sourcing materials. Sometimes my clients arrive with fabric and all we need to buy are the things we need to complete a garment. Often my customers like to buy their materials on their own.  For this Golden Goddess costume, my client authorized me to make all the purchases necessary to complete the costume.

For the Golden Goddess ensemble, we are using gold micro-sequin cloth, individual rhinestones, and rhinestones on chain.  For speed and convenience, I wound up purchasing most of the materials and supplies from Amazon.  I do not have a great selection of fabric stores in my area so I will frequently resort to internet shopping to get the price and quantities I need to craft my ensembles.  We had to allow time for all the materials and supplies to arrive before beginning the costume.  Sourcing took about three months last summer.

Create a Project Box

As we gather the materials and supplies, I create a project box that will contain all of the design elements in one convenient location.  I will label it with the customer’s name and place it on a shelf in my sewing studio.  When it’s time to work on a costume, I can easily pull down their box and dive into the project with a minimum of hassle and running around.

All of these steps are part of my design flow that helps me move from a rough concept to finished costume.  Every designer, costumer, or seamstress will have a different process.  I hope that this process break down inspires you!

Happy Costuming and Dance,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
January 9, 2019 

The post Golden Goddess Costume – Part 1 appeared first on Studio Davina.

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