This is Week 7 of Your Sparkly Wardrobe, a collaboration between Sparkly Belly and Mahin’s Bellydance Quickies.
For most bellydancers, a costume wardrobe represents a significant investment of money, and possibly time if you made your bedlah yourself. To keep your pieces in top condition, it is important that you store them properly and pack them carefully when going to gigs or travelling. In this post, I’ll cover some tips and tricks to keep your sparkly wardrobe beautiful and stage ready,
Your available space will of course play a big role in determining how you can store your wardrobe. If you are lucky enough to have a large walk-in closet or a separate room, you can give your cossies luxury accommodations. If you are like me in a small house with very little closet space or an apartment, more compact storage solutions are a must!
Storage At Home
Your costume pieces spend more time in home storage than in any other place so how and where you keep them is crucial. In general, all pieces should be protected from excessive humidity to prevent mildew and direct sunlight to keep them from fading. Different types of costume pieces have specific considerations – let’s look at them one at a time.
Skirts & Pants
There are many considerations when choosing how to store your skirts. In this section, I am including the type of skirts you would wear with a belt, skirts that have “built in” belts and heavily embellished skirts with no belt, like many of the modern Egyptian costumes, Bellas and other designer lines.
Skirts with heavy embellishments of beads, sequins and appliques are best stored folded in drawers or boxes. Prolonged hanging can pull them out of shape and strain the fabric. Undecorated skirts, if made properly, should be able to hang safely. Here’s the catch – “if made properly”. Skirts should be hung for several days before hemming so the hemline will remain stable. If they have not been hung before hemming, you may be surprised to find they are uneven and too long after they’ve been on a hanger in your closet for a while. Fabrics which have a looser weave are also more susceptible to stretching out of shape, even if they were hung before hemming. Think before you hang!
If storage space is at a premium, multi hangers like the one below are a good choice. If the fabric is delicate or there are some decorations near the top, place some scrap fabric between the skirt and the clips.
If you are unsure whether your skirts will stretch, or you don’t have hanging space, fold your skirts neatly and stand them up on end in a box. You will be able to find and take out what you need easily and keep the rest neat.
Bras & Belts (and more)
Bras and belts are the workhorses of your costume wardrobe! Protect the beadwork and finishes by storing them in plastic shoebox type containers with silica packets to absorb moisture. Silica packets come in boxes of many items you buy – keep an eye out for them! An alternative is to use pillowcases or a similar type of cloth bag. These methods also work for costumes with a bra and heavily embellished skirt or full dresses with heavy beading.
Always air out costumes on a rack for 12-24 hours after wearing before putting then away to be sure they are completely dry. I spray the linings and insides (not the decorated surfaces!) of my costumes with a 50/50 mix of cheap vodka and water to keep them fresher between occasional cleanings. This kills the bacteria in your sweat that can make them smelly over time.
Veils are the most forgiving of your costume pieces when it comes to storage. If you have space out of strong sunlight, they look lovely hung on a rod or coat tree so you can enjoy their colors every time you pass by.
If you don’t have room to hang your veils safely, fold them lengthwise and roll them up neatly. Stand the rolls up in a basket and you’ll be able to find what you need quickly. A third option is to fold them like the skirts and store on end in a box.
The Big Picture
If you have used boxes and/or cloth bags to store your costume items that cannot hang, you can organize them on shelves or in a bookcase. Here are some of my boxes of costumes and my basket of veils. The opaque boxes are labelled by type – chiffon skirts, straight skirts and harem pants
Transporting Bellydance Costumes to Gigs
The safest and most convenient way that I have found to pack for gigs is to use a carry-on sized rolling suitcase. I use one that has dividers to keep things contained to each side. I usually have two costumes with me and this keeps each set and its accessories together.
To keep beads and fringe from getting tangled or caught, I fold the skirt, veil or another piece of fabric in between like this.
Shoes, jewelry and makeup stay safe and easy to find in their own separate bags. Tuck them into whichever side has room for them. Be sure shoes and makeup are well-contained so they don’t get your costumes dirty and jewelry won’t snag on your fabric items.
Packing for Travel
Packing your bellydance costumes for travel is very different than packing for a gig. You will go into your suitcase to get many things other than your costumes and you don’t want to dig through them to find your street clothes. Packing cubes are a great solution for this! They are very thin zippered cases. I pack each costume in it’s own cube along with its veil, accessories and jewelry.
Some costumes travel better than others. I go strictly carry-on when flying, so space saving is top priority! As I am writing this, I am on a 3-week tour, living out of one carry-on suitcase with 2 full costumes! If I have the option, I go with straight skirts and less bulky bras and belts. Sometimes the gig requires a more voluminous costume. I pack them snugly into cubes (layer to prevent snags as above). I unpack them well before performing to smooth out any wrinkles. Draping them over a hanger while showering can help release creases too.
Take only the essential jewelry and accessories. Pack jewelry in a ziplock bag and tuck it into the packing cube with the rest of the outfit.
Do you have other storage or packing methods that work for you? Share them in the comments below…