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Cut a Dress in Half

by Delilah

NOTE: This is what I did with my dress. I WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY MISTAKES YOU MAKE IF YOU COPY THESE DIRECTIONS, SO DOUBLE CHECK AS YOU GO. If YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, FIND THE HELP OF A PROFESSIONAL SEAMSTRESS. THIS IS A HARD THING TO WRITE ABOUT. IT’S MUCH EASIER TO DEMONSTRATE. I FOUND IT REALLY EASY BUT I HAVE BEEN SEWING SINCE I WAS VERY YOUNG.

Don't miss Delilah's For the Love of the Enchantress Dress article and Delilah's Passion

Enchantress dress

enchantress dresses

Part One: THE ENCHANTRESS DRESS CUT IN HALF


My Arabian Blue costume took about two hours to make and about two weeks to get up the nerve to start. I bought a $249 dress called the “Enchantress,” chopped it in half and put an elastic casing in the bra edge and one in the skirt edge. That's it.

As far as costumes go, I’ve paid a lot more than $250 and have been much less in love with it than I am with this one. My Arabian Blue is great for outdoor festivals and for teaching. I even can just wear it around in the summer time!

The original dress design has a princess line, cut low in the front and the back at the neck line with a laced-up bodice front and back. The skirt section of the dress is 2 full circles of fabric (about 12-13 yards around the bottom edge). It’s a killer dress and meant to be worn by dancers! One day I realized that if I chopped it in half and dropped it down onto my hips it would make a great skirt. The gathers would fall lower on the body and the bodice would act as a cool hip-hugger belt. It was already designed to naturally fall to the hips. Then the upper part of the bodice would make a cute gypsy top by just adding an elastic casing under the bust.

So this is what I did:

I made a basting line and then I sewed a line of stitching on either side about an inch apart, then I cut in between. Then I faced the edges and extended the fabric by adding some bias tape. I turned it under to make a casing for elastic and threaded 1/4 inch elastic through the casing.

On the top, I put a hook on the ends of the elastic in front to make it easier to get into than slipping over your head. With the first one I made I have to pull and squeeze into it by pulling it over my head but I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone. The skirt simply slips over the head and settles on the hips then the laces adjust a little bit.

I didn’t want to lose the cool laces in front and back by covering it up with a belt so I asked Lenny at Magic Circle (www.bellycoins.com) for some design help! He eventually designed me the perfect belt out of Lapis jewelry. In the dance on Absolute Beginning Bellydance I’m wearing two lapis belts above my skirt line. This was before I had Lenny design me the belt I currently wear with this costume. Underneath the skirt I’m wearing a contrasting light blue full circle skirt for extra body.

You will need thread, bias tape or seam binding, 1/4 inch elastic for top, 3/4 inch for the skirt, a small bra or swimsuit hook for top, extra 3/8 inch ribbon since you will now have 4 lacing plackets and will be tying 4 bows instead of 2. Be sure and leave enough length in the top front because as you slip it on and off the ribbons will loosen. If you have enough length you won’t have to re-thread each time you wear it.

This same idea can work for lots of the inexpensive dresses I see on the racks in thrift stores. You just have to be imaginative!

(SEE HEMMING AND LAUNDRY BELOW)

Part Two: CUT A WORSHIP or PIRATE DRESS IN HALF

Worship dress
worship dress

The Worship dress and the Pirate dress have stretch velour/velvet bodices. Here are some extra tips for cutting one in half. The skirts on these dresses are one very full circle. You’ll feel like a princess in one!
To see if it’ll work for your figure try this. Suck it in and pull the dress on over your head and squeeze your boobs and shoulders through the neck opening (Well, this may not work for everyone). Then pull the dress down so the bottom of the bodice now fits snug on your hips. Mark it with tailor chalk or get someone to baste a line with a colored thread exactly where you want the upper belt line to be on your hips. Decide if you want the contrast color in the bodice to be part of your design.

I actually left a bit of material when I cut it their to make a diamond shape pointing upward from the waistline with the V and a bit of interfacing for reinforcement.

When you are sure of your lines then cut 1/2 inch above that line with sharp scissors.

The Bottom: Now take a piece of 1 inch bias tape the circumference of your hips and add 2-3 inches. Connect it together with a 1/4 inch overlap and mark it at 4 equal divisions.

Match these marks on the tape with center front, center back, side and side. Then tack it in place. Sew the Bias tape so the folded edge catches 1/4 inch of the velour on the right side of the fabric. Carefully stretch each quarter panel as you sew.

Next, zig zag the edge of the bias tape down to the velour on the right side of the fabric just to keep the edge down and add strength (see drawing).

Turn the bias tape to the inside allowing the velour to show a folded-in margin of 1/4 inch. (You might go a half-inch if you don’t trust yourself to sew straight. You want to make the inside of the casing wide enough for the elastic to slide with ease. Snug, but not too tight.) Baste center front, center back, side and side in place. Finally stretch as you sew close to the bias tape edge. Be very careful because this line of sewing will show on the outside so you want it to be even. You might like to baste it first.

If you are using the tip of the contrast V from the original line of the bodice in your skirt design, don’t sew over it. It makes for a perfect place to leave an opening to insert the elastic. You can close it later. If you are not using the inset, then leave an opening at the side.

Thread the elastic through and fit to your hips. The casing should be 1/8 of an inch larger than the elastic if you have sewn the bias tape close to the edge and folded the velour a true 1/4 inch.

The Top: I proceeded the same way but I reduced the size to 1/2 inch bias tape and used 1/2 inch elastic.

bellydance costumes

bellydance costumes

bellydance costumes

bellydance costumes

bellydance costumes

Laundry:

You can dry clean the dresses, of course, however, I even wash mine separately and air dry it now and then. If you want the skirt length shorter wash and dry it. I also use Dryell, a home dry cleaning product, to freshen them up. If you wash a lot, the color will lighten. Sometimes that's a good thing!

belly dance costumes
Hemming:

If you have to re-hem (by machine) this project will take longer. It’s cut on the bias. Things cut on the bias take a bit of measuring to even out and there are about 12 yards around the bottom edge of the Enchantress Dress and about 6-7 yards around the bottom edge of the Worship Dress.

Don’t try to stand and measure the actual dress, or you will go crazy. Instead figure out the length you want at center front from the point where it’s gathered to the desired length, then add a half inch for the roll over hem. Put the dress on, and mark with tailor chalk a line from the point of the front of the bodice around to the back point. Use this line to measure from, when determining the length (see drawing). Once you have your set length measurement, use it all around the skirt. From the upper line toward the skirt edge, measure and mark every 8 to 9 inches at the bottom edge of the skirt using an ironing board. When you do this, you need to begin your measurement toward the center point of your circle and the other at the bottom edge insuring that your measurement will be in line with the true fall of the garment. Then put it on and have someone spot check and eyeball to see if there are any wild discrepancies. You may need to adjust for your unique figure. Then cut it. It takes about 30 minutes on the machine if you don’t have a surger, which I don’t. You can take it to a professional to be surged.

There are different ways you can make a similar design out of these dresses. Once again, I see a lot of dresses in retail and thrift stores all the time that you could do the same kind of thing with. Keep an eye out and give it a try or give me a call and I’ll sell you an “Enchantress Dress”, “Pirate Dress” or a “Worship Dress” and you can start from there. They come in all sorts of fabulous colors! Ask me about them?
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bellydance costumes

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Part Three: AN EXCUSE TO WEAR A CORSET!
bellydance costumes

I find a lot of women buy these dresses so they have something in their wardrobe to wear a corset with for fun! There is something fun about dressing up and being a Bellydancer , a Gypsy, a Princess or a Corsetted Victorian Lady that speaks to our girlish sense of play and romance. Sometimes women wear them underneath the dresses or sometimes on top.

I happen to have a corset laying around my costume closet (actually, it's a waist cincher) and I suddenly realized that after I cut the Worship Dress in half I could pull the skirt back up on my hips and put on my black satin corset and I totally restored the original line of the dress again. So now I have 2 outfits. The two-piece was something I could wear out to the festivals in warm weather and the one-piece was easy to wear to a night club or dinner party with a bit of a wild streak!.

A Companion to Absolute Beginning Bellydance with Delilah

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