Store Update

siam, opal and black AB swarovski bindiI have taken new photographs of all the bindis that I currently have for sale, and a few jewellery pieces that I have made for the store. This makes me happy, as I’ve finally found a way of photographing “tricky” special effects on the Swarovskis like the Vitrail or Volcano, but specially the Opals, which so far had only come out as a white burnt spot. The store page is also finally fixed, yay!

As before, custom orders are possible, contact me to let me know if you’ve got any particular question.

How my Evil Costume Bunnies torture me into the wee hours.

This is what my costume bunnies would look like if you could see them

This is what my costume bunnies would look like if you could see them

After spending most of November sewing, as I couldn’t dance or sit at the computer, you’d guess that my Evil Costume Bunnies would give me a break. Nope, they’re “evil”, and there’s a reason I call them so.

This time, it all started rather quietly, even reasonably. Christmas was coming, I couldn’t decide what to get my friend and dance partner L for Christmas, she’d said she wanted a mermaid skirt after seeing the wine and the teal ones I’d made. Why not making one for her? You can guess how it went from there… She also wanted a matching cold shoulder choli, and it so happened that, if cut carefully, I could make a choli out of the leftover fabric from the skirt. And since I was making one for her, and I *had* to make myself a black velvet cold shoulder choli for myself for an event, why not order enough fabric to make myself that skirt I wanted?

Mermaid Skirt Back

Mermaid Skirt Back

Result: beginning of January, and now my friend has an amazing mermaid skirt in chocolate velvet, I’ve got another one for myself in black velvet, we’ve both got cold-shoulder cholis to match, and since she will eventually need a black choli too, I used the leftover fabric that was originally going for my long sleeved one to cut one for her.

But that’s not the worst, oh no. I am attending the ATS Residential in the UK at the end of January, and since I am taking my sword for a workshop, I HAVE to have “suitable cover, to avoid alarming the public”, as explained to me by a very nice police-person. Which translates as “I need to make something for it that will allow me to transport it securely”. There goes another one… And because the taunting was not enough, now I’ve got a list. I decided that I would not buy any more fabric unless it would be to finish one of the costumes on the bunny-pen or for urgent troupe requirements, but as I was sorting out my stash the other day, the bunny pen has now expanded to also feature nearly every single fabric I’ve got stashed. Which isn’t BAD but it’s also not good. The list so far includes:

  • Practice or related:
    • Sword carrier, because OF COURSE I can’t just try to find a rifle case like most reasonable people; and no, it’s a scimitar, the shape makes most sword bags unusable
    • At least one more practice choli, as it is cold and I rather like how they work with tank tops.
  • Egyptian/Cabaret
    • Blue and silver Saidi dress; I’ve wanted one of these for ages, should be really simple. At least that’s what I’m aiming for, just some sequins/beads along the edge and using one of my beaded belts for it to cut down the work. Yeah, right, you can stop laughing now
    • Plum lace dress: still want this after seeing a few more dresses in a similar style; again, I’ve got a sash and a top, so beaded should be minimal. Ha! tell me another one
    • Purple holo raqs fustan: I got this fabric in a sale, it’s not that distinctive in the shade, but it’s good, has nice thickness, and looks amazing under the sun; this one should be more work, I’m thinking of making silver swirls on it, but realistically, I can’t see myself doing anything with it until the end of the year; might be a nice winter project
  • Tribal
    • Black 25 yarder: got the fabric, and it’s about time I do something with it; besides, I’ve already done a 16 yarder, how much more difficult can it be? (famous last words)
    • Black and silver Ghawazee coat, using the superb Turkish trim I’ve got leftover, to have a nice cover-up that I can use with anything, unlike what I’ve got now which is just red and burgundy.
    • Black lace choli: another one I’ve got the fabric for, and because I could do with something a bit more in line to what my troupemates use for some of the pieces, and the crushed velvet one I made with the big flouncy sleeves looks too heavy compared with everybody’s lace
    • Burgundy lace choli/top: similar as above, got the fabric for a steal, would be nice to have, but not a priority
    • Cherry brocade Turkish vest: I’ve got the pattern, got the fabric, it would look amazing and it makes my bunnies salivate just to think about it. Evil bunnies
    • Teal Ghawazee coat: because I love teal, and THAT was the original project… still pending from 2012 even though I’ve got the fabric and trim; shame on me!
    • White 25 yarder: because it would be nice for layering, and because for some bizarre reason, I seem to want to put together a silver/black/white Tribal outfit entirely made by me. Yes, I need help.
  • Fusion
    • Cherry brocade belt & bra: this is a WIP, I worked on the bra base while putting together the teal bra, and also have all the dangles for it ready too; I just had some more pressing items to work on, so it’s on the side, but should be finished this year.
    • Black and pink embroidered belt & bra: because I got the most amazing skirt made of mesh fabric with metal beads embroidered on it that I picked purely to use as a sort of assuit subtitute, and that pale pink used for antique lingerie sounds like the perfect fabric to use under it
    • Corset belt, hopefully, eventually, using the leftover cherry brocade fabric, if there is any. Because apparently all the cursing I did while putting on grommets on two belts was so not enough that I need to multiply the experience by 3
    • Silver and red mermaid skirts, because I can’t just leave things alone, the cut works, and they would work really nicely with stuff I already have, so different costumes with just one piece changed: SCORE! And they are quick to make and they look lovely.

So, there is is… My current list of projects in the pipeline or thereabouts… For reference, the list from last year included the plum lace dress (still in the list), mesh for modifying an existing costume (still to do but should be done before April), teal ghawazee (still on the list), teal choli top, belt and bra (all three done), mermaid skirt (done x3), pants still on the very back burner. So not *that* bad I’d say!
Let’s revisit this list in a year, and see how many of these I’ve tackled.

Hair

I like to think that your “costume” should include more than just the clothing, but extend to make-up, hair and even footwear if you’re wearing any. But quite often, particularly with Cabaret/Egyptian dancers, they seem to have this idea that they should have their hair long and loose, or else wear a wig, regardless of whether it suits them or not. Granted, long hair does give an appearance of youth, but it’s not for everybody. Or maybe you prefer a soft textured and layered hair for every day, but find that for dancing, this doesn’t really work that well. Me, I find that while flowy hair works better for me with every day clothing, the clothes I favour for belly dancing work better with updos, and making updos with layered feathered hair is a nightmare.

Or maybe you’ve started doing ATS or Fusion and are wondering what you can use.

So what are your options?

Wigs and Extensions vs. Naturally Long
I am not a fan of full wigs or weaves, for the reason presented so clearly in the second season of Project Belly Dance, when one of the women auditioning had a wardrobe malfunction and her weave flew off. I know a few people that use a half-wig as they normally wear their hair short, and others that instead have gone for a more permanent route and have had extensions added to add volume and length. If you do want the lenght, or if you are doing a lot of Khaleegi or other styles that do much hair tossing, or if you feel you just *have* to have the long hair, going for the extensions is not a bad idea, but speak to a stylist first as they might remind you that, long term, extensions and weaves can damage the roots of your natural hair by pulling too much, so if you REALLY want your hair long? Best thing is to grow it, and keep a good care regime including diet, masks, and regular cutting.

Pony Falls and Braids
These are interesting options if you want to add colour to your hair, as you can add falls that mix with your natural colour, combine with your costume, or do other things that maybe you can’t do due to work requirements (like bright colours), and the falls can help with the feathered/layered issue. Or if you’re doing ATS and want hair that will balance out the voluminous skirts. The Falls and braids also allow you to mix yarns and other materials to create a very visually interesting piece of costuming in a way that standard hair would never do without getting very tangled and very messy.

My suggestion: if you’re not too sure about getting a professional set, order some Kanekalon hair, there are some “extra long braids” available for quite cheap that will allow you to braid a long one with a top hair elastic to attach to your own ponytail, or follow the same method and make smaller braids and add yarns and fabric scraps and other materials tied to the elastic, to make falls. Once you’ve wrapped them around your own ponytail, fix with a good amount of pins, I’ve found some hair sticks also help keep everything in place, and do a couple of test runs. The first time I wore the falls I made for dancing, I found they were suffocating in the heat. The second time, they kept getting stuck on everything around me, including other people’s costumes. But they make amazing and colourful buns for ATS.

If you are after braids or falls and don’t want to make your own, I’ve heard good things about Magic Tribal Hair, on Etsy, and a quick look into their shop should let you see a good mix of what is available. I’ve got one of her Peacock Tassels that I acquired pre-loved, it is well made and gorgeous.

Jewellery and Hair adornment
You can buy all sorts of interesting adornment to enhance your hair, and depending on the style, they would work regardless of whether you’ve got a flapper hairstyle or a braid down to your rear. You can buy or make multitude of items, although one of my favourites EVER is this beauty from PurplePeacockJewels. Natascha also makes amazing bindis, my first one came from her, and fabulous jewellery and the rest of her store is worth checking, but that headdress is, I think, one of my very favourite pieces of hers.

If you are wearing your hair up, you could easily create little drops that loop around standard pins, to add some sparkle to your hair… I did a full set of these with Czech beads and garnet for a friends’ wedding that went on her and the bridesmaids, and added some extra detail and texture to the updos. I don’t suggest some of the heavier hair slides as those don’t tend to stay put for too long, but African Butterflies are very reliable and keep the hair firmly under control. And if you can’t find one of them in colours you like, or to combine with your own costumes, you always have the masochistic option of re-threading one with your own choice of beads. See the photos below for an example of how one of them started and the end result when re-threaded with Czech beads. Although be aware that the process is tedious and the beads require a thinner elastic, meaning that the support might not last as long before needing rework.

Hair sticks are always a good option if your hair is up, they help fix the updo, and come in so many different styles that you can surely find something that works for you. If you want something with an ethnic feel, look for Miao Silver pins, these are usually Chinese but have lovely styles with animals and flowers that compliment the ATS palette quite well. There are also other things like Tikkas (jewels that are suspended by a chain from the hair) or Turkomen/Kuchi headdresses, but I would suggest you only use these if you are either doing appropriate Fusion, or as part of a bigger Fusion headdress.

Turbans, headbands and Oh My!
Turbans were popular in the early days of ATS and other Tribal styles, and although they are having a come-back, I think they are not used that often, and dancers seem to have flocked towards other styles. Beaded lycra headbands, however, are very common with Egyptian costumes. They can be rather pretty and give quite a “put together’ look, but personally I don’t think these headbands suit everybody, and you should be careful that you don’t appear to be attempting a facelift by headband, and sometimes it might make your face look a bit too round, so only use them if they suit your face.

Flowers
Have a small garden on your head, via a few silk flowers. Buy them at accessories’ stores, or order the silk flowers directly from manufacturers and create your own arrangements, sew or glue to felt or crocodile clips. Go for bigger styles that will add volume if you think you need it, and colours that combine with your costumes. You can also find smaller ones to weave into your braids.

So, what should you go for?
The answer is, as usual, that it depends. If you only do Egyptian/Cabaret, and your face and hairstyle work with the headbands, by all means go for the headbands matching your costumes as the best options, as it’s a quick set up that will still give you a very “put together” look. Do a bit of everything? Flowers are always useful, but also go for jewelled accessories that can be used across the board, particularly if you prefer your hair up, but otherwise, maybe a side jewelled clip or even some glitter spray can add that extra sparkle. Only Fusion and ATS? If you want the extra length and colour, I’d go for a good set of falls that can be used down or up into a nice big bun, and some flowers, or if you’re happy with what you’ve got, splash on one or two accessories that go with most of your costumes. Egyptian and ATS? Flowers are a good idea but only if your Egyptian costume has a style that works with them, otherwise you might need to stick to separate hair adornment for each, in the same way that you would use separate jewellery.

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