Pink Paillette Retro Bellydance Costume

Inspired by the Women of Selket troupe costumes at their November 2009 show, I was on the look-out for paillette hipscarves to create something similar. Several eBay sellers carry them, but when Andrea of Stellar Advantage received a new shipment while I was at the Sahra Saeeda week-long intensive that Andrea hosted in Florida (June 2010), I jumped on the opportunity and bought three in pink from her.

My design plan changed several times. I started with the idea of quickly covering a bra form with a hipscarf, intending to wear a tie-top with it, and tying a scarf around my hips, perfect for instructional parties, a casual hafla, or a Laziza Ladies Night. However, my thoughts quickly turned to making something more substantial - a sturdy bedlah (bra and belt) with coordinating arm accessories and skirts. In other words, a full-blown costume! While the techniques I'm showing and describing below aren't exactly what I use every time I construct a bedlah, they are very close. (I will try to note optional methods.) Even if you don't want to make a set with hipscarves, my instructions for covering a bra and constructing and covering a belt may interest you. Please let me know if you need further explanation.

Materials for the bedlah and arm accessories:
strapless bra with cups that are sturdy (I used a strapless plunge model purchased at Target. Another favorite is the Wonderbra strapless convertible, but I wanted a rounder top edge for this costume.)
5 inches of wide elastic (1.5" wide, or width to match the bra band; add up to 20 inches more if you want to make arm bands)
1 yard canvas (similar in weight to denim)
1.5 yards base fabric with stretch (I used crushed panne velvet.)
coordinating thread
4 inches of 1 to 1 1/4 inch elastic (optional)
3 paillette & coin hipscarves
1.5 yards lining fabric (I prefer 100% woven cotton.)
5-6 hooks and eyes

Cover the Bra With Base Fabric
Construct and Cover the Belt With Base Fabric
Cover Bra and Belt With Hipscarves
Adding Straps, Hooks, and Making Accessories

Cover the Bra With Base Fabric

Note: Iusuallyremove the side bra band, the shoulder straps (unless it's already strapless, of course), and even cut the cups in the middle to reposition them. I then cut pieces from two layers of canvas and rebuild it all. This ensures and better fit and improves the longevity of the costume bra (the original elastic pieces will lose their stretch over time). However, this time I left the side bra-band pieces intact for two reasons: first, something about this bra style works better for me with the original pieces, and second, because paillettes tend to get scratched up over time and the gold coins on this are a bit flimsy, I'm not expecting this costume to last for years and years, so I felt I could get by without replacing the bra band.

1. Replace the hardware.Cut the hook-and-eye sections off of the bra band. To replace the pieces you have removed, cut a piece of canvas that is the same width as the bra band and about 4 inches long. Then cut a piece of elastic that is 4-5 inches long. Fold over each of these (doubling the thickness) and pin them to the cut ends of the bra band. Try on the bra (as best you can) to make sure these new pieces are the right length, allowing for at least an inch of overlap. After adjusting the pieces as needed, zig-zag stitch them to the bra band. See photo A.

2. Cover the bra band pieces. Place one of the bra band sides on top the base fabric, at least two inches from the edge of the fabric. (If it's only 2-way stretch, make sure the stretch will go with the length of the bra band.) Cut a piece that is at least two inches bigger than the bra band in all

directions. Pin the fabric in place on top of the bra band. Flip it and pin the extra to the inside edges of the bra band along the length, leaving the end free.

You choose - either hand stitch the fabric to the bra band OR machine zig-zag stitch through all layers. Trim the excess fabric inside, about 1/2 inch from the stitching. Fold the end piece and pin. Stitch and trim. Repeat with the other bra band (which may be a little longer or shorter than the first.)See photo B.

3. Cover the bra cups. Measure the outside of the bra cups, vertical and horizontal. Cut out a circle or oval that is 6 inches taller and wider than the cups. For example, if your cups measure 8" by 7", your oval needs to be at least 14" by 13". Now position the fabric on top of the cups and pin it in place. Even with stretch fabric, you

will probably need to make a dart (a tuck/fold) in the lower side area of the cup. (You can see it in photo C below, look for the yellow pinhead.)

Be careful not to stretch the fabric too much since that will cause the upper edges of the cups to turn out. Let the cup fabric overlap the bra band fabric. Leave enough fabric in between the cups for overlap. Hand stitch the fabric to the inside of the bra cups or machine stitch where possible (I used a zig-zag stitch for the top edges of the cup.) Stitch in place (hand or machine zig-zag) where it overlaps the bra band. Trim this area and inside the cups. See photo C.

4. Finish the bra.Allow the fabric in the center to overlap about a 1/2 inch. Trim and stitch in place. Stitch the darts on the sides of the cups. Photo D shows a close-up of the dart stitching. Photos E and F show the covered bra from the inside

and outside, respectively.

5. Make bra straps.(I prefer halter straps, but you could easily adjust this for shoulder straps.) Hold the bra up to your chest and measure the distance from the side top edges of the cups to the back of your neck. Add two inches to this measurement. Cut two pieces of canvas that are this length that you just found by 2 1/2" wide. Fold in half lengthwise and zig-zag along the cut edges. (Optional: add a piece of doubled-over 1 1/4 elastic to the end of one of the straps.) See photo G.

6. Cover the bra straps.Cut out long rectangles from your stretch fabric that are an inch wider and longer than the bra straps. Pin in place and hand or machine zig-zag stitch along the length. Turn the end edges and stitch (you could do this on only one end of each, since the other will be hidden inside the bra cups.) See photo H.

Next: Construct and Cover the Belt With Base Fabric