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Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Tight Sleeves

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

I've been trying to figure out how to make a short fitted top out of a non-stretch material. I'm not sure how to sew the sleeves so that it doesn't pull up the shirt when you raise your arms. I've seen a pattern by Atira's fashions (the style was choli, I think) but I don't have enough time to order the pattern. If you could send me a few pointers that would be great!




The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Jeannette,

A dancer needs freedom of movement to lift her arms overhead without worrying that her short costume top will slide up to reveal her bra (if she's wearing a bra!) One way to get around this problem would be to make sleeves that are loose enough to leave your arms free, such as a circular or dolman sleeve, but most often the choli style of top has a fitted sleeve.

If the material is not stretchy, and restricts your arm movement, here is the easiest way I know to solve that problem: sew the sleeve to the bodice only at the top of shoulder, two to three inches on either side of shoulder seam. Leave the rest of the sleeve edge free, as illustrated, but of course finish it off nicely with a narrow hem, binding or trim. As always, try on to see how the sleeve fits. You may want to slim down the sleeve or trim away a slice of the curved sleeve cap, if it looks better.

Now the opening widens to allow complete freedom of movement, and an added benefit is the extra ventilation. No (ahem) sweaty armpits. Not that any of us actually sweat....

Diagram of Tight Sleeves

--The Costume Goddess



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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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