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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Making a Veil

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

Could you tell me the measurement of the normal size veil? I can't afford to buy one, and my friend can make it for nothing. I am just belly dancing for my husband because it is our 7 year anniversary and I want it to be special. Can you help me?




The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Tabatha,

Your husband is a lucky man!

A "normal"-sized belly dancing veil is 3 yards long. But I recommend using your height as a guide. When the veil is draped around your neck, the ends should be an inch or two off the floor. If you are short (like me), that would be a little less than 3 yards. Some dancers use the 45" width or more, but if you're short, you might prefer prefer 36-40 inches.

For practice or for a beginner, synthetic chiffon is fine, but I have to rhapsodize here about the exquisite floatiness of real silk. The gauze (labeled 4.5mm) or featherweight silk (5mm) is the lightest and floatiest. The 36" width is less costly, of course, than the 45'". It is usually available only in white and needs to be dyed, but silk dyes easily — I've done this at home with several types of dye, including plain old Rit. If you do this, remember that the silk, especially the gauze, will shrink a bit, so buy 1/4 yd extra.

Narrow hem the raw edges by machine as small as possible. If the selvage edges are nice looking (as on silk), leave them as is, but if they're unattractive (like on some synthetics) then narrow hem them as well.

If you choose to add a decoration, don't forget that any trims will add to the weight of the veil and make it less floaty. Also, the back of the veil may be visible, and you don't want unattractive stitching or glue showing. Paillettes and sequins on the edge add sparkle with very little weight, but they can get caught in your hair or costume, if you do a lot of veil work. For these reasons I leave my veils unadorned and let the airiness of the featherweight silk make its own statement.

Katia with a Veil

In this photo, Katia, an expert with veil work, is using an extra-large rainbow-dyed veil.

--The Costume Goddess



Additional Comments from Shira

Lisa, a reader of my web site, sent me email after noticing the references to dye on my web site to offer some cautionary advice. She is majoring in costuming in college, and shares some important health warnings to offer about working with dye.

According to Lisa, the popular easy to use kind of dye that is sold in many craft stores contains a chemical that can cause liver cancer when exposed to it over long periods of time. The dye never really sets. When worn next to the skin in humid weather or when sweating, the moisture causes it to absorb into the skin. Because there is nothing to regulate dyeing products, this company was able to change its formula very slightly to keep it from registering as toxic, but it doesn't change the effects. For a veil which brushes the skin only fleetingly, there should be no problem, but it is a risk that people should be aware of.

For this reason it is also very important to read and perform all of the safety measures when dyeing and setting colors. These commonly include wearing a dust mask and latex gloves.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing this important health information!



Related Articles

Other articles on this web site related to veils include:

  • How To Make A Narrow Hem. Written by Shira. Describes how to easily make a narrow hem of the type mentioned in this article.



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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