Pattern Review: Folkwear #144 Tribal Style Belly Dancer

Folkwear 144 Tribal Dancer

Folkwear 144 Tribal Dancer

The pack contains instructions for creating a full tribal outfit, but only one real pattern. The items include a hip scarf, a hip belt, coin bra, choli, pantaloons and skirt. The instructions for the hip scarf and belt are ok, but they’re nothing that an enterprising person looking to make themselves the items couldn’t figure out for themselves (triangular cut for the hip scarf, for instance). The instructions for the bra are sketchy, and if you want to make your own bra from scratch, this is not the set for you, and you should instead be looking for Dawn Devine’s Embellished Bras. The fact that there is a full book devoted to the techniques necessary should tell you all you need to know about the couple of pages devoted to it here. Needless to say, after having done the process a few times myself, I found the instructions here rather lacking in precision if not flat out creating a sloppy finish.

The skirt is also not good. Most Tribal dancers will tell you that to get the proper “fly” effect when spinning, you should use a circle pattern for the first tier. This isn’t the case here, and suggests standard strips which, when creating a more standard 24 yard skirt, would cause considerable bulk, and in its provided 10-yard version, would not fit the 2XL offered in the back.

And then we come to the Choli. I’ve tried. I’ve REALLY tried. All the pieces do go together, I have to say. They just don’t go together in anything that resembles a good fit. I understand that whoever created this wanted to follow historical methods, but truly? Tribal Dancing is not historical, and a lot of dancers will be using knits and cotton/lycra blends to make their cholis. Last I checked, knits and lycras are not historical, and it saddens me that having a good, comfortable fit was skewed in favour of some politically correct cutting and assembly method. And yes, I can’t believe I’ve just written that either, but the squares/triangles apparently comes from the choli “originally cut from loom-woven cloth in a geometric way that minimizes waste”. All I can say is, thank goodness I cut the pieces using Swedish paper so I didn’t waste fabric on this.

The instructions for the pantaloons are pretty similar, and consist mostly of creating two tubes and joining them at the top, and some bizarre comment about a horizontal pleat if they are too long. I am still trying to get my head around what exactly is meant there. The instructions for creating fringe are decent, except for the part about calculating the amount needed. It says “multiply the fringe length by the distance to be covered” which makes no sense whatsoever, as the width of the yarn used for the fringe and how thick you want to lay it varies and will therefore affect the amount of fringe you need.

Overall, there’s nothing you can find in this pattern that isn’t already available (and much better) online. I was really, REALLY looking forwards to using this, and I have the utmost respect for FCBD, and I am amazed that this has survived at all, when a quick look at the finished garment on the photo should tell you there’s something very wrong when the sleeves bunch like they do. And any quick online research will show you similar frustrations encountered by other people. Overall, there’s only two things I can recommend this pattern for: composting, and burning; at least either way it will become useful. Just remember to remove the plastic bag first.

Tribal Trousers

Some time ago I wrote about my issues finding tribal trousers. We all know the kind: Melodias are beautiful, but they do not come in sizes suitable for the larger ladies. I was looking at possible alternatives and found some Chinese imports that were *sort of* big enough, but had issues: the seams were ripping open, and the fabric was tissue-thin, making them really unusable for the punishment trousers receive in class.

I am happy to report that I’ve found the holy grail of Tribal Trousers for the curvier figures. A company in the UK called Birgiss Bellywear, run by a dancer, has theirs made specifically in India to their specs. I was lucky enough to snatch 3 of them during a “slight seconds” sale, at a bargain price. The “slight seconds” were really minimal: ties missing, a few spots missing on the edging… nothing I can’t sort out myself.

So how are the trousers? They are *wonderful*. The fabric is thick enough to be comfortable and doesn’t make me feel like I am advertising my bum when I go out, but has the perfect *cling*. The fabric breathes very well, so you don’t feel like you have your thighs encased in cling film and of course you avoid sweat rash caused by the seams rubbing over sweat that isn’t absorbed by the fabric, both of which have happened to me with the Chinese versions that are much more synthetic than cotton. The external side seams are French-seamed, which makes them far sturdier (and more expensive to produce, I have to add), and also flatter, avoiding the “poke” you can get with standard overlocked seams. They are quite long, so these should also be suitable for those of you with longer legs. I am 5’7″(ish) and they are a touch long on me, but just enough that I can pull them up from the knees and/or hips and they brush the floor, but a much taller friend has tried them on and found the length to be perfect for her, and she normally needs to buy clothes at specialist stores for tall ladies. The elastic is very thick and sturdy, and my *one* somewhat negative comment is that, at least for me, they come up quite high on my waist, and I’ve got a high waist already, which means that for some they might be a bit too long in the seat, but this can be folded down and sewn if needed. In fairness, I have found this high waist in most plus sized garments, and they do prevent the dreaded muffin-top, so I can understand why they are manufactured this way, and it also helps me have a fully covered bum without the usual “dip” I get at the back with most lower body garments.

I’ve also washed one of the pairs already, it has shrunk *just* enough, and I suspect it will stay like that. The bottom hems are starting to curl too, giving it more character, so I suspect I’ll keep the length uncut and let the natural curl and some judicious bunching around knees deal with the extra inch or two of length I’ve got on mine. The sizing was generous, and I do suggest you check carefully the sizing information, as I had to exchange two of them… I had ordered my street size and it turned out I needed 2 sizes smaller; these are also a bit “loose” and I could easily gain 2-3 sizes without needing a new pair, so they would be a good idea even if you tend to fluctuate in weight, or if you are loosing some of it.

Price-wise, the slight seconds were a bargain, at £22 each for the flat coloured ones, and £24 for the tie-dyes. I would happily pay full price for these, and I am waiting for them to restock the burgundy trousers in my size to order a pair of those.

The customer service was superb. As I mentioned above, I’d ordered 3 pairs in different sizes, two of which turned out to be too big. These were exchanged promptly, the vendor was very clear about everything, extremely helpful, and even went as far as to measure some other sizes for me so I could decide what size would work better for me (alas, not the burgundy ones!).

Birgiss also offers a great range of pieces for costuming, and I’ve ordered quite a few buttons and danglies for a belt I am making (hopefully soon), some wonderful skirts in several lengths and waist sizes too (got my eyes on a couple of those) and even hip belts for the larger sizes. It’s very obvious that Birgiss Bellywear is run by someone that cares about their customers as dancers first and foremost, and the selection of items is very good; I’m sure that it would be possible for a curvy lady to equip herself fully here without ONCE having to “settle” for something unflattering, unsuitable or plain ugly because it’s the only thing available for her. That, in my book, means a LOT.

And best of all? She never, ever told me “why don’t you get a galabaya…”.

Birgiss Bellywear

Birgiss Bellywear

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