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The original bra with halter style straps

Costume Bra Alteration:
How-To Change Halter to Conventional Straps

by Davina
posted March 30, 2010

One of the staples in many a dancers wardrobe is a gold and silver bedlah. This most chameleon bra and belt set can be paired with virtually any color skirt/veil combination making this a versatile foundation for building hundreds of different looks.

The silver/gold bedlah is so versatile, that troupes around the globe select it as a unifying costume element.

When a dancer friend approached me with her new gold and silver costume I was impressed by her strategic wardrobing choice. This particular bedlah set is gorgeously encrusted with three-dimensional beading and gold hologram sequins. She was lucky that the belt fit like a dream, the cups of this bra fit well and the bra band was perfectly sized.

However, the halter styling of the bra had straps that were far too short to fit around her neck limiting her ability to lift her arms over her head.

Although it’s good rule of thumb for a costume to fit snuggly, this bra was digging painfully into the back of her neck. Our mission – convert this bra from halter to conventional straps. Since this costume was an Egyptian import, we had a few accessory pieces to work with, treating them like raw materials to create a new strap. (Hot Tip – I never use a halter strap configuration for any full C cup or above. The weight of “the girls” can be a pain in the neck – but most importantly – the halter can limit mobility through the neck and shoulders.)

After looking at the accessory pieces that came with this bedlah set, I suggested converting an outdated crown-like headpiece into a new left shoulder strap. (Photo 2 – Head Band) The crown featured a sweeping point, which we experimented with until we found a shoulder position we liked. During our fitting, we decided that turning the point away from the neck would form an attractive mock epaulette. The existing left strap would be removed and added to the right shoulder strap to create much-needed length so it could reach the band in back.

Head Band

To begin the renovation process, I marked the position of my work with safety pins. The crown was marked to indicate where it would attach to both the bra-cup and the band. You can see these pins in photo 2. Once I’m comfortable with all of my marks, I proceed, unpicking the lining in the areas where I will be working. In some ready-made costumes, the beading goes through to the lining, so investigate and be careful!

photo 3- lining pulled backl
Lining Pulled Back

Once the lining was pulled back, I removed the left strap and attached it to the right. I am careful to fold under any raw edges, so that it does not fray through my stitches and pop undone during a performance. I use a combination of whipstitches and slip stitches to really nail the two pieces together. In this photo, if you look carefully, you can see some of the original stitching is in white, my stitching new stitches in yellow.

photo 4: Strap Extension
Strap Extension

It is my philosophy to conserve the original costume as much as possible. Some future dancer may want to restore the costume to its original configuration as a halter with a crown. So instead of simply cutting the end of the crown shorter, I choose to fold the end under and adjust the lining.

Photo 5: Folding under strap
Folding the end under

Because the beads can press into the shoulder painfully, I will add a layer of soft fabric to protect skin against the beads. This crusty 3D nature of the beading on this costume required this additional cushion. Many different materials can be used such as fleece, velvet, or in the case of my project, vellux. I laid the crown onto the vellux and simply traced the shape. This interlining was applied to the beaded surface with a quick whipstitch.

photo 6:
Adding a cushion layer

Next, I folded the end of the former crown under and then tucked excess lining inside as well, forming a multi-layer sandwich. I then use a combination of whipstitch and slip stitch to sew around the opening. Note – Before you sew everything closed, be sure to double check that you’ve left at least an inch of extra length, so you can insert the newly converted strap between the cup and lining of the bra – or your strap will be too short!

Photo 7:New Strap with alteration sealed shut
New Strap with alteration sealed shut

Once the new strap is finished the transformation is nearly complete. I slip the straps into their new positions. The left shoulder gets pinned into both the top of the cup and the back band. The right strap just needs to be positioned on the back band. Once the straps are firmly attached with sturdy stitching, seal up the lining and you’re done!

photo 8: final result!
Final Results

The final result – a more comfortable and better fitting bra.

Dawn Devine ~ Davina is an author, costumer and dance instructor living in Silicon Valley. She has written several books on costume design and construction including the seminal “Costuming from the Hip” and the best selling “Embellished Bras.” Visit her website to read more about her books, classes and costuming.
Photos by Digital Wuff –


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