How to Sew a Successful Bellydancing Bra
By Ashley Walton
To clarify – I am just a beginner sewer. My first bellydance style bra was made for my St. Patrick’s Day Day of Wrong costume and included sequins, gunmetal pyramid trim from Joann, green grosgrain ribbon and Kiss Me I’m Irish party beads that I sewed on. It didn’t have to be up to any sort of competition level and was definitely a learning experience.
My second (and third) bras have been made using techniques that I learned from Erin Nelson of Caravan Music & Dance and Lucky Penny Designs. The information she gave me not only made my outfits look better, but it made the process of construction of the bras so much faster. Don’t get me wrong – there really is no way around not doing hand stitching on these things, and I hate hand stitching. But in every other way the process has been streamlined.
Below I have some helpful suggestions for the average (or beginner!) sewer for making a bellydance bra:
- Start with a larger size bra than what you actually wear. When you sew the coins on the bra the bra size will actually shrink, so you need to assume you will be adding padding. If you start with a size that is too fitted it will not look correct at the end.
- You don’t want any stretch in your bra. If you dance or are too boisterous there is too much potential for a “wardrobe malfunction.”
- You will cut the stretchy side panels off of your bra to avoid malfunctions, and replace it with cotton pieces and grosgrain ribbon if you are a large busted girl and grosgrain ribbons alone if you are smaller busted. You want to mimic the same shape as the wing/side of the bra.
- I cover my bra with cotton fabric first, so that if you see through the coins at all you see plain black cotton material.
- Make sure you have a very sharp needle – it makes all the difference in sewing through the bra.
- For your thread use 8 lb. fishing line to sew the coins on. Regular coins can cut through thread and you don’t want to lose coins as you shimmy along.
- Make sure you lay out the design of trims on your bra before sewing it in order to make sure you have enough to cover the bra. If you just start without any planning, your success rate will likely be limited. You will go through more than you think you will.
- It is ok to layer trim, tassels, coins, beads on top of each other. This is not a case where “less is more.”
- Don’t use coins sewn on trim – use individual coins. You use 3x as much versus using actual coins. For example, on my bra each cup has $10 worth of coins, and you can do double that in trim.
- You can find individual coins on Moondance Bellydance, or check Etsy or eBay for other options.
- In sewing coins, you only have to go through the hole in the coin and the bra, versus going through the bra AND the trim piece. You want to go all the way through the bra because it will give a better and stronger stitch. You will go through every coin twice.
- Go from the top down instead of bottom up, as you can actually see the lines of the coins and you go through fewer coins. It looks more uniform and less jumbled. It may seem more complicated to sew, but it requires less sewing time and looks better at the end.
- When you are done with trimming out the bra you can pad the bra as needed, but make sure you line it with cotton so as to have some breathability.
- For the clasps you are going to want to use large flat hook and eye clasps. They hold things more solidly. Your back straps will overlap each other and are clasped on the opposite side they are sewn for stability. You will do the same for your neck tie, rather than tying it in a bow. If you are dancing you want serious stability.
- TEST YOUR BRA. Put it on at home and jump around, dance wildly, pick things up off the floor, etc. It is better to have that wardrobe malfunction happen at home than in the middle of festival. Duct tape can only fix so much.
If you don’t feel like constructing your own bra, Erin Nelson would be happy to make one for you! You can contact her at her website above for more information.
If you are looking at accessorizing your bellydance costume with a lovely silk scarf, come and visit me this festival season at Ladies of the Lake silk shop at MNRF.
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