Review: Tribal Skirt from Devadasi Design

During my first attendance to Tribal Remix in Brighton, a skirt wearing caught my eye: it was a 25 yarder, yes, but made of very light cotton, with lurex strands running through it, like a glitter pinstripe. It looked amazing, particularly in movement, and being burgundy -my favourite colour for clothing- it generated an instant desire to get something similar.

At a later time I found through one of the ATS groups on Facebook that similar skirts were done by Devadasi Designs. The skirts looked really nice, but as usual, a bit too small to fit my hips. And the site was in German, although thanks to Google Translate, I could figure it out. On a whim, I decided to write to them. Could they do custom orders?

Gudrun from Devadasi Design

Gudrun from Devadasi Design in her workshop

Turns out that the answer was YES, although they suggested Sea Green instead of the teal I wanted -they don’t do teal for the lurex ones- and not only they did custom order to my hips and length (allowing me the extra length I need to avoid the dreaded bum-lift at the back) but they didn’t charge extortionate prices for the convenience either. The communication with Gudrun, the owner of Devadasi Design, was nothing short of superb. My order arrived quickly, and because it came from within the EU, also avoided the dreaded VAT/TAX/Duty/Handling Charge that Royal Mail will slap on your order. What’s not to like?

The skirts are *gorgeous* in person, and I got plenty of questions of where I’d got it. They are fluffy and soft and light, they twirl and fly when you move, and you can even wash them. The colour is great, and although it’s more of a minty green than I expected, it works. I loved it when I took it out of the box, and worked wonderfully with the teal bra that I’d made. I’ve only worn it once for performance, and I do still need to adjust the length a touch to even out the bottom, but that’s something I’ve come to expect with every new skirt, and has nothing to do with the skirt itself and all to do with my particular body shape.

Would I order again from Devadasi Design? Yes! I was very, very satisfied with the customer support, my questions were answered promptly, I got informed when my skirt went into production and when it shipped too, so the whole process was transparent. I felt very cared for as a customer! I have also revised my “beware of postal made to measure” position. The fact that gradient skirts can be dyed to order means that also you can have unique skirts that are like no other, or have skirts ordered for a whole troupe, dyed in the exact same batch so everybody’s look the same, if that’s what you’re after.

Now go visit her website, and drool: Devadasi Design. I just lament that I didn’t take any picture of myself wearing the skirt when I used it for performance.

Expanding a skirt

25 yard skirts are a beautiful accessory used in Tribal Belly Dancing, and other styles too. They are relatively easy to find nowadays, but if you are on the bigger side of the spectrum, you will have issues. I’ve mentioned before about my dealings with an Indian vendor to obtain a made to measure skirt to counteract this, and the problems that ensued. This time, as I prepared for an upcoming performance at the Ifield Barn Theatre, I remembered with horror that the theatre’s background is black. And then I took a look at my intended costume, and realised I would be a floating head with some floating arms. What to do?

Easy, I thought. I’d read a few people saying good things about The Dancers World’s 25 yarders, since I had no time to order a make to measure one again, I was still having trouble finding suitable fabric, and their website states that their skirts fit up to a size 26 and above, I decided to order a dark red skirt, which I would put over the black and dip-dyed red.

Sadly, by the time the skirt finally, I realised that while the fitting claim is true, it should come with caveats. The skirts DO fit, if you wear them on your waist. Which is not the case for most dancers, who like to show their belly button (in fact, I remember at least one ATS/Tribal writer talking about displaying the “seat of power” right under the belly button). This means that the skirts should go around the upper hip measurement. Which, for a size 26 and above, is most definitely not the 50″ that came for my skirt. The colour was bright red (not the “reddish maroon” that I’d been told would come), and flow beautifully. More importantly, though, it fitted, but it was uncomfortable, and the extra tension was causing it to ride up. With a performance date fast approaching, and no chance of finding anything else suitable, in time without having to completely re-think my whole wardrobe, I decided to risk it, and alter the skirt myself.

Skirt waistband cut open

Skirt waistband cut open


How did I do? Quite well, I think. I was lucky enough that the skirt came with a short underskirt, of exactly the same fabric as the skirt itself, and dyed the same colour. The steps are simple to do but require extreme care:

  • remove underskirt
  • remove the tie from the waist casing, and reserve
  • identify side seam on the top tier, carefully rip it open as necessary (shouldn’t be more than halfway down the first tier)
  • cut the waistband at the point of this open seam
  • use the underskirt fabric with wide elastic to create a gore piece to add to the waistband as necessary, and inserting itself into the first tier
  • re-thread the tie as required

Skirt new gore insert

Skirt new gore insert


There’s not really much else to add. I decided to rotate the centre of the skirt to have each of the sides of the gore as the exit point to the waist tie, and to further the customisation, I took up the skirt as necessary to have an even length all around, despite my bum’s attempts at lifting the back. It turned out that all parts of the new gore bar the actual waistband were lifted and hidden from view.

You can follow the procedure above, although be advised that you do need to make sure the waistband elastic will stay in place somehow, or plan on re-doing the lot if your elastic is not sewn along the length. Be careful, as a misstep can ruin your skirt! So only do this if there are no other options! Of course, if you need even more waistband, or want things a bit more balanced, you could perform the gores on both sides of the hips.

New gore sewn onto the skirt

New gore sewn onto the skirt

Red and black ATS costume

Red and black ATS costume

The results are quite good, I should say, and once I took the extra length up from the waistband, barely noticeable. Also keep in mind that most of the times your skirt’s waistband shall be covered by belts or hipscarves, which makes this solution even better.

The skirt required, overall, about 5 hours of work to be usable and customised for myself, both in waist and length. How does it compare to the made to measure? The fabric is nearly identical, although the finishing is better. Made to measure skirt’s cost was just under a fiver under what I paid for this red beauty, although I was lucky and wasn’t hit with customs charges that time, but the length on that one was a pain, and I am still not happy with how that happened, although in hindsight, I should have ordered it longer. I still think that, for the price, if I can manage to get suitable fabric, it should be better for me to make my own, but of course it all depends on finding the right fabric, and whatever time I have available.

On the photo to the left, the finished costume that includes the tribal belt and bra discussed in previous posts, a choli made with the FCBD pattern discussed before (it needed modifications and a bit of extra engineering; write-up on that coming soon), and the skirt discussed in this post, over the previously discussed dip-dyed skirt. Final costume will have some hair flowers, and black pantaloons underneath, also home made with leftover crinkle polycotton fabric.

Review: Tribal Skirt from Sai International

A while ago, while talking to a friend, I told her that making your own tribal bra was a bit of a rite of passage. I was making it up (sort of), but getting a 25 yard skirt is DEFINITELY something you need to do at some point or other. Of course, if you’re on the curvier side, you might find this difficult.

I have mentioned elsewhere how you can make one. Yes, that’s 12 metres, so about half the 25 yards touted as “standard”. You need a HUGE amount of fabric for making these, and while they’re easy to make, if you want something like a dip-die edge, you’re out of luck unless you want a LOT of extra work, which most of us can’t put in (or don’t have the facilities to do).

25-yard SkirtMost local places have told me they were selling skirts, but none had anything I could pick and be certain that it would fit me right. So I turned to eBay to see if anybody was offering bigger sizes there. Turns out they weren’t, but a few inquiries did find me an indian manufacturer called Sai International more than willing to do it, for a price that was about £10 more than buying the amount of fabric my calculations told me I would need to make one. Sounded like a match made in heaven… almost. And today, after merely a couple of weeks, the skirt arrived.

The good:

  • prompt and clear communication: they got back to me within hours, if they were away, they told me they would be
  • clear explanation and requests: fundamental if you’re doing something for someone else
  • reasonably priced: about 1/3rd below the amount I would have been charged for an american standard skirt (without the extra charge for customisation for bigger sizes, and of course without the hideous shipping fees!); around the same as one bought locally, but again, no chance at customisation…I think overall, with shipping, it was about £38.
  • Shipping was FAST, via DHL… it left India on Friday and was here on Monday, and shipping charges were very reasonable (£3.50 or so)
  • decent but lightweight fabric: it’s a nice cotton, without being that horrible light cheesecloth that starts opening at the seams after two washes, and which we see often on summer clothing
  • the red dip-dyed colour is lovely; the black could be stronger, but I understand that with the procedures used, it’s far more difficult to get a deep black colour

The bad:

  • for all the “made to measure” requirements, apparently they forgot to increase the size of the underskirt accordingly, so while it does have a bigger waist, the underskirt was made for a much smaller person than me, and sits TIGHT… I can’t understand why you’d make this piece as a straight tube the size of the waist… anybody wanting these for their waist, or with a bigger bum than their upper hip measurement would have issues… And this on a garment advertised for DANCING, which should mean they should allow for a range of movement. This means I’ll have to either open it up fully, or remove it completely and trust that a second underlying skirt and pantaloons will give me enough of a modesty cover
  • the 25 yards are at the bottom, apparently (I haven’t measured) but the upper tiers haven’t really been scaled and are rather smaller than what I was expecting giving the 25 yards at the bottom the feel of… a flounce. The dip dye line in that photo is 1-third up the next tier, if that gives you a better idea of depth. This is particularly puzzling as the actual tier is about 1cm less than on my own monsterskirt, but for some reason it feels like it is far less
  • linked with the above, the top tier doesn’t *quite* flow as well as it could, so no skirts whirling all the way to the top for me, at least not with this one
  • worringly, half the seams on the skirt were not finished: some edges were overlocked to prevent fraying, but half of them aren’t; the same goes for the inside seam on the underskirt; yes, there are double straight-stitched seams on these, but I am still not happy with the lack of finishing of the seam edges
  • and finally, more importantly and most annoying of all… the hem was very uneven

Gypsy CostumeI’ve discussed the uneven hems in the past, I know this is a risk for fuller figures, and I have encountered it myself on nearly every single skirt that I’ve ever worn except those that I made myself to counteract for it. So this was expected. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be SO noticeable. The monsterskirt, with its sari third tier, shows any unevenness VERY clearly, and lowly me, with little experience doing a skirt before, managed to make a 12-metre one that, when I have taken the time to arrange it properly, is STRAIGHT. You can see this clearly in the photo, where the edge is even at about 1″ from the floor. My new dip-dyed skirt hitches at the sides, and I’m not sure about the back because the fullness covers it, but I’m pretty sure the front is longer. And it’s also rather short for my liking. Granted, these issues are not deal-breakers if you’re using your skirts wrapped or hitched, they don’t matter, but me? I’d rather start from a flawless point, and not have to rely on hacks to mask the issues.

I’ve found that, side by side, my 12 metre skirt doesn’t appear to be substantially smaller or less full than the new 25-yarder. So, to sum it up, what have we learnt today?

  • beware of postal made to measure
  • I should really, REALLY, go for a circle top tier next time, as it’s less bulk and more “flow”
  • I should also really, REALLY, make the next one myself; I’ll have close to zero choice of colours, but it will fit exactly right

Overall, I am a bit disappointed as I expected a bit more, but if you don’t tend to have problems with skirts off-the-peg, or for wrapping around, at the price these skirts are quite decent. I might order another one if I require a very specific colour, as finding suitable fabric for them seems to be difficult, but for the next one, probably an underskirt in cream or white? I’m definitely making my own. And a black one to follow too.

Legal Disclosure: I was not paid for writing this review, nor I received any free service or product in exchange for it.

The Right Fit

We’ve all had that moment, when we look at ourselves in the mirror while trying something on, and we go “hmmm”. This doesn’t just happen with costumes, but also with standard clothing, and quite often we give in because, being a bit on the generously proportioned side of humanity, we feel it’s nearly impossible to find anything that “works”. Or worse, we’ve grown accustomed to get stuff that doesn’t fit us right -neither in size, or in style- because we feel we won’t be able to find what we want since nobody makes it. Or even worse, depending on how much of a pummelling your self esteem got, that you will never find it, because your body is the problem.

This it not right.
Let me repeat that again, just in case:
YOUR BODY IS NOT THE PROBLEM 

Fitting curvier bodies, regardless of  actual size, is notoriously difficult, because the same measurements can give vastly different bodies. This reflects in manufacturers cutting, for the most part, for an average shape, and everybody thinking their bodies are the ones with issues. And of course this results in nothing fitting anybody properly, and everybody thinking it’s their fault.  However, there are some things you can do to minimise these issues, and that will result in clothing that works better with your body and flatters you.

  • never buy something you are iffy about: this will result in yet another piece of clothing left in your wardrobe that you will rarely, if ever, wear
  • never buy something that is too tight: it’s very difficult to let out an outfit, and the shape that it currently has might not sit right onto your body if you loose the weight
  • wear the right base garments when trying on clothing: this means the right bra, and if you normally wear shapewear, those too.
  • buy the right cut for your shape

When checking if something is too tight, watch out for signs:

  • pulls (those unsightly horizontal wrinkles that don’t appear to have any rhyme or reason; if the garment is loose and those are still there, then it means there’s a construction problem and you should leave it anyway, as it’s not made correctly)
  • uneven lines (lines or seams that should run totally horizontal or parallel don’t do so; slits are gaping wide open, etc)
  • darts opening when they should lie flat
  • overstuffed sausage look, where you’re spilling over your bra, the upper side of your dress, the hip belts, the cutouts, muffin tops, etc; you’ll know it when you see it
  • skirts in particular, although I’ve seen it happening with other garments, that are too short because the stretch on the horizontal has shrunk the fabric on the vertical plane
Also look for other signs of potential problems:
  • skirts that are too short (pay attention to this if you’re tall, or if you’re buying from China, as their standard sizes are quite petite in height); your dancing skirts for the most part should always be brushing the top of your feet if not longer… I like mine 2cm from the floor.
  • uneven hems on your back (or sides or front) produced by body areas that are more plump; this can be the bane of a lot of people; if the hem suddenly goes up at some point because of a generous bum or tummy, this problem can only be sorted out by making the bottom even or adding some material on the top, and if the skirt is already at the maximum length it will be, it cannot be solved; if that is the case, leave it, no matter how pretty it looks, otherwise you’ll have something that will look uneven and unprofessional;
  • slits that come up too high and instead of making you look alluring, show off your undies or open too much under the strain of your movement; at least these you can correct with stitches at regular intervals creating “peek-a-boo” holes, or you can add some chiffon to hide the offending part, as long as this slit isn’t spread open like a clock striking 8:20
  • weird-looking cleavage, produced often by hard-moulded cups that have unflattering shapes, or are too far apart, risking an overspill or wardrobe malfunction

A lot of people will try to tell you that what you’re experience is “normal” and that “if only you’d loose a couple of pounds” it will look better. Or if only you wore a bodystocking. Or some similar statement. These are an awful lot of “if only”s that, for the most part, are unlikely to give you the expected result (a smashing look), and personally, I’d rather not bet the several hundreds that a costume can be on such a flimsy possibility. Seriously, I’ve been told the “if only you’d loose a couple of pounds”  by well meaning staff for an evening gown that I *had* to wear for a formal function; nowadays, my husband can insert two arms up to his biceps on the back of said gown while I wear it, and it still doesn’t fit right; so much for that!

Never, ever settle for what you can find if what you can find isn’t what you like. Ill-fitting garments that are too short, too tight, too baggy, or too ugly, belong somewhere else -sometimes even the bin-, but never on you. If you go to a costume provider and they insist you take something that you don’t like, politely decline. Don’t settle for a folk-style garment if you were after a cabaret style, or be talked into a 2 piece outfit if you feel awkward showing off your tummy, or if the cut isn’t working for you. Try to negotiate a made to measure garment, if you have the option, or else look elsewhere, but when buying, buy only what you want, and don’t settle for peer pressure, because you will hate yourself for it afterwards, and your wallet will wail in agony too. You deserve the best you can afford, in a shape and cut that flatters you and shows you off in the best light.

 

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