I love to shop online. When you make clothing for a living, it can sometimes be a chore to sew for yourself. For the sake of saving time and calories, I like to indulge and await shiny new pretties in the mail. It’s so much fun! With years of shopping practice under my sparkly belt, I’ve gotten skilled at finding the things I like and that fit me. The years have not been without mistakes, as I’ve learned the expensive way what not to choose.
Once I purchased a bra and skirt set from a well-known online costume shop. After trying the costume on I discovered that the skirt was too tight. I couldn’t get the zipper up! I realized that I had relied on the lowest measurement the company has stated in the description. When I investigated the skirt further I discovered that the lowest number represented the tube-like skirt all the way down, while the skirt fabric was very stubborn. Not only was there no room for my butt, there was no way the fabric would have stretched to fit my hips.
On another occasion, a custom costume that I had ordered from Egypt fit perfectly, except the bra was too small. It was the kind of bra that gives you va-va-voom cleavage but feels bare and not very secure in other places. Why had this happened?
Here are some tips for making sure that what you order fits.
More behind the cut…
1.) It’s really hard to measure yourself accurately. Don’t try it! Have your measurements taken by a professional. Save the info to your phone and computer. Review your measurements every few months and correct as necessary if your weight fluctuates.
2.) Don’t trust the lowest or highest number of the size range provided. Aim for the happy middle ground, especially with a skirt advertised as having a generous stretch range. There’s simply no telling how stretchy the fabric is, or the true shape of the skirt.
3.) Stick with the styles that compliment your figure. It’s best to try new styles in person.
4.) Know your limits when choosing a costume that needs TLC. Avoid repairs beyond your comfort level or consult your seamstress for help. If you have to alter anything more than two sizes, it will be more trouble than it’s worth.
5.) Never buy a too-short skirt. It’s best to buy longer than you need and have the hem adjusted, than to try to cut and splice fabric to the bottom.
5.) Give yourself room to “grow”. Never order the exact cup size, especially for those who wear a bra cup size less than a 34 C. When a costume bra is your true size, it will fit and look like a lingerie bra which means exposed skin where you don’t want it and less of the illusion you need as a performer. If you discover you need to create more cleavage, you won’t have enough space in the cups to add padding. If you’re blessed enough to wear bras without padding, you still may need some space to help push your bust to the right place.
Keep your band size the same but graduate to the next cup size. For example, if you wear a 32 B, you can buy a 32 C and have room for padding. Be careful about going up two cup sizes or more, because at this point your bra might be out of proportion with your torso. As some bras can fit two different cup sizes (such as a C/D cup), ask how deep the cups are. You can also try measuring a costume you like and using those measurements to compare.
The same goes for belts. It’s good to have about 2 inches of overlap where your belt connects. This gives you enough room to adjust without placing a hook against your body and delicate skirt fabric. I have discovered that having more than 4 inches of overlap will not only feel cumbersome but will usually compromise a symmetrical design. Having less than 2 inches of overlap will encourage the ends to gape and easily unhook.
6.) Trust your gut. If it looks weird or ill-fitting, exercise caution. The price will reflect the quality. Steer clear of costumes where the lining is visible, bra wires poking through, flimsy skirt with uneven hems, etc. Beware of the gold sequined bullet bra design that’s still out there. It looks cool but fits no one!
7.) Know your designer. Not all costumes will work on everyone. Keep a mental record of who you like and how the costumes fit. If you’re considering a costume from an unfamiliar designer, see if you can try on some of their costumes at the next belly dance festival before buying.