The Gilded Serpent

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Embellished Bras:
How To of How Tos
A great book by Dawn Devine Brown, and
Book review by Robin Ackerman-Gray

Hmmm…. I must have been more tired and desperate than I thought when I bought these stiff bra cups specifically made for belly dance costumes some time ago.

These things look more like something used to cushion the tips of missiles than to house my round mounds. Thank goodness I only bought two sets!

When it comes to costume making for dance, I had been taught to never use a store-bought bra. It “cheapens” the look of the costume and it cannot withstand all of the sewing needed to decorate a dance bra. I saw evidence of this when a fellow costume maker and dancer showed me how the molded cups of a store-bought bra crumpled under the weighty strands of Egyptian beads. All of that work for naught.

Faced with the problems that I didn’t want to look like a glamorous poster child for a nineteen-fifty’s bullet booby bra ad, nor could I create my way around the lessons I had been taught about bras and costume making, I resigned myself to sticking with halter-style tops of which I make very well. Then came Rakkasah…

Dawn was at her booth and we took a moment to chat. I’ve read some of her other costume books, which are quite helpful. I mentioned that my only problem was figuring out how to make a great dance bra.

What timing… She handed me her new book “Embellished Bras: Basic Techniques”. I started to flip through the pages and looked upon her much like a person who’s been in the desert for two days without water. She just handed me a big, full cup to quench my thirst.

If you like to make your own costumes, or think you would like to try, you need to get the afore mentioned book by Dawn Devine Brown (photography work by Barry Brown). The subtitle on the cover is “Workshop in a book”. That’s no joke. This is the most complete “how to” costume book I’ve read in a long time.

This book is so clearly written and illustrated that even if you’ve never threaded a needle, you will be able to embellish a bra. On the flip side, if you are fairly experienced you will not be insulted by the writing. In fact you might find yourself saying, “Oh, so that’s how it’s done.” I said that several times while reading this book.

This book covers everything – including debunking some of the myths that were holding me back. You will learn about types of bras and how to determine which type is best for your costume needs, how to measure yourself to get the best fitting bra (that alone is worth the price of admission), how to reinforce a bra so it can handle embellishments, tools needed, pattern making, a guide for hand sewn stitches, as well as sewing techniques for beads and sequins, and so much more.

Even though the illustrations of completed bras lean towards belly dance styles, the techniques in this book are phenomenal for ANY dance style.

NOTE TO THE BEGINNING COSTUMER: Though the book states that this is a time consuming project, the clarity of the instructions and photos that take you step by step through the process may lead you to believe that this could get done really fast. I urge you to give yourself lots of time, and plan on your first bra to be used while practicing dance lessons. It takes a little time to master new skills, but I am certain that after you do this once using Dawn’s methods, the second bra will go faster and be much better.

If you are an experienced costume maker, but have never made a pattern (or created one from a bra), it’s also a good idea to give yourself more than a couple of weeks to complete this project. I practiced draping material over the bra cup – part of the pattern making technique in the book. Since it was my first time using the draping method, it took about three hours of time.

IS THE BOOK TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? Almost, because there’s some minor editorial errors. However, if memory serves me correctly, Dawn said that this copy was a prototype and needed some adjustments. The errors occur in a couple of places in which the descriptions do not match the illustrations/photos. However, and once again, the clarity of the book is outstanding. I took it to a neighbor that doesn’t sew at all and she could tell what went with what. Due to my belief that I have a prototype, it’s not necessary to reveal where the mismatches occurred. If I’m wrong, like my neighbor, you won’t have any problems figuring it out. The incidental mismatches should NOT be any reason whatsoever to keep this extraordinarily informational book out of your collection.

Four zills up for “Embellished Bras: Basic Techniques”. No one who does costuming should be without it. Thank you, Dawn; you’re my hero!

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