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My first assuit project: I overhauled an assuit coat from a dancer who decided she couldn't finish it. I disassembled it and re-assembled it into a dress.

I bought the coat for the yoke pattern but had no idea what a mess the rest of it was. It was cut and put together with no regard to the prosaic Western concepts of pattern matching, which meant that the beautiful design lost a lot of its impact... to say nothing of looking unprofessional in a Western venue. The side seams had to be picked apart and then trued up so that the horizontal patterns matched at the side seams and straight across. Ditto with the sleeves.

One of my standard corrections on an ethnic pattern intended for performance in a Western venue is fit the sleeves so that the shoulder seam is at the point of the shoulder instead of dropped; this causes the costume to hang gracefully from the shoulders, skimming the hips, instead of hanging off the shoulders and sagging towards the hips. For those of you who are concerned about looking heavier than you used to be (you know who you are), this might be a remedy. That change also allows more freedom of movement in the arms, and since cane dancing and assuit dresses frequently go together... I accomplished this by gathering the shoulder seam and pulling it up so that the shoulder seam was at the point of the shoulder; no cutting of precious assuit. The gathering simulates another Western fitting concept: darts (or similar constructions) that turn the garment from a 2-D construct to a 3-D.

I eventually modified the gathered shoulders so they can be completely opened for pulling over the head... I didn't want an opening in front or in back. Twill tape of various widths reinforces shoulders and neck; I didn't want the weight of the assuit pulling the shoulders and neck out of shape.

The piece of assuit had been cut so that the front of the coat opening was on the selvage, so that made it easier to make an invisible seam up front. I hand basted this seam because it had to be exact; the design needed to match, left to right, and the front seam had to be just a hair to the side of the metal.

I then lined the body of the dress with black silk, and my daughter is wearing it over black silk pants. Unlined is a nice look but the lining really sets off the assuit and makes the garment For All Audiences.

I think the garment proves that buying the most densely-patterned fabric you can afford pays off.
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My mother's alter-ego.


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"“As a historian, I’ve looked at patterns as they’ve shifted over time, and of course with each generation, we hope [negative portrayals] go away, but it’s not been happening,” says Tchen, sitting in his nyu office a few minutes’ walk from Shaheen’s archive. “If anything, some of these older images of the evil Oriental—whether it’s Fu Manchu or the kind of dagger-wielding shaykh—are constantly coming back in new forms or in slightly updated old forms,” he says. "


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None dare call it cultural appropriation.

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Most of this video is about Masha Archer's jewelery, but there is a minute's worth about her dance career, starting at 8:52 and running thru 9:37. "My interest in belly dancing started in the New York clubs in the fifties. For me, belly dancing was an extension of life drawing and the basis of my ideas of moving sculptural composition. That's why costuming and the mechanics of dance jewelry became so important in my company, the San Francisco classic dance troupe. I directed this group for fifteen years and was the first to bring this dance to Hong Kong, China and Morocco in the eighties. In the seventies and eighties we performed our Parisian-Tunisian style in Europe, Charles liked to photograph our modern bellydance in classical environments. The Palace of Fine Arts was a favorite site and we all considered it 'our place.'"


Red linen Little Red Riding Hood cape; circular body, close fitting hood with pointed end, hood lined with warm bright flannel. Tab with velcro holds it closed.

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Moroccans Do Country Music Shaabi Style. Several guys from Morocco who live in Belgium have invented authentic American Shaabi!

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A great interview of Tito explaining his art and his relationship to the culture around him. Low key, thoughtful and respectful.

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Ruric-Amari in 2010 in costume made by Maura Enright. Picture by Dawn Bruneau.
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