Ask the Costume Goddess
Ask the Costume Goddess:
Fitting a Belt
by Dina Lydia
Dear Costume Goddess,
Do you have advice on how to fit a belt to a "full" figure hip? I am having great difficulties making a belt that "fits like a glove".
Also, your baladi dress is fantastic!
The Costume Goddess Responds
My dear B.B,
Thanks! Any compliment on my handiwork makes all the hours of sewing my little fingers to the bone all worth it!
As for your ill-fitting belt frustration, I encounter this among my customers constantly. My method may take just a bit of practice, but I always get a pleasing result.
Here's how I make a belt: I start with a strip of pattern paper (which is printed with a graph) that is about nine inches wide and the length of my hip measurement plus about four inches. If pattern paper is not available, simply use a paper bag to make the strip. I place this around my hip like a straight cylinder (don't angle it!) and tape or pin it closed. Some help from a friend will make this belt fitting a lot easier.
Mark the center front where the edges overlap, and the center back. At this point, the bottom edge of the strip will be snug around your hip and the top edge will be standing away from your body. Now you (or your friend) will make a dart on eack side until it closes the gap on the sides and brings the paper close to your body. You make two darts in the in the back, repeating this process, to fit the back of the belt to your body.
If your hips are narrow, the darts will be small. If your hips are very curvy, the darts will be large or you will make more of them in the front and back, if necessary.
As you fold in the darts, pin or tape the folds, making them as symmetrical as possible. Check the back in a mirror. When the paper pattern fits like a glove, you can begin to contour the edge, cutting it lower in the front, if you like. Take it off and spread it out, flattening the folds. Fold it in half to make sure the two halves are symmetrical.
At this point the pattern has a definite curve — your personal curve.
Now take a fresh piece of paper about "40 by 18", depending on your size, and pinning your darted pattern on top, cut a flat pattern, again marking center front and back and leaving about 2" extra on one side for overlap.
Fold this flat pattern in half, again making sure it's symmetrical. When you try it on, it should fit perfectly smoothly against your body — no gaps anywhere. This is your basic pattern that you can use again and again, making variations as you like (scalloped edge, for instance, or V shape in front).
You will use this pattern to cut out heavy interfacing in several layers and felt to cover the interfacing. When you cut out the final cover fabric, allow an extra inch on all sides, to wrap around the edge. Keep in mind that the center back should be on the STRAIGHT GRAIN of the fabric. Don't lay out the pattern any old way to save fabric; the two halves must be symmmetrical.
As for the decorating of the belt, that's the subject of a future column. Good luck!
--The Costume Goddess
Other articles on this web site related to fitting a hip belt include:
About the Costume Goddess
Dina has been sewing for more than twenty-five
years (yes, she started as a toddler!)
She's also an artist (Maryland Institute of Art) and perfected
her sewing techniques apprenticed to various designers, freelancing
for small theaters, restyling vintage garments, and altering
Dina fell in love with belly dancing costumes upon her very
first lesson. Now the pleasure of wearing her own designs, and
seeing others wear them, offers as much pleasure as dancing. She's
become expert as well in altering those troublesome ready-made
Egyptian costumes, and modifying designs to flatter individual
She holds workshops in Seattle to teach design and construction
of cabaret costumes, and analysis of figure characteristics.
She will also give private lessons, or resize or repair a secondhand
costume. She's thus earned her Costume Goddess title.
The Costume Goddess Tells All Costuming Books
Dina has published six books of her own on belly dance costuming
as well as writing nearly all the costuming section for The
Belly Dance Book. For information on her series of books, The Costume Goddess Tells All, see her web site at www.costumegoddess.com.
For reviews here on Shira.net of some of her books, see:
Costume Goddess Photos
To view a photo gallery featuring pictures of Dina, costumes
she has designed, and her friends, either click on the choices below or visit her web site:
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