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Making a Rectangular Veil

by Shira


These instructions describe how to make a simple rectangular veil. This type of veil can be used for an "Egyptian-style" entrance, or for many of the American-style "veil work" moves.

In an Egyptian-style entrance, the dancer enters to fast or medium-speed music holding the veil behind her with both hands, so that it serves as a frame for her. She does a few swirls and spins while holding it, then discards it off to one side of the stage and continues dancing without it for the rest of her performance.

In American-style veil work, the dancer enters with the veil wrapped around her and tucked into her costume. She leaves it tucked in place while dancing to the opening fast or medium-speed song. Then, when the music slows down into a soft, flowing rhumba or bolero, she removes the veil and dances with it. The moves can include swirls and spins, or wrapping it around herself in various ways. She often dances with it for the entire duration of the song, then discards it as the music speeds up into the next song.

The fabrics and trims recommended below are designed to create an optimal veil for this style of dance. Of course, you are free to use other fabrics instead if you wish, but the finished veil might not perform optimally if you do.

Many veil dance movements are suitable for both rectangular veils and circular veils, but some aren't. In general, rectangular veils don't work very well for double veil (that is, dancing with two veils at once), one-handed moves, or cape work. But the rectangular veil can be very beautiful with other moves such as swirls.

For a tall dancer, this veil is 3 yards (275 centimeters) long and either 45 inches (114 centimeters) or 54 inches (138 centimeters) wide. If you are less than 5 feet 5 inches in height (about a meter and a half), you may find it easier to work with a somewhat smaller veil, perhaps 2.5 yards (229 centimeters) long and 36 inches (just under a meter) or 45 inches (114 centimeters) wide.




Thread, Trim (see below)


Recommended Fabrics

In a perfect world, the ideal rectangular veil would be made of a very sheer fabric, that drapes beautifully, moves beautifully, and has enough shine to catch the light beautifully. Unfortunately, fabrics that meet all those criteria are very, very rare. So here are some suggestions for fabrics that come close to that ideal for a beautiful rectangular veil:

  • Georgette. Lovely sheer fabric, and moves beautifully, but not shiny. You'll have to use shiny trim to add some sparkle.
  • Chiffon. Beautifully sheer and drapes well, but not shiny. You'll have to use shiny trim to add some sparkle.
  • 15 Denier Nylon Tricot. Inexpensive and nicely sheer, but doesn't move as beautifully as georgette or chiffon. A nice beginner's veil if you don't want to spend much, but other fabrics would be better for a professional dancer.
  • Foils. For example, liquid gold & liquid silver. Shiny enough to capture the light, and move beautifully. Unfortunately, not sheer.
  • China Silk. Too opaque, but it has a bit of sheen and moves nicely.
  • Silk Habotai. Light-weight and floats beautifully.

Fabrics To Avoid

Fabrics you should avoid because they don't move very well:

  • Tissue Lamé. Too stiff and too opaque.
  • Heavy Satin, Such as Bridal Satin. Too stiff and too opaque.
  • Brocade. Too stiff and too opaque.
  • Organza. You might think it's a good choice because it's sheer and sparkly, but often it's much too stiff to make a pretty veil.
  • Nylon Net. It doesn't catch the air, so it won't move well.
  • Lace. It has a tendency to get caught on the sequins, rhinestones, coins, or other decorations on your costume.
  • Charmeuse. Either polyester or silk. Shiny enough to capture the light, and moves beautifully. Unfortunately, not sheer.

How Much Fabric To Buy

If using nylon tricot that comes in widths of 108 inches (275 centimeters), you can get by purchasing just 1.5 yards (138 centimeters). If using fabric that is 45 inches (114 centimeters) or 54 inches (138 centimeters) wide, buy 3 yards (275 centimeters).


Trim is optional. It depends on what kind of effect you want. People usually don't put trim on the light-weight silk veils such as the beautifully-dyed ones made of silk habotai, because it inhibits the floating quality. However, other fabrics such as polyester chiffon need it for body.

If the trim is too light and the fabric doesn't have the floating quality, the veil will seem limp and shapeless. If the trim is too heavy, the veil will droop instead of filling with air while moving with it.

I particularly like single-strand sequin-by-the-yard trim. You’ll need 9 yards (825 centimeters) of trim to go all the way around all four sides if you use fabric that is 54 inches (138 centimeters) wide.

Trim that is too light includes ribbon or soutache braid. Trim that is too heavy includes sequin trim that is 1 inch (2.5 cm) or more in width.

Sequin Strand Trim

I usually choose trim that is the same color as the fabric. So, if I make a blue veil, I use blue trim. That makes the veil more versatile — I can use it with costumes involving either silver or gold, and it won't clash. However, it can be very pretty to use trim in a color that contrasts with the primary veil color, especially if it picks up another color in the costume you'll be wearing when you use the veil. Another thought is to use multicolored trim.

Another option for trimming a veil is the Bead-and-Sequin "Embroidery" used along the edge, as shown on the edges of the green Turkish skirt on the instructions page.



Making the Veil

Cutting It Out

Fortunately, this should be easy — whatever yardage you bring home from the store, that should be pretty much your veil's finished shape! However, you should carefully lay it out on a flat surface and make sure the cut ends have been evenly cut straight across — some fabric store personnel cut jagged edges that need to be trimmed.


Constructing It

Hem the veil on all four sides, using a narrow hem that is 1/4 inch (.6 centimeter) wide. Click here for more detailed instructions on making this hem. Even though two edges of the veil are probably selvages that aren't likely to ravel, it's a good idea to hem them anyway because the hem will give more strength to the edge and help it hold up better under the wear and tear of dancing with the veil.


Adding Trim

Sew the trim into place, either by hand or by machine, whichever you find easier to do. If you're not very experienced at sewing, you may want to avoid using your sewing machine on any trim that has sequins in it, because sequins have a tendency to break the needles in sewing machines and you won't appreciate that aggravation!

Or, follow the instructions for the bead-and-sequin embroidery elsewhere on this web site.



Related Articles

Other articles on this web site related to veils include:

  • How To Make A Narrow Hem. Written by Shira. Describes how to easily make a narrow hem of the type mentioned in this article.




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