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How to Make a Bellydance Bra
The belly dance bra is the hardest part of the belly dance costume to make, and requires the most patience and skill. However, making or covering a belly dance bra is within the range of even novice sewers, if you plan carefully. Remember to allow enough time--a beaded bra may take a month or more to complete, whereas a coin bra may take a few evenings, and a sequined bra can be done in a day. (If you are looking for something easier, start out with a belly dance panel skirt.)
Even if you plan to wear a vest, bolero, or some other top for belly dancing, you will still need a belly dance bra, in case of a wardrobe malfunction! And since the bra and belt or hipscarf can be used with multiple costumes (and a lot of eyes will be on it), it is worth the time and effort to get the bra right!
What will your Belly Dance Bra Look Like?
If you are making a bra, you'll need bra cups. Choose the same cup size you use on your best-fitting bra. You will need fabric to cover these and the belt. Most belly dancers choose a metallic fabric so that their bra and belt can go with more than one costume, but this is completely up to you. In any case, you need enough fabric, plus a few inches, to make a "tunnel" for your 3" belt elastic (if you are making a belt), and enough to cover the two bra cups (and the elastic). Usually a yard or a yard and a half will suffice. If you want separated bra cups, you will need something to fasten them. Usually a half-dozen links of chain will suffice. Make sure the chain is heavy enough that it will not pull apart under pressure or you may have an embarrassing accident! Now is the time to decide if you want a sequined bra and belt, a beaded bra and belt, or a coin bra and belt, or even if you want them to match. If you choose sequins, you need enough to cover the surface area of the bra and belt (outside only). If you choose coins, you will also need some net fabric to attach the coins: simply buy enough of this in a coordinating colour to match the fabric to cover your bra and belt. If you choose beads, be aware that this is a serious undertaking, and you may need upwards of ten thousand beads. If you choose beads, and want some hanging down in streamers, you will have to choose between heavy thread and bead wire (wire is stiffer, and will act in the same way as heavier fabric on the veil). For coins, you will need at least one and a half times the area of the bra and belt (outside only) as you will want them to overlap. Don't forget thread! And one last thing: have plenty of strong waxed dental floss handy!
Instructions and Supplies for your Belly Dance Bra
Belly Dance Costume
Constructing a Belly Dance Bra
If you have chosen decorative elastic, you will not need to cover it and you can skip this step. Otherwise, measure the width of your elastic, double it, add 1¼", and cut the fabric to the length of your elastic plus 1¼". Hem the short ends. Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, and make a seam along the edge. Turn the fabric inside out using a safety pin. Do the same for the halter or shoulder elastics. Set aside. If you are separating the bra cups with chain, place the bra cups in the appropriate place, then measure how many links of chain you will need to attach them in the right place. Add two links to this (for sewing the chain to the bra) and sew the chain to the bra cups with heavy waxed dental floss. Lay out the bra cups underneath the fabric, and trace around them with tailors' chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. Add 1" to the outside and cut the fabric. Smooth fabric over bra cups, and pin the fabric down. Sew the fabric down ¼" from the edge of the bra cups, all the way around. Turn under the raw edges, and sew the loose edges again to make a nice finish (remember that this should be smooth or it will end up chafing you!). Now attach the elastic to each bra cup (two pieces, one at the top, and one at the side) with pins to get the bra the right size, then sewing the elastic and fabric to the excess material inside the bra. The best way to make sure the elastic is secure is to sew the end of the elastic down in a square or rectangle with an X inside.
More Belly Dance Costume
Covering a Lingerie Bra to Make a Belly Dance Bra
Making a belly dance bra is a lot of work, and less experienced sewers may find that reworking a lingerie bra is a better fit for them (pun intended!). In that case, you will need to make a "sleeve" to cover the bra elastics, or replace the traditional strap hardware with more decorative hardware, or cover the strap hardware with a large jewel. As for the back, again, you will have to find some way to cover the hook and eye in the back. And your lingerie bra needs to be sturdy, so look in the all-cotton section for a well-constructed bra (it won't matter what it looks like, since you're going to hide the original completely). Even though the original bra won't show, it's a good idea, in case of a wardrobe malfunction, to dye the bra to coordinate with the fabric with which you will cover it. Then place the cup over a tailor's ham and draw out a pattern to cover the cup on to drafting paper. Trace around the sides and back of the bra, and add 5/8" on each side of the tracing. Now you have the pattern to cover your bra. Carefully cut out the fabric (it's best to be a bit generous) and turn the bra inside out, sewing the fabric onto the underside of the bra. Now you will still have to decorate the bra, using sequins, beading or coins, as in the constructed bra.
Sequins, beads, and coins all present a choking hazard to small children. If you have small children at home, make sure to keep these items out of their reach!
Belly Dance Bras
Decorating Your Belly Dance Bra
If you are using sequins that come in a string, you need to have a pattern in mind. Many dancers use a spiral pattern from the crest of the cup outwards. Others may have the sequins running up and down, or side to side, or on a diagonal. Decide which will suit the look you are trying to achieve.
If you are using coins, take the coins out of the package and turn them all the same way. Take your jump rings and needle nose pliers, and open about a hundred jump rings enough to put the coin on them. Then, starting at the bottom, slide the open jump ring on to the net fabric, and close the jump ring with the pliers. Repeat until you have covered the entire bottom row. Determine the place for the second row by how far you want the coins to overlap. At the least, they will have to overlap by half to get a good look for your bra; you may wish to overlap them two-thirds or three-quarters. Do the second row and following rows the same way. When you have finished the top rows, cover the edges of the bra with a complementing narrow trim to hide the top rows of jump rings.
For beading, use your paper pattern for the bra. Lay out your beads in the desired pattern on the paper, and then start sewing from the center (crest) of the cup outwards. If you use a tweezers to handle the beads, you're less likely to disrupt the pattern. You can either sew the beads all the way to the edge, or leave a little edge and cover with a complementary narrow trim.
Belly Dance Bra
Danglies for Your Belly Dance Bra
As you can see from photos of belly dance costumes, many dancers like beads or coins covering their midriff. For a coin bra, you can hang coins straight down on small pieces of matching chain, or hang one or more rows of chain between the bra cups so that they "scoop" down, and decorate them with coins.
For beaded bras, you can use wire to make strings of beads and fasten them to the underside of the bra. You can also attach them to the bra cups themselves--even to the top so that they create a "fringe" of beads. In fact, your imagination is the only limit!