how to

OMG it’s 2017

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I haven’t written a blog post in such a long time! Partly from feeling uninspired, personal life got busy and maintaining a dance studio, as well as my photography full time does mean that there is little time for the things I used to do for enjoyment only. Now, most of my activities are twofold – for work as well as play.

Part of re-evaluating my dance goals for 2017 was to re-evaluate this blog. I started it in 2008/9 as a way to document my progress as a new dancer and put thoughts out onto the internet. It was a great source of learning not only about belly dancing, but also about myself. God, that sounds cheesy. But I learned a lot about how I think about things, how I evaluate topics and come to my own conclusions. It’s been a great learning curve.
I did briefly consider taking the blog down, but I get thousands of views a month (sorry for never posting loyal readers!) and I know it’s frustrating when a blog you’ve been following suddenly disappears, never to be referenced again! So I think, instead of totally tanking the blog, I’ll try revive it with new blog posts! At least one a month will be a good starting point. Oh look – I’m already late for January! (what’s new?!) I do think that some of my posts also contain some of my out dated ideas, so I might like to revisit some of that.

I thought I’d like to make this first blog post about what I’ve been up to dance-wise in the last… 2-3 years. Has it really been that long?

To start, our dance studio (Maya Belly Dance Troupe) flourished and then flailed badly. In 2011, we had a huge 3-night show – and it was a great success. It was held in a forest, surrounded by trees and dirt and it was wonderful. In 2015, we started out the year with over 20 regular students. (For our small studio, that’s quite a feat!) We put on another 3-night show at the same lovely venue and this was less successful. We lost money, attendance wasn’t great, and worst of all, I was tired. I loved the performing, but the organising, spending what seemed like endless amounts of money, managing people and students – it was all a bit much. When we put on our show in 2011, we were 3 teachers and could manage the stress a bit better. In 2015, there were only 2 of us. The tide has changed much since 2011.

The overall quality of the 2015 show was amazing, and I do look back on it fondly! But the aftermath of the show was tough. A lot of students left the studio – for various reasons, both good and bad – and that left us with essentially 6 regular students. We had gone from teaching  4 classes a week – all fully attended! – down to 2, barely having enough students for one class. We lost our best dancer directly after the show. It was a tough blow. The other teacher and I had to find inspiration from essentially nothing, and carry on teaching the students that were there.

I am forever grateful to the few dancers who did stick it out – they are the heart and soul of our studio now, and their commitment to the studio and their passion for dance is not unnoticed.

I am also comforted in the knowledge that we are not alone in our studio flourishing and then flailing. I have heard from dance friends all over the world that their studios went through a similar thing recently, and it’s been a difficult hole to get out of. I know that trends come and go, and when Shakira was at her most popular (Hips Don’t Lie got me into class 10 years ago!) the studios were full, busy and thriving. The trend has shifted a few times in the last 10 years, from  belly dance to burlesque to pole dancing, so I know it’s not just us.

The fact that our studio has been going for 10 years is a huge achievement all on its own. In our area alone, we’ve had 4 or 5 different studios start up and then stop in those 10 years.

Despite knowing that we are not totally at fault for students leaving us, I have found it difficult not to take their leave personally. On the rare occasion that you hear why a student has left your studio, you can’t help but wonder “could I have done this differently?” And most of the time, the answer is no. Especially in the last year, I have had to remind myself that I can’t make everybody happy, and as long as I try and have their best interests at heart, I can’t fault myself.

SO… 2017 is the year of the student for me. I am trying very hard to listen to my students wishes and take their ideas and thoughts into consideration. We are having weekly goal setting meetings with our advanced students at the moment and we have put some effort into putting on a small 10 year dance celebration in July, which will not only celebrate the past 10 years, but also the future of the studio – our students!

That just about sums up 2015! It was a hard year, and I think we barely made it through, to be completely honest. In the spirit of keeping things jovial, I will say that 2016 seemed to be the rise of the amazing students – we had a bunch of great beginners at the start of the year, that have since become even better intermediate students. Our advanced class is working incredibly hard this year and we have some of the most dedicated students we’ve ever had, with amazing visions for their future dance.

I’m excited to see what 2017 brings. J

If I have any advice for studios that are struggling: Hold onto your dedicated students, work hard with them and don’t ever forget that they were there week after week. Go and give them a hug, or a chocolate. They deserve it! 😉

 

As part of my 2017 blogging goals, I’d also like to revisit some old blog posts. Any in particular you’d like to see me tackle again?

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Dear Student,

So this is the delayed part 2 of my “Dear Teacher” blog post from much earlier this year. I have been teaching dance since about 2010 – beginners classes at first (I LOVE teaching beginners!) and now I occasionally teach our intermediate and advanced classes. In this time, I’ve learned a lot about being a good student and being a good teacher. It takes more than just knowing the material to be either. I can obviously write an entire long list on how to be a better student, but I think that would come out as a bit condescending and maybe a bit mean – so I think this is a gentler approach.

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Dear Students,

I love having you in my class! Thank you for coming and being a part of my little dance world!

First, I just want to say that having you in my class is a big deal for me, so when you don’t come it really is frustrating. I totally understand work commitments (sometimes I can’t make class either and need to get a substitute teacher in), sometimes it’s impossible to find a babysitter and other issues come up that prevent you from coming to class. I have had students come to class who work shifts and can only be there every second week, so I am flexible when it comes to missing class. However, missing class because “it’s cold” feels like a lack of commitment. Trust me, when it’s raining and storming outside, I don’t want to leave my house either! 🙂 And on that note…

I can only put you in a choreography if you attend class. I know you pick things up quickly – and that’s awesome for you! – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need practice. Working as a unit takes time and it is very obvious when a student doesn’t come regularly and tries to slot into a choreography.

There are soooo many reasons for being chosen for a choreography. I would love to put everybody in, every single time, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes we have to pay to perform and our studio happily carries that cost, but we can’t carry the cost every time for 15 students to be in a dance, sometimes we need to work on stage space and sometimes it’s just about aesthetics! But often times it comes down to: Who attends class, who has the costuming, who is doing the dance well, who is doing it ON TIME with the music, and (for me at least) it’s also about giving equal opportunity to perform. You may have been dancing for years and are really good, but if I am always putting you in every dance, it means one less spot for somebody who may also be really good, but with less experience. Everybody needs performance opportunities and sometimes it means cutting the more experienced dancers out of a dance to give less experienced dancers a chance to perform. 🙂 (If you are unsure how your teacher chooses people for choreography – just ask! 🙂 )

Want to dance more? Do a solo or choose a dance sister to do a duet with! I am thrilled if students want to do their own thing! You are an individual dancer as well as a group dancer, nurture your individuality by dancing alone! I am happy to help you with a choreography/solo/duet piece if you’d like help or want feedback. Dancers doing choreography without me makes me proud!

Please listen when I talk in class. Goodness knows I do a lot of talking, but it’s because I have so much information to share that everything I say is useful. If you can’t use it, discard it and keep dancing. On top of that, listening in class means you don’t miss important information – about performances, payment info, holiday breaks, etc. I really do say it all in class!

Ask me to repeat myself – I love getting feedback like that! I can easily barrel right through an entire exercise in a few minutes, but it doesn’t help I speed things along if you’re not getting the first part of the exercise, so just ask. (please!)

I know that sometimes it’s been a particularly shitty week and you’re not absorbing anything in class, so don’t worry – I do understand! Even with teaching, I sometimes have days where I need to check my notes 20 million times in a lesson to check that I know what I’m doing! (I am sure all my students can attest to that!) You’re allowed an “off” day – what’s more important is that on these “off” days, you’re still in class!

Turn your cellphones off/on silent and don’t check them during water breaks. It’s a huge distraction for you (I don’t really get bothered) when your phone is always going off. You’re always wondering who is on the other end and it just keeps your mind off the dancing.

Lastly, be on time! It’s such a simple one, but often overlooked. If class starts at 18:30, don’t be there at 18:29. Aim to be there 10 minutes before class starts, that way if you do run late or get stuck in traffic, you’re at least not late for class. Arriving early means you can have a chat, say hello to your classmates, settle your account with the teacher and generally just settle in. If you are late, just warm up at the back and join in as soon as you’re warmed up.

 

I love having all of my students in class, I love their input, I love their dedication and their crazy ideas. I want to keep up that level of closeness, but I need help sometimes to make class awesome. 🙂

Keep on dancing and keep on being inspired!

Love,

Your overly-enthusiastic teacher.

Henna: My hair dying experience

As a child, I was one of those kids with the bleach-blonde hair and blue eyes. As I got older, my eyes darkened, as did my hair. I started to be more conscious about tanning and skin damage and all that jazz, so I stopped spending as much time outside in the sun. As a result, the blonde in my hair faded and went to this dull mousey brown/ash blonde colour. My hair itself was very shiney and healthy, but the colour just wasn’t very exciting.

I then spent some time browsing the internet, hitting forums, Google Images, Pinterest in search of advice about dying hair with henna.
I posted on my Facebook status that I was thinking about dying my hair with henna. Wow! What a blow up that turned out to be! I got a bunch of people all commenting and telling me how bad henna was and that I would regret dying my hair. A few people warned me that this was permanent and irreversible if I didn’t like it.
Between all these negative comments were one or two people saying that they never had any issues with henna and actually loved it.

I was initially quite discouraged at this reaction. Not nice wanting to do something & have everybody tell you what a bad idea it is!
After getting over the initial discouragement I set about to do even more research about henna. I found this incredibly helpful blog post about henna: Click here

I recommend reading that link as it talks about real henna vs other things that are dangerous and bad for your hair.

I had dyed my hair previous in 2010, and the colour faded and just generally looked “blah” after 2 months, so henna sounded like a good option.

One of my friends, Roxanne, helped me with doing my hair (she helped with the initial 2010 experiment, too). Roxanne and I have been friends for the last 10 years, and when I told her I wanted to dye my hair with henna & asked if she could help, she winced and then said ok, she’d help. A great friend – she knows telling me “no” would just make me more determined. 😉 (I found out later she just winced because she had no idea how to use henna)

As no post from me is complete without photos, here are they:

Before hair. This was taken months ago. Around May 2013.

These photos were from a shoot I did with a good friend & fellow photographer, Adele Kloppers for use on my website. She also curled my hair like this! (I’d have her curl it every day if I could…)

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Had my hair cut at Neil James salon. (nicest hair cut I’ve ever had!)

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Random back yard shot taken the week before dying my hair.

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VERY IMPORTANT: I did a test strand first! I took a tiny bit of hair & dyed it with the henna to see how it would react & to see what colour it would go. This was the result:

It’s important to do this incase your hair reacts badly with the henna. You never know and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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I don’t have any photos of what the henna looked like in the pot, but mine came out quite brown instead of the green colour that many other’s reported.

I looked this up & figured out that henna can go stale & can turn brown as it gets old. Since mine had the right texture and smell, didn’t burn my hair off, I figured it was alright.

Henna goes the lovely texture of mud when you start to put it on. This makes it incredibly messy and difficult to apply. Get a friend to help out.

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I wrapped my head in the towel & cling film for 4 hours. We watched series, spoke crap and ate a lot of food. (I went to the shop in this towel… :/ ) I also smeared Vaseline all over my hairline to stop my head from dying. I checked on it every now and then to make sure it was ok.

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I then removed the towel & we washed my hair while kneeling in the shower. Not very glamourous. Roxanne then dried my hair with a hair dryer.

And ta-da! (there’s Roxanne in the background!)

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Still slightly wet, in the sun immediately after: It was MUCH MUCH more orange than this. It was scary orange at first. However, henna does take a few days to “settle” and come to it’s true colour.

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The next day:

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And now, the truer colour: It is actually darker than this in person, but it’s SO difficult to get the colour right on camera compared to what my eyes see.

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Check out that shine!!

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A quick pros and cons list of using henna:

PROS:

* No chemicals! True henna doesn’t have any chemicals or additives.

* You can use it repeatedly. Because there are no chemicals, you can use it a lot more often than conventional dyes.

* Makes your hair healthier & shinier. Also strengthens hair.

* It doesn’t make your hair darker/lighter, it just changes the colour of the hair by adding red/orange.

* Cheap compared to conventional dyes.

* Leaves hair feeling thicker & full of body

CONS:

* Permanent colour. This is both a pro and a con because it means you have to wait for your hair to grow out. I have heard you can dye over henna, but I can’t vouch for that.

* Difficult to apply & very messy.

* Time consuming. I had to sit for 4 hours with the henna on my head, but I didn’t really mind.

* Can loosen natural curls (no idea why, I don’t have curls, but I have read that this happens.)

So there you go! For the people that told me not to do it… oopsy! Looks like I didn’t listen 😉

I love the way my hair looks now, and when I decide not to continue with the henna, I will just let my hair grow out. I’m not fussed about that.

Have any henna experiences? Let me know below!

Here’s the pin-able photo: (Or click here to repin my pin)

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Bellydance Bra: A How To Tutorial

First post of 2014! One I promised to do nearly 5 months ago… oopsy!

Life got in the way a bit in 2013, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll write blog posts more often. I need to get into it for my photography site as well, so it’ll be a year of blogging!

So this post is a bit of a tutorial on how to make a bellydance bra. I don’t promise that this is perfect or the only way to do it. If you do something differently to the way I do – let me know in the comments below so I can try out your methods! As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (ew.)

First, you need to find a bra to work on. This means doing a bit of shopping. Try on different shaped bras to see what suits you best. I find that this “sweetheart” styled bra fits me quite well and makes me feel very secure, which is really important since you’re going to be (hopefully) flinging yourself around in it.

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Check that the back of the bra isn’t riding up. That is a sure sign that it doesn’t fit properly! A good bra should sit relatively low in the back (as this lifts the girls up in the front), the straps shouldn’t dig into you & you should be able to do the “arm test” (scroll down to see that)

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When I try on bras, I do this silly looking test that I call the “arm test”. I lift my arms in front of me (as illustrated below) and I see if the bra gapes. If the bra gapes, then I usually don’t buy it. Simply because if I am in the middle of a choreography and want to lift my arms in front of me, I won’t be able to do so without flashing the audience. (Not sexy)

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Like I said, silly looking. 🙂

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I encourage you to always buy bras that are “multi way”. This is because if you want to make halter straps, the bra is already designed to be able to move that way. If you buy a bra that doesn’t have the multi-way function, and you make a halter neck, it will distort the bra and make it gape.

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I recently bought bra cups at our fabric shop. I still want to try them, but stuck with what I knew for this tutorial.

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What you will need:

* Fabric of choice

* Scissors

*Thread (in the same colour as the fabric, unlike me. Don’t do as I do…)

*Pins

*Needles

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And optional: A sewing machine.
This was the first bra I have ever sewed using my machine. I just used it for the straps, as other parts of the bra are too thick to sew through and I didn’t have the right needles.

It just means it goes faster and is slightly neater.

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Not optional: Delicious snacks to get you through the process.

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* Interfacing

Below I have a photo of a bunch of different types of interfacing. From top to bottom:

* A reasonably thick vilene. Doesn’t bend when it’s folded & is not the iron-on stuff.

* Buckram. Very hard & difficult to sew through. Best used for reinforcement.

* A thin vilene. Thin like tissue paper. Not ideal for building straps.

* Thin buckram. Flimsy & soft. Not ideal for building straps, but useful for extra reinforcement.

* Denim (not pictured) I used this for AGES for building my bras & belts. Soft, long lasting & easy to work with.

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STEP 1:
I cover my bra. I usually take a corner of the fabric and try pinning it in different ways before cutting it. Cutting is very final. Buy extra fabric if you’re worried about it.

I first pin the top and then the bottom. The top will always be pinned the same way, but at the bottom you can either use a dart (folds sewn into the fabric to give it a 3-dimensional shape) or ruching (gathers of fabric used to form ruffles.)

I spent a good 2 hours pinning my bra. I wanted to show you how a dart would look, as well as ruching (which is what I went with in the end)

Pinned at the top:

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A very messy dart:

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Ruching Pinned: (lots of pins!)

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Ruching sewn.

With ruching, I just sew at the bottom of it. I don’t sew further up the cup because I don’t want stitching on the cup as it will be visible. I don’t know if this is the correct way to do it, but it is the way I do it.

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STEP 2:

Cut out straps. I used the first Vilene mentioned above to make my straps. I had a pattern from straps already lying around that I had cut out of the thin buckram.

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Placed the pattern on the Vilene. I folded it to end sooner because I wouldn’t be making straps that connect in the back. This is up to you. I

I folded my vilene in half and drew one pattern. I then cut through the 2 layers so that they would be perfectly equal. It also saves time.

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I used this handy little pen to draw on my vilene. It fades in 48 hours or so, so it’s perfect for mapping out your pattern on fabric.

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I place my strap onto my bra to see if it fits. I made a mark with the pen to show where I would need to cut it.

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Before making a commitment to making the straps, I check out my stash of loops & rings that I’ll be using for the straps.

With this, you want to make sure that your loops aren’t much bigger that your straps. If they are, they tend to move around and can end up not fitting quite right.

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I added grosgrain ribbon to my straps for extra reinforcement. This is a new thing I am testing out. Seems to work well!

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Now, take a break and eat one of your snacks. Hmmmm. Chocolate.

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This is the bra with the straps covered & one of them pinned onto the bra. Covering the straps is as simple as putting the fabric over it, pinning & sewing. Nothing fancy or difficult there.

Note that the original bra straps are still on.

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The backs of my bras are always insanely messy. I have started lining my bras (you will see why in a bit) but that can only be done once it is totally decorated.

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One half of the bra has a top decoration on it. This is just a silver lace I bought, and folded over the top of this bra.

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The inside again.

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I used my loops on the back straps of the bra, and pin in place. I hand sewed this because my machine can’t get close enough to the loops. (I tried & broke a needle in the process)

At this point, you can cut off your side straps. You can see in the picture above where I cut mine off. Usually where there is a bit of boning in the strap.

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Next, make your top straps. Using vilene (or your base of choice) and grosgrain ribbon, sew them together & cover them in your fabric. Pin to the bra & sew in place. (Again, I did this by hand)

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Ta-da! You now have straps!

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Adding the loops to the top straps & sewing in place.

Then go outside and take some photos in your fabulous new bra!

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Below you can see the reason why lining is so important. the tiny bits of fabric will sneak out of the bottom of your bra and show. (I have no idea how to line stuff – I just make it up as I go along!)

Harem Pants & Necklace: Also by me! 😉

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Back of the bra:

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You can see that it is still very rough, but I am fine with that, as I will be covering all those seams.

I know some of you like to pin my stuff, so I’ve done this picture below that you can use as the pinned picture:

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If you cant seem to pin it, find my pin here (click click) and feel free to share! 🙂

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments below! I love to hear from you!

xx

My Makeup Transitions & Some Tips

I have said before that I know next to nothing about make up. I was always hopelessly lost when I needed to buy new things for dance and I ended up just going with items that clearly showcased my lack of knowledge. I’m almost embarrassed to post this, but I do want to show you how far I’ve come in my make up choices!

I’ve also said before that I grew up with a mom who didn’t wear a lot of makeup – which I’m totally grateful for now. Because as nice as it is to know how to apply makeup properly, it’s even nicer to have a mom who taught me that appearances aren’t everything. After all, make up is a skill you can learn if you practice enough.

Since I started working, I realized how important it is for me to wear a bit of makeup. I find that I look too young (and in people’s minds, therefore inexperienced) and makeup helped me age a bit. Every month or two I’ve bought at least one new makeup product. Nothing over R100 (+-$10) but just enough to play around with.

So if you’re not experienced with makeup, or can’t afford the high-end products, don’t worry. You can learn how to apply makeup and you can do perfectly fine with cheaper/drugstore products.

I started out with using incredibly cheap products. Pretty much whatever I could get at any R5 Shop or Mr Chen Superstore was the kind of thing I would go for. After all, I started dancing and performing when I was 16, so R8 for a bunch of eyeshadows really was the only thing that was affordable for me.

My first performance ever (in 2007), in which the eye makeup was inspired by makeup that could be found in the Sims 2.

Below you can see one of the looks I would go for at the start of my Tribal Fusion career, typically:

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Mainly a liquid eyeliner. Actually… only a liquid eyeliner. I was messy with it and didn’t really know what I was doing.

I did get better years later at the eyeliner, but also started experimenting with eye shadows. I also started watching YouTube tutorials to learn a bit more about makeup. Since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I watched random videos and picked up a few hints from them. One of them being the use of sticky-tape to create a solid winged line by your eye. I did this for a really long time, and I actually want to try it again sometime, using my newer knowledge of makeup application.

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Not being used to make up, you can see in a lot of these images that I was too light handed with my shadow and I should’ve been piling it on a lot heavier. If you’re not used to makeup, any makeup is a lot to wear!

I am lucky in that my studio occasionally has a “dress up” class where we get to wear new costumes to test out, or try new hair/makeup tricks. I used a lot of these classes for experimenting with makeup and I’m very grateful for that – otherwise I might still be doing the liquid liner…

I also started to use concealer (very recently actually – only about a year ago) for performances because I have quite bad under eye circles and it became more noticeable when I had darker shadows on my eyes.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned that you might find helpful too:

  • NO LIQUID EYELINER!! That deserved both of those exclamation marks. Use the liquid eyeliner to… *gasp* line your eyes, don’t do the entire thing in plain ol’ black eyeliner. Yucky.
  • Blend Blend Blend! Swiping your eye shadow over your eyes and walking out the house never looks nice. Take time to blend your eye shadows out so that it gently fades rather than abruptly stops.
  • Using JUST a kohl/pencil liner on your bottom lid doesn’t make for very pretty eyes. It tends to make the bottom lid look heavy and very harsh. Either tight line (upper water line) your eye or blend it out so it’s not a hard line.
  • Using cheap products will NOT take you a long way. You don’t need to buy ridiculously expensive products either – just be an informed consumer by reading reviews before buying.
  • False eyelashes. Wear them. You don’t need to buy the super expensive ones like Ardell (which go for between R50 – R90 here). If you want to test falsies out, buy the cheapies at the China shops for about R10, but definitely buy quality glue! The stuff that comes with the cheapies is mostly useless.
  • Mascara is your friend.
  • Filling in your brows is something that people seem to not talk about very often. Ever seen Zoe Jakes without makeup? Nearly no eyebrows. On stage? Super amazing eyebrows. That girl knows her brows. Honestly though, it’s important to fill in your brows if you’re performing. Having thin brows makes them disappear on stage and it can look a bit strange. (also, really thin/non-existent brows is NEVER flattering!) If you ARE going to fill in your brows, use a powder to do so. Loads of brands stock an “eyebrow kit” for doing exactly that. *
  • Don’t go for a lipstick that is too dark. It can often look black and black lipstick is never flattering. EDIT: As Rasha Nour pointed out in the comments – don’t wear a lipstick that is too light/natural either or it can fade away. I think your best bet is to go for a vibrant red or bright colour.
  • Use YouTube. There are plenty of YouTube gurus who can help you out with ideas and tips for the perfect look for you.
  • Make sure your foundation matches to your skin. Nothing is weirder than seeing somebody’s face is shades lighter/darker than the rest of them.

I’ll be writing another post soon about some of my favourite YouTube gurus and makeup videos – if you’re interested!

Here are some of my more recent make up looks, and I think I have improved dramatically!

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And my most recent, taken just a month ago at International Bellydance Day!

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I hope some of this was helpful to you, and if not, I hope you had a giggle at my earlier makeup. It’s a bit cringe worthy, but hey – what was your makeup like when you were 16? 😉

I didn’t want to talk about buying things too much in this post, because I believe that there are plenty of makeup blogs that cater specifically to that, and I also don’t believe that expensive products mean better results. It’s often about how you apply the products, and there are plenty of cheaper brands out there that are perfect for dancing.

To finish this post off – I do think that knowing how to do your makeup is a very important skill to have if you’re a performer of any sort. With the internet and YouTube tutorials, there’s no reason you can’t learn!

Until next time! *waves*

*I have a bit of a thing about eyebrows.

How to: A belly dance bra

Here’s my list of excuses: I haven’t felt inspired, I’ve been really busy at my new job (yay!) and I’m lazy.

At the end of July I was offered a position at a photography studio in Somerset West – Digital Moment – and I accepted! I have a good friend who has been working there since the beginning of the year and I must say, since I started, I haven’t stopped! There are photo shoots almost every weekend, events to cover, and tons and tons of editing work to do afterwards!

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow troupe member ( Hello, Cheri! 🙂 ) asked me about constructing a proper dance costume and although I don’t think I know a lot about it, I ended up rambling and realized how much info I do know. I’m no expert on the subject and I have had many failed projects that I quietly unstitch and throw away, never to be spoken of again. Although I get irritated at the waste of money, I have learned a lot from it and I think that I’m qualified in telling people what NOT to do! Enough so, that this is what this blog post is all about.

A lot of the things I’ve learned when it comes to costuming are things I picked up from reading many, many blogs about it. At the bottom of this post is a list of useful links and blogs to help you make a costume successfully! (And all of those ladies are far more accomplished seamstresses than me!)

Anyway! Back on topic.

I lay in bed last night thinking of all the bits and pieces I have to talk about, so I’m going to cut this blog post into two pieces – one about bras and one about belts. So here is all the info I have on bras!

Selecting a bra for a costume

My first advice is to know what size bra you are! I’ve never been measured, because in South Africa our lingerie selection is rather poor and I have previously bought 2 bras that were exactly the same size on the label and the same make, same colour, same bra, same everything! When I got home they fit me completely differently! I am a 32D and I struggle to get bras that fit me properly, so what I do is I will try on a 34C, 32D and 34D just to see what fits me best. You’re going to have to do this too.

  • Try on a bunch of different bras – you never know what might look flattering on you! Remember, don’t go for a specific colour, you’re going to cover it up anyway. I personally find that Ackermans’ Mosaic Range sells a lovely shaped bra, that I find suits me quite well. It’s their generic bra section, just a plain white bra. All of these bras are the same base, bought from Ackermans:

  • Make sure the bra cups are STIFF. If they are too soft, they will collapse the minute to try to embellish them! There are ways of reinforcing a bra if you’re going to do a lot of embellishing/heavy embellishing on them. I’ve never needed to do that, but Shushanna (link below) has a section on that if you want to learn how to do it! To test the stiffness of her bra cups, Shushanna has this great trick of placing a small ceramic bowl on top of her bras, and if they don’t collapse under that weight – she carries on! 🙂
  • When choosing your bra, try and choose one that has changeable straps. In other words, one of those bras where the straps can criss-cross at the back or be removed entirely. The reason for this is so that if you decide to do a halter-neck style bra or even a criss-crossed back like my blue costume in this post, the bra cups won’t move around! If you take a regular bra and make a faux-halter neck, you’ll find that the bra cups gape and it looks quite ugly. The same thing will happen if you take a regular bra and give it a halter neck or criss-cross back.
  • This next one is a personal preference, but perhaps something you haven’t thought of before. If you are small chested – follow the diagram below. Buy a bra that fits you! Small chested woman tend to wear bras that cover their nipples – because they don’t have much chest muscle/boob to cover up. All big-boobed girls can tell you that your boobs start on the sides of your chest! Not in the middle! If a large chested woman were to wear a bra that only covered the nipple, she’d end up with side-boob leakage. Same applies to small chested woman! Wearing a bra that covers your nipple but not much else also makes your shoulders and chest look INCREDIBLY big. Small chested woman have a huge advantage in that they can easily make a halter top without a worry of falling out of it. (I’d love to have one, but this is a huge fear for me!)

Check out my drawing-in-a-hurry skills!

  • If you struggle to find a bra that fits you around your chest (ie. The number part of a bra – 32D) try on bras that fit your boobs, but perhaps are too big (or small) around your chest. The reason for this is that you should make new straps, so the size of the straps doesn’t really matter. And seamlessly (heh) onto my next point…
  • Cut all of your straps off your bra! I usually keep the straps on until the last minute, just incase something goes wrong. I also make my straps with denim fabric. It’s cheap, I have a lot of it and it goes a really long way! I know of other people using buckram and grosgrain ribbon, but I’m not sure we get that at our fabric stores. I never cut the straps off at the bra base either. Most bras have that tiny vertical line on the straps, close to the bra base. Sometimes it has a small piece of wire in it, other times it’s just folded fabric. I cut it off on the outside of that strap, so that I can get the angle right when adding side straps. Here is my “pattern” for side straps, if you’re interested:
  • Always, always, ALWAYS cover your bra! There is no excuse for this, except laziness! Your bra shouldn’t look like lingerie. It should look like a costume bra, part of a bedlah, whatever. Just not like something you wear under your clothes. My suggestion would be not to use stretchy fabric, but cotton or something similar. For a first-time costumer, I wouldn’t use a chiffon or “slippery” fabric. I wouldn’t use anything too shiny either, because shiny fabric tends to slip a lot. It can be very frustrating! Another useful tip when costuming is don’t be afraid to layer fabrics! This is something I still don’t do enough, but when done correctly it can look amazing and really unique!  (Ozma does this beautifully!)
  • When you’ve cut off your straps, added new straps and covered your bra, you’re ready to begin embellishing your costume! This is probably the most fun part for me, because I feel like I can be really creative from this point on. It’s also exciting because I can cover up any mistakes or ugly sewing I did! Hehe! My first piece of advice is to throw the glue gun away! Yes, yes, glue is quick and easy. But it’s not so quick and easy when you make a mistake or want to change something. Learn to sew sequins and beads onto fabrics – start with a square of scrap denim and try out some patterns on there and see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Try on your bra every step of the way! Don’t assume that it fits well! Sometimes small alterations have to be done, and it’s best to catch it every time you finish a step, rather than realising it at the end when it’s all done!

I hope that I’ve covered everything, and if you need to know anything don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me via my Contact page above.

The super useful links are as follows:

Ozma’s Costumes (Facebook Page) – she doesn’t give straight up advice, so you have to browse through her albums and look at her pictures because in the captions she gives a lot of advice.

Naima’s Bellydance Blog: She does excellent step-by-step tutorials and gives a LOT of advice! Her skills are amazing and all of her costumes are excellent! (And she writes about other belly dance related things too – so it’s overall a great blog to follow!)

Shushanna Designs: How to make costumes: She has amazing tips and tricks and her posts are all worth a read!

There are so many more places to get costuming tips, but those are the ones I visit regularly when I need advice! 🙂

xx