Veils for Belly Dancing

Linda on July 1st, 2007

Always, always buy or make a veil that makes you want to dance with it! Don't settle for one because it's cheap or you like the color. Find one (or more) that dances!

Fabrics for veils are an issue because, for every benefit, you'll have a drawback. I adore silk for its body and the way it can be dyed, but it is difficult to wash when the color runs; it can also be pricey. Cotton can be pretty, but it has no flow or drape and is generally not suited for dancing; cotton wrinkles so you can't just stuff or fold them into your dance bag. Double-knits have flow and drape, but are opaque, fine for skirts but not veils. I love natural fabrics, but synthetics have worked best for me: multiple colors and textures, relatively wrinkle-free, easy to wash (hang to dry), less likely to stain, painless to discard when marred with snags and cigarette burns (the hazards to dancing at private parties!).

When you shop, pull out a half-yard and play with it to determine: texture, drape, weight, translucency, shimmer. I suggest a fabric that looks similar (or identical) on both sides, because there will be times when the veil is backwards; a hidden trim is forgiveable, but a hidden overall pattern is not.

My personal preference is for a polyester crepe as an all-purpose veil, always used where I cannot anticipate the music; it has some transparency, has enough weight for fast spins, yet is still light enough for slow drifts. For all-over glitz, I have a black veil, a bit stiffer, with a large abstract design of my 3 favorite costume colors in glittery mylar; it's mostly used for the Entrance and either discarded after a few moves or draped around an audience member. Then I have a variety of polyester sheers, edged with sequins, to co-ordinate with the various costume colors; these are for draping and for dancing slow music.

The size of your veil should suit you. I recommend veil sizes according to your body: width being fingertip to fingertip of your outstretched arms plus 4 handspans (one side to the other, somewhere around a couple of yards-ish); height being the distance (while standing) from under your bust to the floor. I wouldn't go very much smaller nor much larger unless I had a specific purpose; a larger-than-standard veil requires more experience and more muscle to manage.

Hem your veils! All sides. Use either a narrow hem (folded twice), or a rolled hem. I also recommend edging with sequins, narrow braid, embroidery, or what have you; this provides a bit of weight that allows the veil to spin out from your body on turns, and gives you a sure edge to feel as you manipulate the veil.

If you use sequins, I highly recommend not using the sequin strips. You will have a much better effect by sewing the sequins on individually, using a backstitch. The veil will flex much better. The backstitch is sort of upside down: needle comes up through the sequin, down the edge that meets the previous sequin, up the far edge of the sequin, down through the sequin, and up through the center of the next sequin, etc. You'll have two stitches across the face of each sequin, and overlapping stitches on the underside that are a sequin long. Use matching thread so you don't need to be so tidy in your sewing. Flat sequins work easiest; faceted cup sequins should be sewn face down.

Some dancers like their veil edges serged. I like the support of the folded hem for sewing sequins. If I chose to -not- sequin, serging would be fine. (A belly dancer without sequins?! gasp!)

One more thing: I prefer the rectangular shape. I've worked with half-circle veils and have needed extra sequins on the straight edge so that I don't dance with it upside down. It makes a nice body-wrap, but won't Comet or Come-hither as well as a rectangle. You may find the semicirculars work for you, so it's your choice.

Ready to go shopping now?