Ask the Costume Goddess
Ask the Costume Goddess:
Making a Veil
by Dina Lydia
Dear Costume Goddess:
Could you tell me the measurement of the normal size veil?
I can't afford to buy one, and my friend can make it for nothing.
I am just belly dancing for my husband because it is our 7 year
anniversary and I want it to be special. Can you help me?
The Costume Goddess Responds
Your husband is a lucky man!
A "normal"-sized belly dancing veil is 3 yards long.
But I recommend using your height as a guide. When the veil is
draped around your neck, the ends should be an inch or two off
the floor. If you are short (like me), that would be a little
less than 3 yards. Some dancers use the 45" width or more,
but if you're short, you might prefer prefer 36-40 inches.
For practice or for a beginner, synthetic chiffon is fine,
but I have to rhapsodize here about the exquisite floatiness
of real silk. The gauze (labeled 4.5mm) or featherweight silk
(5mm) is the lightest and floatiest. The 36" width is less
costly, of course, than the 45'". It is usually available
only in white and needs to be dyed, but silk dyes easily — I've
done this at home with several types of dye, including plain
old Rit. If you do this, remember that the silk, especially the
gauze, will shrink a bit, so buy 1/4 yd extra.
Narrow hem the raw edges by machine as small as possible.
If the selvage edges are nice looking (as on silk), leave them
as is, but if they're unattractive (like on some synthetics)
then narrow hem them as well.
If you choose to add a decoration, don't forget that any trims
will add to the weight of the veil and make it less floaty. Also,
the back of the veil may be visible, and you don't want unattractive
stitching or glue showing. Paillettes and sequins on the edge
add sparkle with very little weight, but they can get caught
in your hair or costume, if you do a lot of veil work. For these
reasons I leave my veils unadorned and let the airiness of the
featherweight silk make its own statement.
In this photo, Katia, an expert with veil work, is using
an extra-large rainbow-dyed veil.
--The Costume Goddess
Additional Comments from Shira
Lisa, a reader of my web site, sent me email after noticing
the references to dye on my web site to offer some cautionary
advice. She is majoring in costuming in college, and shares some
important health warnings to offer about working with dye.
According to Lisa, the popular easy to use kind of dye that
is sold in many craft stores contains a chemical that can cause
liver cancer when exposed to it over long periods of time. The
dye never really sets. When worn next to the skin in humid weather
or when sweating, the moisture causes it to absorb into the skin.
Because there is nothing to regulate dyeing products, this company was
able to change its formula very slightly to keep it from registering
as toxic, but it doesn't change the effects. For a veil which
brushes the skin only fleetingly, there should be no problem,
but it is a risk that people should be aware of.
For this reason it is also very important to read and perform all of the safety
measures when dyeing and setting colors. These commonly include
wearing a dust mask and latex gloves.
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing this important health information!
Other articles on this web
site related to veils 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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