Sewing Project: Dress-up Bedlah and Play Veils

I finished a project! Hooray! After weeks — no, months — of being afraid of working with chiffon, avoiding sewing anything, and suffering from sewing project ADD, I buckled down and got something DONE. I made a bedlah (bellydancer costume) for my daughter, who is currently in love with bellydancing. Bellydancing is a new hobby for me and I love it. My daughter has picked up on it and, being a fearless child with absolutely no hang-ups about her body or her abilities, loves to dance with reckless abandon.

Side note: if you have a problem with me teaching my daughter to bellydance at the age of 3, stay tuned. I have a rant for you at the end of this post.

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Here’s the top. I cut out a bra top in this lovely Amy Butler (ah, yes, my nemesis!) fabric and lined it with hot pink cotton and a medium-weight interfacing. I carefully stitched around the print to mimic the elaborate bra styles of designer bellydance costumes. The straps tie behind the neck and the back fastens with a long strip of velcro. It’s comfortable and adjustable, so it will keep up with her ever-growing body.

When I showed the finished top to my daughter, she immediately wanted to put it on. As soon as I put it on her, she started dancing all over the house in it! Success!

Next, I started the chiffon circle skirt and veils. Chiffon skirts are popular among American Cabaret bellydancers. I wanted to add a fishing line hem so it would be extra flouncy and resemble my own bellydance skirt. I used Shira’s skirt tutorial for the most part, and it was an invaluable resource! I had to let the skirt pieces hang for a few weeks to set the bias, so while I waited that out, I made a pair of play veils from some leftover chiffon scraps. Once again, my daughter was in love. She’s been twirling around the house and waving them around in her own unique choreography.

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They turned out OK. Sewing a rolled hem isn’t as scary as it sounds and, with the exceptions of a few places where I fed the chiffon crookedly, the edges look fine. However, the corners look terrible because I had no idea how to sew them. I didn’t figure out a trick for them until I got to the very last corner! Oh well.

Once the skirt had finished hanging, I ignored it for a few more weeks while I hopped from one project to another. One day, I finally made myself sit down, stitch the panels together, and tackle the fishing line hem (I know…terrible pun!). It wasn’t too difficult, but the big problem was that the stupid circle hem frayed horribly. I was terrified of using fray-check on it, so I trimmed the loose threads as much as I could. I still ended up with a rather fuzzy hem. If I ever make one of these skirts for myself, I’ll have to figure out how to prevent the fraying. Other than that, the skirt came together nicely. I sewed the top edges together and formed a casing for the elastic. I even put the seams to the inside so that the skirt is completely reversible.

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Unfortunately, when I gave the skirt to my daughter yesterday, she whined and ran from the room. I asked her to try it on today, and once again, she whined and ran away. Why? She’s 3, and 3-year-olds can be awful, ungrateful, and rude. That’s the only explanation I can find. Ever since she turned 3, she’s been more headstrong and independent. Her behavior has changed; she hates things she used to like, she runs and hides from family members as if they are strangers, and she gives me defiant looks while she’s messing with something she shouldn’t have or climbing on something and makes me walk over and physically stop her.

I guess I should have finished the skirt before she turned 3. Maybe she would have liked it back then! For now, I’m just hanging on to it, waiting for her to decide that she wants to wear it, and trying not to let her hurt my feelings. If she never likes it…fine. It was a learning experience, at least. Chiffon isn’t as intimidating as it used to be, and I learned how to do a rolled hem and a fishing line hem!

Update: She has decided that she LOVES the skirt and wants to dress up in it from time to time and dance around the house in the full costume with her veils. Hooray!

Now, about that rant. Some people have certain negative perceptions of bellydancing — that it is entertainment for men only, that it’s just stripping from the Middle East, that it’s degrading or shameful or disgusting. It’s none of that. It’s an art form, it’s family-friendly, and women bellydance for mixed audiences or even just for other women. There are even men who bellydance! For me, bellydancing has changed my life in so many ways. I’m making new friends, my body is toning up, I’m losing weight, I’m becoming less clumsy, and I feel better about myself. I’ve never been able to dance, but now I’m bellydancing. It’s incredible.

As for letting my 3-year-old daughter bellydance (or at least do her own made-up style of bellydancing), watch the performances of talented upper-tier dancers from my studio, and openly admire and imitate her favorite dancers…first, see what I wrote above about how bellydancing isn’t “naughty.” Second, I prefer for my daughter to admire bellydance “princesses” instead of the ones manufactured by Disney et al. Bellydancing accepts all ages, all races, all body types. It’s positive, it’s a physical activity that promotes good health, and good dancers encourage and support each other instead of making everything into a competition. I could rant on and on about how toxic the commercialized manufactured princess culture can be, but I’ll keep it short. My problem is not with Disney princess movies or anything like that. They certainly have their merits. But the princess culture — not just from Disney but from others jumping on the trend — tends to carry some dangerous messages for girls about self-worth being tied to beauty and marriage. Sometimes it exhorts selfishness and being spoiled or passive. Thanks to heavy marketing, it’s become so popular that it’s difficult to find something non-princess for girls. I’ve banned princess stuff — aside from a few good exceptions — from my daughter’s life. Frilly girly pretty things are allowed, of course, but I’m teaching her that she is beautiful just the way she is, and that putting on a pretty dress and putting a bow in her hair only enhances it just a little bit. Her real beauty is in her personality, her behavior, and her character.

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