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Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

How to Make Gauntlets?

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

Because of my arms (which are not quite as toned as I'd like) I would love to make a pair of gauntlets out of some leftover material to match the costume I've made. The problem is, that even though I've seen other dancers wearing their gauntlets, I don't really know how they're constructed — except that they have elastic in the top. Could you let me in on the secrets of perfect gauntlets. Should I use a zipper in them to close the seam, or would velcro or hooks be better? Can I make my own pattern?

The material I've chosen is a stretchy velour. I would love to include fringe and beading on these to match my belt and bra, but will that make them too heavy?

As an avid sewer as well as a dancer, I've loved your other tips and have found them incredibly helpful.

--Going Gloveless In Indiana



The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Gloveless,

You bring up some complicated gauntlet issues, and I'll try to touch on all of them briefly.

I divide arm costuming into two categories: the fitted sleeve and the drape, which includes various fabric and bead effects that don't require the construction of a fitted sleeve. (See sleeve drapes.)

Sleeves can be attached to the costume or not. If not attached, they're called gauntlets and cover the arm like a glove. They can cover the whole arm, or reach just above or below the elbow. Very short ones are called cuffs or wristbands.

I don't ever make zippers in my sleeves — it's stiff and bulky, hard to fasten, and unnecessary. You only need a short opening big enough to get your hand through, and I fasten this with two or three buttons and loops, or snaps.

Pattern for Making a Sleeve

I start with a narrow commercial sleeve pattern, fit it to my arm perfectly, then use it as a basic pattern to make all of the above pieces. It may be attached to the bra or bodice of the costume at top only, or sliced across the top to become a gauntlet.

The first crucial question is whether your sleeves will be made of stretchy or non-stretchy fabric. Stretch would be knits like velour, stretch lace, and mesh. Non-stretch would be wovens or traditional lace.

If the fabric does not stretch, the sleeve must be cut on the bias for flexibility, or have extra elbow room in back, which is darted or eased into the seam.

Lack of elbow room results in a fitted sleeve that's uncomfortable, tugs and pulls the gauntlet down with every bend of the arm, which is why you see dancers' gauntlets always slipping down, even if the elastic is snug.

In fact, I put elbow ease even into my stretchy gauntlets. It's more comfortable and the gauntlets are less likely to slip down.

At one time fitted sleeves often had elbow darts, but it's difficult to find a pattern like that now, which is why I alter my basic sleeve pattern as illustrated. I adjust a fitted sleeve pattern to the proper length (very short, for me) and determine where my elbow is located. Later you'll try on the sleeve to make sure this is correct. I slash the back of the pattern as illustrated, to give it about one inch of extra length for non-stretch, or a half-inch for stretchy fabric. This extra length can be eased, darted, or double-darted into the front side of the seam.

Make two sample sleeves out of cheap fabric, one stretchy and one non-stretchy. Try them on to check the position of the elbow, the fit and the length. Use these as your basic pattern. Slice the top off the sleeve cap as illustrated to make a full-length off-the-shoulder-sleeve that is tacked to bra strap at the corners as in the photo.

Click on the photo to the right to see these sleeves in more detail.

I love this style because I never have to be concerned about it slipping down — one less thing to worry about when performing.

Dina Wearing Lace Sleeves

If you prefer gauntlets, cut the sleeve shorter from the top as illustrated to get the look you want, and add an elastic inside the edge. I like to make it a separate band that's tacked to the sleeve edge at three or four points. One can also sew decorative stretch lace directly onto the edge.

Beads and fringe can weigh the sleeve down and make it difficult to keep in place. Don't use the thick heavy Egyptian fringe that's used on the belt. Use a light fringe, scattered strands or tassels, or just wrist tassels. I'd use the attached style of sleeve or the below the elbow style of gauntlet. If using mesh, use the Powernet type that is strong enough to hold the weight of beads.

--The Costume Goddess



Related Articles

Other articles on this web site related to costuming for the arms 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 wedding gowns.

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 figures.

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.

Photo of Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess

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 For reviews here on of some of her books, see:

Photo of Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

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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The contents of this page are copyrighted 2009 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.



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