A veil is basically a fancy name for the long piece of material a belly dancer uses during a performance. The veil is like dancing with a partner, as both work together to flow in harmony with each other and the music.
The first step is to decide what colour and what material. You may have a hip scarf already that you want the colour to match it to or a costume you want it to compliment.
To work out if a material ‘flows’ well, unroll a couple of metres from the roll while standing in the material store, and flap and wave it. You will soon see whether it has life and ripples nicely.
Next is getting the right length. The best way is to measure your height and add 60-80cm. This translates to about 30-40cm hanging past the edge of your fingertips. (Generally speaking your height is the same as the measurement between your stretched out fingertips – very handy!) Material often comes in two ‘drop lengths’ (i.e. the height of the roll of material) 150cm or 180cm. If you are height challenged like myself, getting a 180cm drop will cause you to be forever tripping on it, so go for the more narrow size.
For the material the common forms are the following with pros and cons:
Chiffon: the most popular and the best one to start with. It is light, see-through, comes in a wide range of colours and is inexpensive. Drawbacks: it can be a bit too lightweight for a solo performance (however, there are different qualities of chiffon you can use to counteract this).
Satin: flows well and comes in a range of colours. Drawbacks: you can’t see through it, so it can block your view of where you are and the audience’s view of you.
Silk: the best for solo work, flows so beautifully and has air resistance so it has a lot of life. Drawbacks: the thicker type is quite strenuous on the arms as it requires more effort to move and is not see-through, although it’s usually enough to make out shapes; also silk is the most expensive material to buy.
So you’ve got the material in a colour you love, now what? Now you hem it. “What?! I can’t sew!” I hear you cry. Fret no longer. If you have a sewing machine simply overlock (if you have an overlocker) the ‘rough’ edges (i.e. the ones that were cut. The other long sides are called selvedge and they will not fray), or, if like me, your machine is too old to have an overlock function, simply zigzag with the needle going on and off the material. It will curl the edge together and no fraying will happen. You could also take it to a seamstress and she’ll do it in 5 minutes!
An optional extra is adding some decoration along one of the long edges, like a row of sequins. You can sew them individually or glue a pre-prepared strip. This has the advantage of providing an edge you can always find, even if you drop it mid performance!
Have fun with your veil!