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My Bargain Costume
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My Bargain Costume
by Dunyah
 

Dunyah & the Bargain Costume
dunyahbc2.jpg
Photo by Fred Herinckx

Originally published in Jareeda Magazine, Jan/Feb 2002. Used by permission. revised by the author on 2/7/04. All rights reserved.
 
About the author: Dunyah, aka Denise Gilbertson, has been studying and performing Middle Eastern dance for over 25 years.She hates to sew. She is the director of Americanistan.

Winter boredom can give way to creative obsession in a flash of insight! One cold, rainy afternoon the sight of scraps of fabric and remnants of projects that had been long forgotten in the bottom of an old trunk suddenly gave birth to visions of costume glory and drove away doldrums. The possibilities inherent in fragments of trim and beads propelled this non-seamstress into a creative frenzy of costume-making, with interesting results. Doing it for the least amount of money was part of the challenge...To read more, click here.

That a non-sewing person like myself could see what the useless but pretty stuff might become is not surprising--I've had lots of ideas about costumes. I just lack the sewing skills to realize those ideas! (and the patience--maybe I have a touch of ADHD, which for me has always meant Attention Deficit Housework Disorder, as I can't seem to focus on those mundane chores, let alone sit still long enough to sew!) Anyway, inspired by the idea of creating something from basically nothing, I embarked on this project to create a costume for practically no money, using stuff I had on hand or could get at a thrift store.
 
I had on hand a couple of crocheted, beaded headpieces in gold. They had lightweight beads and a metallic thread in the crochet, made into a cap to fit over the head, with a short beaded fringe intended to fall like bangs across the forehead, and longer beaded fringe falling all around to shoulder length, like hair. It was difficult to determine how many of them I had, as I had previously cut them up in a failed attempt at costuming some years earlier. I think there were two of them. These became the basis of the beaded fringe for my bra and belt.
 
I also had a gold velvet bra and some gold trim. After consulting with my friend Naia (Traci Lea), who is a fabulous seamstress and designer, I understood that it was necessary to replace the straps and sides of the bra with something sturdier. Nothing in my trunk of castoff costume remnants was suitable, so a trip to Goodwill was in order. There I found old gold rubber-backed curtains which would serve as belt-base and bra strap material. Some reddish-brown net curtains hanging nearby attracted me with their lovely pattern and assiut-like possibilities, so they went into my shopping cart as future skirt material.
 
Once the rubber-backed curtain material was washed and cut to make straps, it was fused into a double layer with fabric glue, putting the two rubberized sides together. The 70's gold tone blended perfectly with the gold bra and made a great belt base. It was sturdy but still easy to sew through. I attached a one-quarter section of headpiece to each bra cup, and covered all the straps with trim. I added gold beading along the edges, attached a sturdy hook and eye closure, and the bra was looking pretty good.
 
For the belt I first covered the base with gold trim. I used the rest of the beaded fringe from the headpieces plus some old gold appliques from another forgotten, unused costume to fill out the back. For the front decoration I made a diamond-shaped applique out of layers of felt covered with gold trim and beaded around the edges. I created beaded fringe to hang off the applique. The belt was coming together.

Dunyah & the Bargain Costume
belly dancer Dunyah, costume with sequins, beads
I used hundreds of sequins on the skirt

Next, I cut the brown net curtains to make a panel skirt and ran elastic through the top. But first the panels had to be transformed from brown net Goodwill curtains into beautiful, assiut-like panels. This was accomplished with hundreds of sequins in gold, orange, and copper; fabric paint in gold and copper, and the addition of gold trim. This took time but was really fun. (I'm more of a craftsperson than a seamstress. Glue and paint I can deal with more easily than needles and thread.) It had an assiut-like effect when it was done, though the fabric didn't drape like assiut (nothing does). But it was sheer, and needed an underskirt. Diggin in my old trunk produced a beautiful old scarf of gold which became the underskirt.
 
A headband made of the gold curtain material, trim, and beads, and an armband created from the last remnants of the beaded headpieces completed the ensemble. I had a gold necklace and earrings from a previous trip to Goodwill, and I already owned an orange veil.
 
After a trip to Karen Dayton (Narmira), my favorite hairdresser and a fellow dancer, for a red hair color, and careful application of tan-in-a-bottle, I was ready to wear my new creation. With the golds, browns, coppers and oranges of the costume, the red hair looked great.
 
I have the utmost respect for the REAL costume makers of this world--it is a LOT of work to create an entire costume. It was a humbling experience. I miss having red hair. And I still don't sew, except in extreme circumstances!
 
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Originally published in Jareeda Magazine, Jan/Feb 2002. Used by permission. revised by the author on 2/7/04. All rights reserved.
 
About the author: Dunyah, aka Denise Gilbertson, has been studying and performing Middle Eastern dance for over 25 years.She hates to sew. She is the director of Americanistan.

Another Bargain Costume
dunyahblackpink.jpg
Photo by Jeanine Ethridge

The costume in this photo was also a real bargain, and didn't involve any sewing at all! I found the black and pink choli and skirt set on closeout at an India Import store for $20! It came with the pink veil. I already owned a black bodystocking and coin scarf, some tribal jewelry and scarves for head-wrap. Instant costume!

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