View Poll Results: Do you think it's a good idea for a belly dance costume to leave the sleeve seam open at the armpit?

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Thread: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?




  1. #1
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Rather than continuing to hijack Tiziri's thread, I'd like to start a new one on the issue of having open armpits in costumes with sleeves.

    I'm not a big fan of doing that. When I'm in the audience watching a performer who has such a costume, I find the open armpits distracting, especially if the costume color is quite different from the dancer's skin color. It looks as though the costume tore at the armpit, and the dancer forgot to repair it before wearing it again.
    Last edited by *Shira*; 09-06-2011 at 10:59 AM.
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  2. #2
    I could get used to this! Shunnareh's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Yes, especially if it is a dress and quite fitted. It helps stop the dress riding up when you raise your arms, and so keeps belts in position (I'm thinking especially of baladi type dresses here). It also helps (but not prevents) you from having a dress with sweaty armpits that show through the material as damp spots.


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    Mega BHUZzer mahsati's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    I currently have costumes both with and without this feature. I have found that the costumes with open armpits seem to last longer before need for repair at the underarm seams and that it helps a lot with keeping everything in place. Stretch items with long sleeves and closed armpits seem to pull and move the entire garment more than I would like, but garments with an extra underarm gusset to give more fabric tend to look bulky when the arms aren't completely overhead.

    There was a time when I found the open underarms distracting as an audience member, but after performing a good bit in both types, I am in the camp that the open ones can be easier and less distracting for me to deal with as a performer.
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    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    ..going a step further, some open the crotch in harem pants as well.


  5. #5
    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    open arm pits made sense when most costumes were made of fabric with little to no give- most costumes these days are made of very stretchy fabric and I find that (with proper fit) they're not really necessary. When making my own, I use raglan sleeves whenever I can because it really does help with this issue.

    I understand having an open arm pit if you just HAVE to have a certain fabric that needs it, but I find that most often, the pull can be minimized with good fitting. I have also put in gussets in certain costumes rather than having an open arm pit. Here's the thing- if you are going to have an open arm pit, I actually like the beaded edges around the gap because it does let everyone know it was intentional (even tho they still make me laugh!)
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    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunnareh View Post
    Yes, especially if it is a dress and quite fitted. It helps stop the dress riding up when you raise your arms, and so keeps belts in position (I'm thinking especially of baladi type dresses here).
    I would argue that if your dress rides up, that's a sign that it does not fit you properly.


  7. #7
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by zamora View Post
    ..going a step further, some open the crotch in harem pants as well.
    The purpose of this thread is to discuss how it looks to the audience to see an open seam when a dance move exposes the skin that lies beneath the open seam.

    Perhaps you could tell us what kind of audience reactions you receive when the skin under your open crotch of your harem pants is exposed to the audience for viewing? Also, I'd be curious what dance moves you do that enable the audience to see that your crotch is unsewn.


  8. #8
    Advanced BHUZzer nikkiraqs's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Wow........I'm speechless!!!



    "Originally Posted by zamora
    ..going a step further, some open the crotch in harem pants as well."


    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    The purpose of this thread is to discuss how it looks to the audience to see an open seam when a dance move exposes the skin that lies beneath the open seam.

    Perhaps you could tell us what kind of audience reactions you receive when the skin under your open crotch of your harem pants is exposed to the audience for viewing? Also, I'd be curious what dance moves you do that enable the audience to see that your crotch is unsewn.


  9. #9
    Ultimate BHUZzer tahiradancer's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    I would argue that if your dress rides up, that's a sign that it does not fit you properly.
    It can actually fit you absolutely perfectly, but because of the deign and set of the sleeve, there is less mobility in certain styles than others. A set in sleeve really isn't designed for a lot of arm mobility, while a raglon gives lots of room to move. It's also about the shoulder cap. Set in sleeves, which are a favorite in folkloric belly dance costumes, are generallly fitted tightly to the body and when you raise your arm above a particular point, either the whole body has to move or the garment has to shift. I have seen this with dire effects before. Think black choli and turquoise bra! And the choli absolutely fit! It simply wasn't designed for the movements it was asked to follow.

    {{{HUGS}}}

    (PS: I have an amazing lace choli style costume by Abla. And it has cold arm pits. Took me a little while to get used to it, but after dancing in it several times, I am very appreciative of the feature!)


  10. #10
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    I don't care for the look, but I suppose there is a certain allowance for authenticity in historical garments. I'm not really sure what the problem is, though. Lots of other dancers, athletes, and miscellaneous performers are able to find form-fitting, long-sleeved clothes in different fabrics where they can raise their arms without ripping their underarm seams. What's wrong with our patterns?


  11. #11
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    I like gussets, esp. when the fabric is not too stiff. Now, gussets add bulk under the arms, which is also not always the perfect choice, esp. for more sleek, fitted styles.

    As for the open crotch in pantaloons - I have heard of this idea for the classic ATS look, where one wears multiple layers of skirts and belts. An open crotch seam can potentially be a life-saver when one has to go urgently and does not want to take off and re-install layers of hip gear - I have never tried myself, but I have tales to tell of trying to use a porta-potty with pantaloons, bigs skirt and layers of stuff at Pennsic, which is a nightmare, and I have sympathy for those who try to make bathroom breaks easier. But, with the obligatory matching-color panties under and a big skirt and belt over, the chance of anybody noticing that open seam is pretty much zero. I agree, though, that under other circumstances, open crotch seams are not desirable for obvious reasons - sheer harem pants under a thin chiffon skirt with just thong ...;-)
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  12. #12
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    The purpose of this thread is to discuss how it looks to the audience to see an open seam when a dance move exposes the skin that lies beneath the open seam.

    Perhaps you could tell us what kind of audience reactions you receive when the skin under your open crotch of your harem pants is exposed to the audience for viewing? Also, I'd be curious what dance moves you do that enable the audience to see that your crotch is unsewn.
    ha ha ha what an odd responce!!...no one see's anything..it is all up under the skirts...i have worked with dancers especially at faire who do this so they do not have to unpin all to go potty. what got me thinking about it was the open gussets on a gahwaze..sp coat...at faire it is "period". so, if it looks odd, is it from a stage with all on seats?..or dancing on the ground with all seated on the ground as well.....i do not think i have ever seen a coat without the open gusset..so, what are they rules in each style of dance regarding this?..is there such a thing? the dress i wear for cane has open gussets as well.


  13. #13
    Official BHUZzer EternalStudent's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Aesthetically speaking, open armpits don't bother me at all. Cutouts around the hips though, now sometimes those bother me, especially if they tend to be very close to the "nether" regions.
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  14. #14
    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Open gussets vent heat and perspiration. I like them and have never been bothered by the look they create.
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  15. #15
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by tahiradancer View Post
    It simply wasn't designed for the movements it was asked to follow.
    I would argue that a dance costume should be designed for the movements of the dance it is supposedly intended to be worn for.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    Lots of other dancers, athletes, and miscellaneous performers are able to find form-fitting, long-sleeved clothes in different fabrics where they can raise their arms without ripping their underarm seams. What's wrong with our patterns?
    Exactly my point.

    I have a closet full of various normal-person shirts, dresses, and jackets that don't ride up when I lift my arms above my head, and they all have complete armpit seams. My Scottish Highland Dance blouse never rode up when I put my arms up into second, third, or fifth position, and it had a complete armpit seam.

    So why are the people who make belly dance costume the only designers who are too incompetent to create a design that allows for the arms to be raised without needing to leave the seam open below the armpit?


  16. #16
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by zamora View Post
    ha ha ha what an odd responce!!
    I just thought it was odd that on a thread whose purpose was to talk about the aesthetic appearance of something, you would post about crotchless harem pants.
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  17. #17
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    I just thought it was odd that on a thread whose purpose was to talk about the aesthetic appearance of something, you would post about crotchless harem pants.
    i think in my mind, the gusset is a higher crotch of sorts..in sewing a seam is a seam ..but you really got me thinking about where the open arm pit thing came from..i think i remember a working class...the gussetts were bigger, like how you take your arms out of a kimono sleeve to work.....
    thanks!


  18. #18
    Master BHUZzer zamora's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    I just thought it was odd that on a thread whose purpose was to talk about the aesthetic appearance of something, you would post about crotchless harem pants.
    sorry, haveing a "day".


  19. #19
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    So why are the people who make belly dance costume the only designers who are too incompetent to create a design that allows for the arms to be raised without needing to leave the seam open below the armpit?
    If a designer attempts to justify the open armpit as an intentional, traditional choice in hot climates, that's one thing. On the other hand, based on the bizarre ideas some BD costume designers have about the shape of women's breasts (dinner-plate bras) and hips (tuna-can belts), is it surprising that they're struggling with sleeves?

    I tried to look up about the style of fully closed, set-in sleeves in European clothes. I'm not sure I found what I wanted, but if you like serious geeking on sleeve design, check out the fencing forums, because swordsmen really care about freedom of arm movement and not having garments ride up. Eventually, I landed here The Tailoring of the Grande Assiette, which is more information about the history of sleeve mobility than most folks would ever care to know.
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  20. #20
    Advanced BHUZzer badriya_al_ahmar's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post

    I have a closet full of various normal-person shirts, dresses, and jackets that don't ride up when I lift my arms above my head, and they all have complete armpit seams. My Scottish Highland Dance blouse never rode up when I put my arms up into second, third, or fifth position, and it had a complete armpit seam.
    Are any of those items heavily beaded or embroidered, particularly in long vertical strands? Most beading thread is not stretchy and is definitely going to limit the flexibility and stretch of an embellished garment. Or think of assuit--that metal's not stretching, so a fitted assuit dress that is not designed to poof out over the belt is absolutely going to ride up if you raise your arms, no matter how flawlessly designed it is.
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    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    I don't qualify as an "average audience member" because I'm a dancer and have been to a gazillion shows. I've seen the open armpit style as far back as I can remember and it has never looked odd to me, I always thought it looked cool and "belly dancer-y," as I had never seen that style on any other type of garments. I just accepted it as a belly dance thing.

    We all have our pet peeves. I don't like to see too-short skirts, where the feet and ankles are showing too much. (Except when it is really deliberate, for certain folkloric galabeyas, but I still don't like the look that much.) I really don't like the current trend of boy shorts in the front and skirt in the back, I just don't think it is very flattering to the dancer or the dance.

    Hey, I'm old-skool. That's just how I roll.
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  22. #22
    I could get used to this! Mychelledancer's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    I completely agree with Shira. While I get it from a practical standpoint, as an audience member all I can see is armpit holes. I say vest with closed armpits or bra if you are a sweat-monster like me. :)


  23. #23
    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    If a designer attempts to justify the open armpit as an intentional, traditional choice in hot climates, that's one thing. On the other hand, based on the bizarre ideas some BD costume designers have about the shape of women's breasts (dinner-plate bras) and hips (tuna-can belts), is it surprising that they're struggling with sleeves?

    I tried to look up about the style of fully closed, set-in sleeves in European clothes. I'm not sure I found what I wanted, but if you like serious geeking on sleeve design, check out the fencing forums, because swordsmen really care about freedom of arm movement and not having garments ride up. Eventually, I landed here The Tailoring of the Grande Assiette, which is more information about the history of sleeve mobility than most folks would ever care to know.
    Interesting read- thanks for the link. I have had 2 costumes which really did need the cut out because of the fabric and style- one was a heavily beaded brocade, and I do think the heavy beading around the arm pit hole made it palatable for me, but I have since passed the costume on. I miss it, but at the same time I would never really wear it again. The other is a lace dress- because it is stiff, it does need the gusset and you really couldn't get away with some of the modifications referenced in the article because it is so sheer. I totally get falling in love with a fabric no matter how seemingly unsuitable it is for the intended purpose, and I do think an open gusset is a lesser evil in that case- it's unfinished openings in stretch fabrics which don't really need them which baffle me.

    I am pretending I have enough time to resurrect the local costuming guild again- it was a wonderful place to discuss projects and learn from the communal wisdom on how to deal with some of these issues. I think we don't have better patterns because people are used to the old styles which made sense for the fabrics readily available at the time. They were good patterns, appropriate for their intended purpose, but I think we need an update in both the patterns as well as in general perception. There are also folks who take non-dance patterns and don't know how to adjust them for dance use. It's a fairly specialized skill, one I don't expect even an average seamstress to understand, and certainly not the folks who are only just starting to sew because they need to work on BD costumes! From that perspective, leaving an arm pit open is easier for the novice sewer than completely redesigning a sleeve. I guess I'm saying that I'm not sticking my nose in the air to be condescending to open armpit wearers/sewers, rather pointing out that there are ways around it and hoping that education will help people rethink their designs.


  24. #24
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lara L View Post
    I guess I'm saying that I'm not sticking my nose in the air to be condescending to open armpit wearers/sewers, rather pointing out that there are ways around it and hoping that education will help people rethink their designs.
    It's actually not really my intent to stick my nose in the air and be condescending.

    Instead, my thinking is that I frequently see dancers recommending open armpits to each other, and I'm challenging a long-held practice. I'm challenging it because aesthetically I don't think it's attractive as a "design feature" in most costumes, and I'm simply hoping that by raising my questions I'll inspire people to stop and think about this long-held practice.

    If somebody thinks about this thread, decides they like the LOOK of open armpits, and thinks the open armpits ENHANCE in some way the appearance of a particular costume, then I'll respect that their artistic preferences may differ from mine. I don't have a problem with the idea that different people having different preferences when it comes to art.

    However, so far nobody on this thread has defended open armpits on the grounds that they think the appearance IMPROVES or ENHANCES how a particular costume looks. So far, all the defenses which have been posted on this thread fall into these categories: 1) Because the person who made the costume didn't have the skill to make a non-creeping costume that has "normal" armpits; and 2) Because the person wearing the costume values her personal comfort more highly than she does the audience's experience.

    Is there anybody reading this thread who thinks the open-armpit look is aesthetically beautiful? Is there anybody reading this thread who truly believes that an open armpit costume is prettier than one that contains a complete armpit seam? If so, please speak up. Don't worry, I won't attack you for disagreeing with me on the aesthetic question. As I said above, I don't have a problem with the idea that someone else's artistic preferences on this subject may differ from mine.


  25. #25
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by badriya_al_ahmar View Post
    Are any of those items heavily beaded or embroidered, particularly in long vertical strands? Most beading thread is not stretchy and is definitely going to limit the flexibility and stretch of an embellished garment. Or think of assuit--that metal's not stretching, so a fitted assuit dress that is not designed to poof out over the belt is absolutely going to ride up if you raise your arms, no matter how flawlessly designed it is.
    Why does this matter? There are many normal-person garments in my closet made of stretchy material which do not ride up when I raise my arms in the air.

    There is also a blouse for my Scottish Highland dance costume which does not ride up even though it's made of a woven, non-stretchy material.


  26. #26
    Ultimate BHUZzer Suzana's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    There's nothing incompetent about cold armpits as a design feature. They're functional and inoffensive and involve only a small area of skin anyway. What's the big deal?

    Compare it those huge cutouts that look like someone took a big bite out of the dress at the hip line. Functional? No way. Distracting? Oh hell yes. All they do is make people wonder not if, but when, they're going to see a crotch or a crack. I love cutouts that are pretty and flattering and make good design sense, but seriously? I'd rather see a bare underarm than someone's entire hip crease any day. I'm sure that's true of most of the people we're setting out to entertain.

    I really think sometimes we neglect to consider these choices from the audience's perspective.


  27. #27
    Ultimate BHUZzer tahiradancer's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Mens suit jackets and most of their dress shirts are cut with set in sleeves. If they reach above their heads, the garment is going to move.

    My authentic Indian cholis are also designed that way. At least the ones which go with the silk saris.

    And yes, it's a design feature. It is historically correct because it was unusual for the average person to be able to design the curve needed to make gathered sleeves which are part of the design which allows for greater movement.

    But DESIGN and FIT are two very different things.

    And I just tried something. I pulled the tee shirt I am currently wearing tight and lifted my arm. The hem at the bottom of my shirt moved. If it had been a woven fabric which was tightly fitted, there would have been stress under the arm.

    Personally, I am going to go into the middle. Everyone should make the decision about whether or not to use this style when they are making the garment based on the fabric used, the usage and the pattern, knowing that they might have to make adjustments to the pattern based on the fabric.

    {{{{HUGS}}}
    Last edited by tahiradancer; 09-06-2011 at 08:36 PM.
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  28. #28
    Mega BHUZzer mahsati's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    2) Because the person wearing the costume values her personal comfort more highly than she does the audience's experience.
    Personally, they don't bother me aesthetically in the least and I figure that part of the audience's experience is learning about costuming, clothing, music, and dance with which they may not otherwise be familiar. I don't think choosing costumes that are appropriate, stylish, and comfortable ever hurts a dancer's performance with or without open underarms.

    Put another way: this is the first discussion I have ever seen of it and I have never heard an audience member have an issue. I am sure it happens, but it hasn't been part of my experience in this dance. I don't think that a dancer is thinking of her comfort over her audience's experience by choosing breezy underarms, but ymmv. I have both kinds of costumes, like them both, and wear them both without either enhancing or detracting from my performances.
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  29. #29
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzana View Post
    There's nothing incompetent about cold armpits as a design feature. They're functional and inoffensive and involve only a small area of skin anyway. What's the big deal?
    There's nothing incompetent about the design feature if its purpose is to enhance the look of the overall garment. But so far on this thread nobody has stated that is their purpose in choosing the feature. I do understand people liking the comfort aspect, but let's go ahead and acknowledge that in such cases the dancer is choosing her personal agenda over that of creating a positive experience for the audience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzana View Post
    Compare it those huge cutouts that look like someone took a big bite out of the dress at the hip line. Functional? No way. Distracting? Oh hell yes.
    As the owner of more than one hip-crease-cutout dress, I can say that in these cases the purpose of the cutout is to provide a line or an effect. Ie, the purpose is NOT to mask the costume maker's lack of clothing construction abilities. Though I do choose when I wear one of these - I consider who the audience will be and what effect I'm wanting to create.

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzana View Post
    I really think sometimes we neglect to consider these choices from the audience's perspective.
    Well, yes, that's why I started this thread - to invite people to consider the true purpose behind their choice to have open armpits and to think about the audience's perspective on that particular feature. I've heard many a general-public audience member make comments about open armpits - "Did her costume rip?" "What in the bleep is THAT?" "I don't even remember how the one with the armpits danced, all I remember is the armpits. Those were WEIRD." And so on.

    As Dunyah said, dancers have been doing this for so long that we often forget how it looks to the public. WE are used to it. But the public is not.


  30. #30
    Ultimate BHUZzer tahiradancer's Avatar
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    Re: Having open armpits on costumes with sleeves?

    Okay, I have to ask, where is this whole conversation coming from? There appears to be the same kind of heat behind this as the use of AmCab.

    The original designs, from my understanding, come from historical clothing, many of which did have the cold arm pits. Many also were worn with other garments beneath. If some one wanted to make the choli / coat / whatever with standard closed pits or a properly fitted gusset, i am sure that would be a perfectly valid choice. But what we have available now in the way of patterns, generally will require adaptation.

    Now, as someone who studied costume design under a Historically Correct Design Nazi, I cringe at doing this simply because this will change the shape of the garment and the way it moves. Not so much that an uneducated audience would know, but enough.

    And my experience is that most members of the general public who are coming to belly dance events are expecting to be out of their comfort zones, and the cold arm pits are going to be the least of their concerns.

    {{{HUGS}}}


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