Making Progress

I thought that I’d share some of my design process with you so that you can see how a costume idea takes shape in the workshop.


The original seed of the  design of this outfit was the fabric: a 2m length of printed chiffon with glitter sparkles.  I’ve been hoarding it a while but finally decided to let it go and commit to a chiffon skirted bedlah.  Of course, I then had to scour the workshop for material that would work as an underskirt and despite the many hundreds of metres of fabric in store, I had to buy a length of aubergine lining (quelle surprise!).

The skirt is a circle with a slit over the front leg (like belly dancers have back legs?)  You know what I mean!  And the overskirt in chiffon is also nearly a circle (2m is NOT enough for a circle skirt).  Oddly shaped scraps shortly became ‘sleeves drapes from armbands.  Never waste bits of fabric you love.


The waistband is a wide foiled lycra band.  This stems from seeing a costume that had a very deep (6-8” ??) waistband and looked cool.  I thought I’d try that but my stock of purple foil lycra was just a scrap so it’s only 3” deep and with a little extra elastic in the waist top for extra support.  However, these chiffon skirts are not heavy and I might have got away with just the lycra band, but I like a belt & braces approach.

Why did I go with purple for the trim when the print is pinks and blues?  That’s because the bra was purple and bought ready made.  I was lucky I had some matching foil.


Once the main structure of the outfit is done one can play with trims.  Some people design form the sketch up but that doesn’t work for me, I let the fabric dictate.  Rooting through stocks and stores is therapeutic and I like finding just the right trim.  There were hotfix motifs which had to be bonded onto felt where it overlaps the actual costume.

Having bought tones of sew-on gems in Cairo, I knew I’d be using those, so I sewed on a basic pattern and once I was sure, added a few more.  A further ‘ratch’ through the cupboards revealed a number of pearl and diamante ‘droppers’ which were also sewn on.

Time is Money

I think you’ll agree it still seemed a little bare so a I spent a couple of hours with the hotfix wand heat-applying AB sheen diamante.  One can spend HOURS at this, and whilst it produces a lovely Zen-like meditative state, it is time-consuming and you have to stop at some point.  Small stones heat up and melt quicker but cover less space.  Bigger jewels cover more space but take more time to heat up and apply.  If I seem fixated on time it’s because Time is Money for a self employed dressmaker and people don’t want to afford what it would costs if I went Full Monty on my Hotfix dreams!

Ta dah!

Finally the design is finished!  And all there is left is to find a customer.  Actually, this one was waiting for me to write up a piece about it’s design and development so finding a customer wasn’t a priority.  However, I finished this one on a Friday just before a hafla and, on a whim,  I took it with me.  Ordinarily  people don’t buy full costumes at haflas.  Hafla spending is usually more in line with leftover housekeeping money.  I am delighted to say that it sold that  very first night! (so what do I know?)  The lucky buyer will only have to shorten bra straps and it will be perfect.  It was just a matter of moments between her seeing it and buying it.  I t was very right for her.  I can’t wait to see her dance in it.  I wonder what music she will choose?  I wonder what I shall make next?