Tribal bra and belt: the belt, part 1

Tribal Belt, almost finished

Tribal Belt, almost finished

Making a belt is not difficult, but it is time consuming. And no matter the shape or style, tribal or cabaret, the process is going to be quite similar. This step by step -or as close as I can make- will cover a tribal belt, but feel free to apply it to a cabaret set if that’s what you’re trying to make.

What you will need, will vary on the style, but there are some basics:

  • a general shape, which you will obtain from your own body (I’ll explain how, don’t worry)
  • a sturdy, non-stretch thick fabric to act as the base for your belt: I’ve used denim, some people prefer to use really thick interfacing, but I couldn’t find the type around here; if I did, I would probably use both
  • a fashion fabric or two: these are going to be the fabric(s) visible on your belt
  • a lining fabric: preferably NOT satin, polyester or any slippery or stretchy fabric; you want your belt to stay on you, not to slide to the floor! or equally bad, for the lining to stretch and sag and be visible
  • your decorations: these will depend, again, on what style you are doing, and could be anything: sari trim, ribbons, buttons, crystals, tassels… if you’re doing a bra/belt set (ideally) these would match
  • if you’re using lacing for tightening the belt, grommets and washers, and if you are smart and want to preserve your sanity and hands, an awl (for making the holes) and a tool for putting these in
  • also mostly if you’re using lacing, or really heavy decorations, thick cable ties to act as boning might come handy; I mean it
  • bias tape to act as your boning channels
  • some flexible, cheap material to obtain your basic hip shape; Swedish traceable pattern paper would be ideal, but you could use non-stretchable fabric, or even newspaper in a pinch
  • someone willing to mould the pattern around you, that will be able to resist the temptation of turning your bum into a pin cushion just for the fun of it

Your first step should be to grab pen and paper, and decide what style of belt you’re making, ideally also depending on what shape would suit your body better. Draw this as best as you can, as you will need to give this to the person moulding the paper around you to “trace” onto your body. Remember that straight belts are not a good idea for pear figures, and that the “under the belly” look is not flattering either, but that the curve of your belly might mean you need to be very careful about positioning the belt.

Cut a wide length of paper: it should be able to go easily around your body with length to spare, and be wide enough to be able to contain the shape you desire for the belt. Give this, and a bunch of pins to your friend, along with your drawing, and now stay very quiet while they wrap this around your body and start pinning it and making darts to shape it as necessary. Make sure the shape is absolutely correct, and a teensy bit tight, but not overly so. Also make sure that there are no muffin tops or the like.

The shape and number of darts and cut-outs will depend a lot on your own body shape and chosen belt shape, but normally you will get a couple of darts over the hip “dimples”, and maybe some extra shaping over the hips. Once you’ve got this original shape, make sure both are symmetrical (it will make your life easier unless your body is *really* asymmetrical), fold in two and obtain a copy by tracing this with more Swedish paper, then cut this new part(s). For my belt, I joined both darts and compensated with the curve at the bottom, your experience might be different depending on your body shape.

Remember that original design you had? Now it’s the time to bring it out again, and remember whether you’d decided to fasten it with hooks and slides, or laces, and if necessary, chop the parts further accordingly. If you’re going with laces, remember to leave about one inch between the pieces (and to remove this inch from the actual pieces to avoid adding length) so the laces can show up properly, and to leave room for tightening. If you’re going with hooks and slides, you will need to add some extra fabric to overlap. Apologies about the vague instructions here, but what you do and how depends a LOT on your design: are there one or two (or more) lacing points? If using hook and slides, are you fastening at the back or one of the sides? what shape does the belt have at the fastening point? What I will suggest, however, is that if you’re using hook and slide, just make a single continuous piece and have just the one fastening point (although you’ll probably need 2-3 slides vertically) or a double locking set to provide more stability.

If you’re using base fabric, now it’s time to cut it, on the fold, symmetrical; add seam allowance if you’re sewing front and back pieces together, and remember to add extra overlapping fabric if you’re doing hook and eye closing; if you’re using laces you might not need these. Serge the edges of the foundation fabric, to prevent fraying. Cut the same pieces on the fashion fabric, but with an extra 1/2″ around it all for seam allowance; serge these edges too, again, to prevent fraying. This will make your life a lot easier, particularly if you’re working with jacquard or brocade-style fabrics.

And once you get to this stage, this is how it should look. The belt is a 2-piece set, with a V front and a curved back (very traditional Egyptian bedlah in shape) but with a tribal sensibility, and with laces on each side of the piece. Shown in the photo is just the back piece. What’s left to do, at this stage: pin and sew the edges around the foundation fabric, add eyelets, add decoration, add boning, add lining. Some of which should *not* be done in that particular order, but live and learn, right? Right.

Continue onto part 2

Tribal Belt, innards

Support fabric and fashion fabric, serged

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2 Responses

  1. January 28, 2013

    […] left the belt in Part 1 with the basic shapes and basic cover ready. What you need to do next is, basically, to attach the […]

  2. March 8, 2020

    […] the truth is, I pretty much followed the same steps outlined in my Tribal Belt post, here With some modifications, which I’ll outline […]

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