Thursday, April 15, 2010

Costume in Progress

A few months ago I decided to take it upon myself to make a costume. Lately I've been really fond of pewter gray and decided that I would love to have a costume primarily in that color. I have not seen too many gray costumes (although Black Lotus Clothing and Dahlal [see "Lightning Strikes" by Hoda] have ones I adore) so I like the idea of having something slightly out-of-the-ordinary as most Tribal and Tribal fusion costumes have black as the base.

Since I've been taking both Cabaret and Tribal classes and have been finding that my own personal style lies somewhere in between, I also wanted to make a costume which could potentially be worn in either context. It will end up being more eclectic than standard Cabaret costumes but more glittery than standard Tribal costumes. Hopefully though it won't feel as out of place as a turban and a tassel belt among Egyptian bedlahs (or the reverse situation of a sparkly hipscarf and pink chiffon skirt among an ATS troupe).

Thankfully a belt-making workshop was held a little after this idea came to mind, so this time I had some initial help in designing and creating a sturdy belt base. The first belt I made was really an experiment where I had only a nebulous idea of what I was doing. It turned out okay nevertheless, but the workshop was exceedingly helpful and my previous belt would have turned out much better had I known some of the things taught in the workshop. For example, fusible interfacing is a godsend for reinforcing the base and making it easier to hand sew embellishments. Heavier fabric is not enough in and of itself. I also learned how to make a customized belt pattern which wraps around the hips without gapping, which is necessary for a girl like me with a curvy figure.

I don't consider myself an ambitious person, especially not in work and social environments where I'm happy to remain relatively unnoticed, but in the realm of arts & crafts it is a different matter entirely. This costume is proving to be no exception. The other girls in the workshop with me created some lovely Tribal style belts with just an assortment of trims and accents like Kuchi buttons, etc., and their belts were almost completed with the embellishment phase by the end. Most of my work, on the other hand, really began when I took the belt home. The vast majority of work on this costume must be done by hand. In the photo above all the sequins, glass pearls, beads, crystals, Turkman buttons, Victorian-style buttons, etc. were all sewn by hand. Since this photo was taken a few days ago I've already removed the large beaded medallion in the upper left corner of the image (removing it took just about as long as beading it in the first place) and have replaced it with a large, round Turkman pendant which better balances the complexity of the bead and sequin embroidery flanking it. I've also removed a line of sequins because the iridescent coating on them ended up being too overwhelmingly pink and clashed with the rest of the design. I purchased some silver Egyptian beaded fringe to line the bottom which I need to figure out how to securely attach. And this photo only shows the left half of the back of the belt!

Once I finish the belt, I have to work on the corresponding gray bra base I commissioned from BelliPhat.

I now realize that I must indeed be a crazy person to have voluntarily taken on this project of making a costume. Even with help with elements like the bra and belt base, it's still an amazing amount of work. $600+ for an Eman Zaki or Pharaonics of Egypt costume might seem like a large chunk of change, but I think after all the labor and materials going into this costume are accounted for it will add up to at least that amount.