Review: Shimmy Sista’s Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

I’ve heard plenty of good things about ShimmySista, but since they are based in the US, I didn’t want to order, to avoid expensive shipping and risk being stung by Royal Mail with huge taxes. Luckily, someone I know in the US did order one, and found it a *little* big, and knowing her personally, I knew it would work for me. I purchased it new from her and shipped it reasonably, and didn’t get any taxes on it.

The shrug is an interesting shape, as you can see in the photo. It is a touch big on me and I will need to reduce the bottom, but that doesn’t make it fit too bad. The cut frames the bust beautifully too. The material is good stretch cotton, seams are all overlocked properly with a 5-thread serging and a healthy seam allowance (no hair-thin seams here!), and the finishing on the open edges is an overlocked rolled hem that creates a teensy bit of a lettuce effect on the stretch. The only thing I would suggest is that it requires a wash before first use… I wore it straight into my ATS class, and when I inevitably removed it halfway through, I had black fluff all over my armpits and inner elbows, which wasn’t attractive.

This is a shrug that might not work for all styles, but if you wear standard tank-tops and want something to cover up for class, it should be really useful. And the asking price is more than fair. I am just sad it doesn’t come in any other colours or options… a black mesh or stretch lace version would be quite useful and pretty, and I wish there was a clubbing version made with something more interesting or textured, like irregular big hole stretch mesh, to combine when I go to gigs or the like.

So if you’ve been eyeing these, give them a try! I’ve found I am not using mine as much for actual class but it’s a great way of covering up to wear before or after, and I’m pretty sure it should be quite cool over a decorated bra and paired with cotton tribal trousers or the new FCBD Bessie skirt for a light summer costume.

You can purchase the Shrug at Shimmy Sista’s store, here

Addendum: On Thursday, I came back from class, went to remove the shrug, and one of my nails -which aren’t sharp, and are maybe a couple of millimetres long, so pretty tame as far as talons go- went through the stretching fabric, just like that. I am *not* happy about it, but there’s nothing I can do other than fix the tear. It’s the first time I ever have something like this happen with a piece of clothing, and suggests to me that the fabric in the area was a bit too thin, which is ironic seeing that it was very close to the area where I was thinking of taking it in as it was too loose. Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to mention this. And I think that I will re-evaluate any future purchases.

Old School ATS belt and bra set, part 1: the gathering

I’ve been accumulating bits and bobs for tribal since I started dancing, and finally I’ve got everything I need. I am attending an ATS residential in January, there’s the chance of performing, and I wanted something 100% neutral so I could keep as a staple regardless of colours for cholis/skirts. Which trust me, was a difficult thing to do, considering that most tribal belts and pieces come with a rather colourful mix including, very often, complementary colours (red and green seems to be a favourite). But since my skirts so far range from sea green to purple to red, I wanted something I could use with ANYTHING, and so it had to be purely black/white/silver. And the reason I am calling it “old school ATS” is because I wanted to go as close as I could to the typical tribal belts I’ve seen online and up close, with plenty of ethnic pieces to give the right vibe, and trying to ignore as much as I can my usual penchant for using pieces outside the box.

I’ve already done the bases. The belt is fairly standard, this time it’ll be a single piece. I’ve used a double layer of calico and demin to give it strength and sturdiness and prevent stretching; I didn’t make the ends meet at the centre but opted instead to finish them off around my hipbones, to add big banjara mirrors as accents on the ends. I will be using grey and black cord to create ties, and finishing them off with dark grey and silver tassels. The bra is already half covered, I’ll make it with cross-straps again as that gives me the best support, although I haven’t decided yet whether it’ll be tied as the teal one or hooked as the black and red one.

Current plan is to machine-stitch the braid and trim to the belt, and then sit down with everything over several nights and attach all the more difficult bits and pieces. I just hope it doesn’t end being too heavy for the cord I chose.

The leftovers -and there will be leftovers- are currently planned for a short (3/4 length) Ghawazee cover up in a similar theme: black crushed velvet, with silver accents, so I can use over any of my costumes.

In the photo, from top left, clockwise in a spiral:
cotton velvet-covered bra (just cups so far), Turkomen dangle buttons, silver and black braid, silver and black Turkish trim, shisha mirrors, mini-dome Turkomen buttons, hand-beaded WIP trim for edges, round metal trinkets, black cotton velvet belt base (barely visible, it is *that* dark!), rectangular metal trinkets, big banjara mirrors.

Costume bits and bobs

Costume bits and bobs

Inspiration: Cabaret costume in red lace

Alena Saruskaya's red lace cabaret costume

Alena Saruskaya’s red lace cabaret costume

Some time ago I shared a gorgeous white lace costume, talking about how well suited to the dancer’s figure it looked. When I saw this one I thought the model and style looked familiar. Turns out they are both made by the same designer, a Russian lady called Alena Sadurskaya.

I’d just like, if possible, to send it to all those costume peddlers that can only seem to suggest galabayas for plus sizes, as a poster, with a sign that reads “THIS IS HOW YOU DESIGN A CABARET COSTUME FOR PLUS SIZES”

Go visit her Facebook page and start drooling

New Teal Bra, part 2: beading!

Finished bra

Finished bra

I wanted to start this post with the finished bra, because it would make what follows a bit more palatable. Yes, the results are gorgeous, but yes, it will require a bit more work than normal. I won’t cover adding the straps and sides, as the process is fairly similar if not identical to what I described previously for the black and burgundy bra, the dress, and even, a bit, for the belt: use a sturdy base, cover with the fashion fabric, attach. The “new” bit here, and what warrants the extra post, is the beading. And I am not talking about the embroidered beads, those were covered before, and there are other ways that you could do it. I am talking about the dangles.

As a big girl, I’ve refused to have dangles before, because, I thought, they would attract the eye to my stomach, and of course we’ve always been told that is BAD (yes, in bold and capital letters). However, we are dancers, and we practice a form that works better for smaller audiences, and up close, with small, precise moves that sometimes are so delicate to barely be seen… But when parading or performing at fairs, all the typical trappings of our costumes do start paying off: the dangles, the tassels, the ruffles, the drapes, all serve to amplify our moves, because the guy standing 3 metres away from you might not be able to notice your amazing Arabic shimmy, but he *will* see that you’re moving because the tassels and falls are moving, and his brain will fill in the blanks.

Tools and parts for beading

Tools and parts

This time, I wanted to do something special, and I was encouraged by the lovely combo of beads I’d used for the bra, and decided I wanted some more beads strung, but because of the nature of our moves, I needed something a bit more sturdy. Enter the copper wire. I’d done jewellery before (why, yes, you *should* be surprised!)  so I had all the necessary tools. They are not many and can be obtained cheaply, I’ve seen basic sets on Ebay going for a fiver. Places like Hobbycraft sell ergonomic versions that are much pricier, if you’re going to be doing a lot of it, you might want to consider it… because warning: beading CAN and DOES hurt.

Among the tools you will see 2 types of pliers: round nose and bent, and a wire cutter. I also used three different filigrees to construct the focal piece, chain to create the central dangles, some bead caps, head pins, and an assortment of czech crystal fire-polished beads in different colours and sizes. I went with a lot of faceted stones because they do catch the light better, and that helps making your costume sparkly, and with AB (Aurora Borealis) finishing because that tends to add an iridescence that is quite attractive, and would contrast quite nicely with the deep jewel teal of the base.

Beading closeup

Beading closeup

For assembling each strand, I created a mock-up of the finish set using sturdy thread, and decided to split the beads in groups of three, that you can see in the photo on the right. I used the wire to create a loop that I then wrapped to secure it, put the beads in with just enough room so they could move without being too loose. The wrapping of each loop is *vital*, because these dangles will take quite a bit of punishment, with turns and shimmies, and the wrapping will prevent the loops from becoming undone. And this is also the reason why I used wire, and didn’t just use elastic or heavy-duty thread like I used on small beaded tassels before. Yes, this might just be over-engineering, but I’d rather do the work once, and not have to repair it, or waste time going over it for half an hour before and after each use because there’s a chance that something might be loose or worn, the beads will fly out, and poke someone in the eye. I am not going to go into the wiring detail, there are probably plenty of tutorials on YouTube that should explain things clearer and more in detail than I can go in here, done by people who do jewellery as their trade.



Finally, I assembled a centrepiece out of 3 different filigrees. You can use glue to get these together, however, I used thread to sew them together and onto the bra. If you’re lucky enough to find a piece that you love, good for you; I wasn’t that lucky so I used what I could. I added a central dangle to it using the chains, some more beads, bead caps and the head pins, and attached the beads to this central piece, and to the bra.

If I had to do it again, I would probably create a slightly smaller central piece, as the bottom bit can poke into my tummy if I’m contracting too much for tummy rolls, for instance. And I would probably create the beads with lobster clasps so they can be removed at will (and used elsewhere!). But those are considerations that have more to do with your costume planning, so they don’t have to be exactly the same. And anyway, the piece was nice enough to get a *lot* of compliments from people, so I’m happy enough as it is!

Inspiration: Lulu Sabongi

I’ve got some *serious* costume envy going on. Her costume is not that dissimilar from the white one that Dina wore at Shimmy in the city, but it looks somehow a bit more modest and suitable for older or larger ladies, surprisingly so for something that’s pretty much mesh, chiffon and strategically placed rhinestones. Probably because of the smaller dips on both front and back, and the sleeves. Those sleeves, by the way, appear to be a completely separate piece made with power mesh and crystals, and I’ve been lusting after them for quite a while! As soon as I can hack a working pattern for them I’ll post them here, as I can see plenty of possible uses for such a piece.

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