Ask the Costume Goddess
Ask the Costume Goddess:
How to Make Gauntlets?
by Dina Lydia
Dear Costume Goddess:
Because of my arms (which are not quite as toned as I'd like)
I would love to make a pair of gauntlets out of some leftover
material to match the costume I've made. The problem is, that
even though I've seen other dancers wearing their gauntlets,
I don't really know how they're constructed — except that they
have elastic in the top. Could you let me in on the secrets of
perfect gauntlets. Should I use a zipper in them to close the
seam, or would velcro or hooks be better? Can I make my own pattern?
The material I've chosen is a stretchy velour. I would love
to include fringe and beading on these to match my belt and bra,
but will that make them too heavy?
As an avid sewer as well as a dancer, I've loved your other
tips and have found them incredibly helpful.
--Going Gloveless In Indiana
The Costume Goddess Responds
You bring up some complicated gauntlet issues, and I'll try
to touch on all of them briefly.
I divide arm costuming into two categories: the fitted sleeve
and the drape, which includes various fabric and bead effects
that don't require the construction of a fitted sleeve. (See
Sleeves can be attached to the costume or not. If not attached,
they're called gauntlets and cover the arm like a glove. They
can cover the whole arm, or reach just above or below the elbow.
Very short ones are called cuffs or wristbands.
I don't ever make zippers in my sleeves — it's stiff and bulky,
hard to fasten, and unnecessary. You only need a short opening
big enough to get your hand through, and I fasten this with two
or three buttons and loops, or snaps.
I start with a narrow commercial
sleeve pattern, fit it to my arm perfectly, then use it as a
basic pattern to make all of the above pieces. It may be attached
to the bra or bodice of the costume at top only, or sliced across
the top to become a gauntlet.
The first crucial question is whether your sleeves will be
made of stretchy or non-stretchy fabric. Stretch would be knits
like velour, stretch lace, and mesh. Non-stretch would be wovens
or traditional lace.
If the fabric does not stretch, the sleeve must be cut on
the bias for flexibility, or have extra elbow room in back, which
is darted or eased into the seam.
Lack of elbow room results in a fitted sleeve that's uncomfortable,
tugs and pulls the gauntlet down with every bend of the arm,
which is why you see dancers' gauntlets always slipping down,
even if the elastic is snug.
In fact, I put elbow ease even into my stretchy gauntlets.
It's more comfortable and the gauntlets are less likely to slip
At one time fitted sleeves often had elbow darts, but it's
difficult to find a pattern like that now, which is why I alter
my basic sleeve pattern as illustrated. I adjust a fitted sleeve
pattern to the proper length (very short, for me) and determine
where my elbow is located. Later you'll try on the sleeve to
make sure this is correct. I slash the back of the pattern as
illustrated, to give it about one inch of extra length for non-stretch,
or a half-inch for stretchy fabric. This extra length can be
eased, darted, or
double-darted into the front side of the seam.
Make two sample sleeves out of cheap fabric, one stretchy
and one non-stretchy. Try them on to check the position of the
elbow, the fit and the length. Use these as your basic pattern.
Slice the top off the sleeve cap as illustrated to make a full-length
off-the-shoulder-sleeve that is tacked to bra strap at the corners
as in the photo.
Click on the photo to the right to see these sleeves in more detail.
I love this style because I never have to be concerned about
it slipping down — one less thing to worry about when performing.
If you prefer gauntlets, cut the sleeve shorter from the top
as illustrated to get the look you want, and add an elastic inside
the edge. I like to make it a separate band that's tacked to
the sleeve edge at three or four points. One can also sew decorative
stretch lace directly onto the edge.
Beads and fringe can weigh the sleeve down and make it difficult
to keep in place. Don't use the thick heavy Egyptian fringe that's
used on the belt. Use a light fringe, scattered strands or tassels,
or just wrist tassels. I'd use the attached style of sleeve or
the below the elbow style of gauntlet. If using mesh, use the
Powernet type that is strong enough to hold the weight of beads.
--The Costume Goddess
Other articles on this web
site related to costuming for the arms 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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