Mermaid skirt in crushed velvet

I’ve been wanting to do one of these since I saw my ATS teacher wearing one for a fusion performance. It was black, thick stretch velvet, totally luscious looking, trailing behind her, and made her look elegant and slinky. It was love at first sight, and I knew I would have to make something like that for myself. In fact, that skirt did give birth to the costume bunny that prompted my explanation on how they act.

There are several patterns in the market, although you could easily make your own. Possible ways of doing this:

  1. Start with the dress pattern you should have made some time ago, measure where you want your waist to sit, chop off above that, then at the bottom, either add semi circles of fabric in between each main piece, or add these as quarter circles to each of the 5 or 6 pieces; this will give you nicer flare but will use a lot more fabric. if you want extra flare, add a quarter or semi-circle connected at the back, on the centre seam just below your buttocks.
  2. Start with the same pattern as above, and where you want the flare to start (around the knees or so) add a two or three semi-circles of fabric, cut as you would do for a circle skirt
  3. Start with the previous example, but start the flare earlier at the front, to have an irregular shape, sort of like an inverted cala lily.
  4. get an existing skirt of yours that you like the fit of, and extract the pattern
  5. use a straight skirt pattern but add flaring on the sides and centre back seam

In every case, you’ll also need a straight piece, about 16cm high and as long as your “waist” circumference (that is, whatever the place where your skirt will sit) plus 1-2 cm for seams allowances.

Whichever pattern will work better for you depends a LOT on your body shape. I’ve gone with option 4, extracting a pattern from a skirt I liked, except that this wasn’t *my* skirt so I needed to adjust to size. I did find a totally luscious wine colour stretch crushed velvet that would be perfect for matching both a Hanan top and belt I’ve got, and some black cherry brocade I’ve got stashed for a fusion belt and bra. The only problem was that there were only 1.8 metres available of the fabric. If you are making your first one, you might want to start with a cheaper fabric, although I strongly suggest you use a type of stretch knit.

Mermaid Skirt Layout

Mermaid Skirt Layout

In the end, I had to adjust the flaring of each of the pieces to be able to fit all 8 pieces onto the length of fabric I had. I also had to be very careful when cutting, as velvet can be notoriously tricky, so I had to make sure the pile run in the correct direction for every piece. This issue with the pile means that velvet can be rather wasteful, as you can’t rearrange fabric to put pieces upside down. I did have to break this rule for the two upper back pieces I used, although those were cut on the bias to allow for better shaping around the bottom. Check out a rough layout on the left and notice that all the pieces are laid in the same direction to deal with the piling, just be aware that it is *not* a pattern, and you won’t be able to obtain one from it. However, it should give you a rough idea of how the pieces should look once laid out on the fabric. Remember you can also cut the pieces a bit smaller as the stretch should counteract this. Just don’t skimp: you’re supposed to be comfortable and fabulous, not look like a sausage.

After that, it was just a question of cutting, pinning, checking fit (turns out that my upsizing of the pattern had resulted in about 20 cms too much fabric around the hips) and sewing. An overlocker is the best for knits and certainly for stretch crushed velvet, although I had to take out my standard machine to add the top. Be aware that the waistband will add stability and keep the shape better, particularly if you do what I did and cut the waistband along the length, where there was, at least on my fabric, far less of a stretch. You can do a rolled hem along the bottom using the overlocker too, this will make it easier for you.

The final skirt does look rather stunning, although I think it needs a bit of a trim along the back still. I have enough fabric in teal to make another, hopefully this time with the full flare, which should match the teal bra I made, and the upcoming matching belt. You can see it below in all its glory, although I will not have a photo of me wearing it until I finish off the matching belt and bra. And on the side, you can see the Hanan belt that will also be in use with this, and of course, you can check out how I did a body stocking to match too.

Wine Mermaid Skirt

Wine Mermaid Skirt

Breaking news: Shimmy in the City is CANCELLED

Shimmy in the CityWhat the title says. You can read the full statement in their website.

To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. I booked myself for another workshop with Khaled very nearly the moment the bookings opened, and for the shows soon afterwards. The reason why this is making me rather angry is because, being non-British, I’ve not only had my run-ins with the Home Office, but also because as a consequence of those run-ins, I have, in the past, studied the Immigration Act rather *closely*, and there’s very little I can think of that justifies what they appeared to have done. Unless of course -and this is 100% pure personal speculation- whomever looked at the applications decided that the dancers were really not intending to go back. Without looking at their careers, they probably saw “dancers” and decided this was an euphemism for something else, or they’d be unemployed/unemployable, which is of course a crock of bull. And what if they didn’t want to go back to what appear to be escalating to -or most definitely is, in the case of Yasser- a country torn by civil war? would that have been *that* bad, considering they all have international careers and would have been able to find plenty of work teaching all over the world, if they had wanted to stay here until things calmed down? They have skills, talent, they would be easily be able to settle here and perform all over and pay taxes within the UK. Hey, they often let American actors do it, they let Madonna do it, why not them? Alas, that’s not for me to decide.

What worries me the most is the impact this cancellation will have on the future of the festival. I have only been introduced to Khaled, haven’t really talked to him, but I am friends with people that consider him a dearest friend. It concerns me that Charlotte and Sheila and him have been planning this for a year, have had hotel, catering, workshop facilities booked… and now nothing will happen. It concerns me that there are dancers from outside of the UK -and some from within- that booked travel and accommodation and will now have far less than they expected. The Festival is a great way for UK people to find out more about Middle Eastern culture, it promotes tolerance and understanding. Apparently those values are no longer important for some bureaucrats. And I don’t blame the organisers a bit, but I do blame the Home Office, for their intransigent, miopic, tick-box approach to what is a complex issue.

My thoughts are with Khaled, Sheila and Charlotte, and I hope they come out of this as unscathed as possible.
And I do hope I never have to write something like this again.

Inspiration: interview with Rachel Brice

This isn’t a performance, just a little interview where she talks about the first belly dancer she saw. And it’s not what you might imagine…
Watch, listen, and remember it next time you are feeling like you shouldn’t be dancing because of your size.

Making a comfort short/body stocking hybrid

How many of us wish we could pair that staple of belly dancer’s wear, the body stocking, with that other staple of the curvy girl’s wardrobe, the comfort shorts? I know I’ve been wanting one ever since realising that every time I wore middrif-baring costume, I kept having layers upon layers of clothes, as most of us will wear the comfort shorts for shaping and avoiding discomfort too, and sometimes, with some of the more lacy costumes, it’s nice to have a bit of modesty around the legs, just in case.

Still, much as it does sound like common sense, I have yet to see anything like this in the market, so each time I was putting on costumes, particularly my ATS styles, I’d need to go with the body stocking, the short leggings, then the pantaloons, then the skirts… Today I made a stretch velvet mermaid skirt to pair with existing (and upcoming) costume pieces, and realised that I needed a stomach cover, and since I had a matching colour power mesh, I decided to experiment.

You will need some stretch cotton, powermesh, and a pattern for leggings that fit you. Failing that, you can use cyclist shorts, leggings -if you don’t mind the length- or even tuck-me-in-pants, although these can often have quite a bit of structural detail that might alter the pants if you cut them, and also, these can be quite expensive and therefore not suitable for experimenting. You will also, ideally, need an overlocker, as you can sew the powermesh with a standard machine, but in that case you will need to reinforce the seams thoroughly and probably use spiral stitch to “wrap” the seam allowances.

Some time ago, I was thinking of doing my own tribal pants, and made a proof of concept cyclist shorts using cotton jersey to try the fit; they were waistless and rather low on the hip, therefore ideal. I won’t go over how I obtained the pattern, as it’s long and complicated and full of potential issues, so I strongly suggest you find a pattern for sports clothing to obtain this. If you don’t happen to have anything this convenient, I would suggest picking a cheap pair of cyclist leggings from your favourite shop or even supermarket. The top on these normally comes up to the waist, so you will be chopping it off. To make sure you don’t make a booboo, put them on and have a friend mark around your body a bit below the level where your usually wear your belts, so there’s no accidental panties exhibition. Cut a bit above this marked line to have enough seam allowance to join the body stocking. A possible (might be necessary) extra modification would be to split the crotch so you don’t need to remove all the layers to use the facilities, although whether you add this or not depends a lot on how long you usually stay in costume… if you take part in full-day events, then you definitely should consider doing this!

Body Stocking pattern

Body Stocking pattern

For the body stocking, I took measurements for my underbust, waist and hip -at the level the leggings end-, then divide by two; measure distance from the bottom of your bra to your hip line; trace all these measurements down onto paper, remembering that you’re doing half, and you’ll be cutting two of these pieces. Depending on your body shape, you might end with a rectangle, trapezoid or even something like an funnel. Take a look at the diagram on the left to give you an idea of how to create your pattern.

BodyStocking seam

Seams close-up

Pick your powermesh and check the stretching, I reduced about 10cm (4″) on each width-wise measurement, after making sure that it could stretch that much. I left the length the same as sideways stretching can sometimes reduce the length of the body stocking. Powermesh is very slippery, so I folded mine, and pinned down all around the edges to make sure it stayed in place, then marked the piece and pinned all around the inside so it would remain stable and both pieces I cut would be identical. Once you’ve got both your pieces, overlock or sew the edges, then attach to the cyclist shorts. You might need to experiement as the mesh part might be smaller than the shorts’ waist. What I did was to put the mesh tube on and the shorts on top, mark where the shorts reach on the tube, then remove everything, and pin it all with the right sides together. If you want this seam on the inside, you will probably have to pin the tube upside down and shoved inside the pants to be able to attach it… when you pull it up, the seam will be closest to your skin. Again, experiment to see what works best for the effect you want.

finished bodystocking

Finished piece

All that is left after that is figuring out the method to keep the body stocking in place, although this will differ depending on what you are wearing on your upper body. There’s no reason to try to reinvent the wheel, so you can just create some small loops with ribbon to use clear straps to keep everything in place, and of course you can go with the time-honoured safety pins. And you’re done! You can see the final result on the left, modelled by the trusty white pillow. I made a dip at the front as I tend to prefer that shape, but that is a personal choice, but if you prefer a straight line, just go for it!

Upcoming Events

A quickie to list some events coming next in the next few weeks/months, which I should add to the event calendar, but want to also mention specially:

  • September 15th: Workshops with Hilde Cannoodt and Alexis Southall in London: Drills and Belly Dance Geometry, more details and booking on Hilde’s website
  • September 19th: Tribal Café at the Blue Man in Brighton; details and booking also on Hilde’s website
  • October 13th: Orient Expressions; Tara Ibrahim will be teaching Khaleeji. View details in their Facebook Event page
  • December 14th-15th: Fantasia Festival; lots of workshops in different styles, competitions and a show. View details and bookings
  • February 8th-9th: Choreological Study of Tribal Fusion Dance with Hilde Cannoodt; view more details
  • May 2nd-5th: Tribal Remix in Brighton; Tribal Fusion at its best! Details and early bird booking
  • June: ATS General Skills and Teacher Training Certifications; no further details yet, other than it will be taught by Carolena Nericcio

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