Thursday, 9 April 2015

Open Bra Surgery - What goes into a Dance Bra Reconstruction

So I thought I would do a blog post on what goes into re-working a bra. I recently had a commission through which involved changing the shape and size of a much loved dance costume, and managed to take photos of the process, and thought I would share these to show what really goes into having to "refurbish" a dance bra!

So this was the original bra... It was a lovely "Dina" style cup, however the cup size was far too small for the owner, and the cups were too rigid to accommodate any flexibility in size or style. As much as I love Dina bras, they can be very unflattering if you aren't the right body shape! The aim of the game here was to try and recreate the design as much as possible, whilst making the bra larger and a more comfortable design.
There are a few ways you can do this, depending on the look you want to achieve, however I decided to go down the route of using a completely new bra, and re-covering and embroidering. I felt this would give the best fit, and it meant that myself and the client were able to go through plenty of different bra designs and sizes to make sure we picked the perfect fit. The first step of creating the new bra was chopping off the old straps, and covering the bra with a lining fabric. This bra was actually a swimsuit bra and so fairly rigid, and because there was not any very heavy embellishment, I could get away with not having to reinforce with any heavy duty lining or interfacing.

I then began transferring the fabric over. I call this part the open bra surgery as it involves gently unpicking every single stitch on the old bra, so that we can preserve as much fabric as possible, as well as all the beadwork which I stored in handy jars for later.

As you can see I've now made fine progress - the fabric is transferred, the bra is taking shape. What you may find if you are working on something similar is that you might have to fabric match. Luckily with this particular fabric I was able to match some similar silks in a matching cream and blue - however, what I tend to recommend is if you can't find a matching patterned fabric, I would go with a plain fabric with of the dominant colour within the pattern. If you can't find a match for a plain fabric you have - go with contrasting! See what looks best, just because you are re-furbing a bra, doesn't mean you have to stick to the original exactly.

And this is the bra during all the painstaking beadwork! At this point I was glad I took reference photos as it gets to a point where you forget what the original looked like! Everything on this was beaded by hand. I was very lucky with this particular costume as the owner is a very dedicated dancer and takes really good care of her costumes, and so I didn't need to replace any beads. If you are finding you need to replace beads however, go for the best quality you can find - glass beads give the best shine, I tend to spend at least £10 for 30 large cut glass beads, and they really do sparkle!

A few tips for if you are planning to re-work or fix up any old costumes:
1. Crystals are the first thing to deteriorate. Make sure if you are planning to sew or hot fix any crystals on to your costumes that they are A grade standard or Swarovski. A Grade are great as they are a close replica of Swarovski, however they are a little bit cheaper if you are saving your pennies. Of course, nothing beats the shimmer of Swarovski crystals! A BIG no-no for costumes is Acrylic Crystals - you know the ones, plastic, gaudy and CHEAP. I wouldn't touch those with a barge pole unless I was making throw-away garments/costumes, and neither should you!
2. Keep the straps! Sometimes when you are re-working a costume, you can re-use the straps! This can be great if you just want to change the cup size, but everything else is a-ok. And if nothing else - you can re-use the clasps on other costumes!
3. Always keep spare beads and crystals. They come in handy for repairs and re-working costumes. I like to keep some matching spares in a little tub in with each costume - so if I'm ever off to do a gig and find a crystal is missing, I can quickly re-do it before I go out! Get in the habit of checking these things, as the last thing you want is missing gemstones on your best cossie!
Good luck!
Final Note for the Day:
If you are looking for crystals, check out Eimass - these guys produce incredible hot fix, and sew on crystals and gems, and I have always found them to be a lovely quality. Shhh! It's our little secret!

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks -

Monday, 30 March 2015

It’s all about cross-training!

And I’m not talking about that crazy gym equipment – I’m talking about taking time to work on different aspects of your body and mind in order to benefit your dance. In this particular article I am going to be looking at how to cross – train to improve your creativity!
Dance is an unusual creature – ticking both physical and creative boxes, and because it’s so demanding on the body and mind, sometimes it can suck your creative well dry! And this is where cross training comes in.

Cross-training refers to an athlete training in sports other than the one that the athlete competes in, with a goal of improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to negate the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weaknesses.”

For dance – I feel that cross training doesn’t apply to just the physical aspects of the dance alone. It applies to the creative side too!

Find a release for your creativity when dancing just won’t do. For me – painting and art is a way to improve my creativity, to re-set any artistic frustrations I’ve been feeling, and give my brain a chance to re-adjust and get back into dance again. Especially after a particularly busy dance period – it can be nice to take time out, reset, and then begin again!

Looking at different art forms can also add to potential choreography ideas, and jog the creative juices. Paintings, Music, Theatre, Film, Literature – all these mediums can create some really strong images and ideas that can kick start a choreography – and personally I feel it’s good practice to really immerse yourself in these in order to engage and train your brain to think creatively and outside the box! Something that I always find really engages me is period dramas and antiquated fashions. I love pouring over old books on the Tudor court, Victorian clothing, and old fairy tales from bygone eras. They really conjure up a sense of beauty, of poignancy, of the magic of history that for some reason really gets me going artistically.

Find something that works for you and embrace it! One of my dance colleagues found inspiration watching a skirt dance from the 1800’s on a historical BBC programme! You never know what might inspire your next performance, costume, or music choice.

Never say never – you might be frightened to pick up a paintbrush, write a poem, or feel that reading is just not your thing – that’s ok! But don’t rule these things out. They may seem like you are goofing off, and not dancing – but they will benefit your choreographies, costumes and theatricality no end!

I hope this helps you to work on your creativity within dance. Some of my best ideas have come to me when reading a novel, listening to an unusual radio show ( BBC R2 Folk Show has given me some goodies!) and when visiting galleries or unusual places! Above all – be open, and let the world be your oyster!

Final Note for the Day:
Take a chance to have a look at one of my favourite websites Pinterest. It's incredible how images can really trigger ideas, thoughts and emotions - and the best thing about this site? You can save your own ideas on your very own moodboard! You can see my pinterest boards here.

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks -

Thursday, 29 January 2015

What are your priorities?

So this blog post has been a long time coming - over the Christmas season I indulged and took some time away from dance to really focus on me and have some delicious "down time".

And I'm glad I did!

This year has already been a crazy year - and it's only the end of January!

I've started a new day job - working for an incredible Hospice within Fundraising, which is a blast! And really is a rewarding career. I'm buying a house with my gorgeous partner in dance, and in life, Jim, and to top it all off am teaching some amazing classes, creating some beautiful costumes and working on my yoga practice!

This got me to thinking - how on earth am I going to decide what takes priority, and how am I going to fit all this darn stuff in to my week!?
I thought I would share with you, ways to prioritise, organise, and work out your time, so that you get the most from all of your hobbies, dance activities, and your work!

1. Prioritise what you love - This is something that Amy Sigil says in one of her Datura Online classes that really stuck with me. If you LOVE dance - schedule that in to your week first. Make specific time slots in your diary, whether its an hour before work, or 15 minutes when you get home before you cook tea, make sure you schedule it in, so you get to do what you love. Same goes for other things - like if you love having a bath, schedule it in! Make time for the things you love! It may mean waking up half an hour earlier, but sometimes, it really is worth it.

2. Get rid of the things that don't make you feel excited - Is that Zumba class just a bind? Ditch it. Is trying to swim once a week just eating into precious drawing or sewing time? Ditch it. Do you resent having to sew a bellydance costume for your next show? Ditch it. Your free time is precious, don't waste it on sub par activities that don't excite you. Instead, dedicate more time to the thing you love, or find an activity that does excite you! It can feel tough, you may feel obliged to keep going to those rotary club meetings, or monthly bake sales, but if you aren't passionate about it, and it doesn't get your juices flowing - find something that does! Learn to be ruthless with your most precious commodity - time.

3. Plan Ahead - Make a point of planning things in advance. This will really help you to work out what works for you and your schedule, and also what you can fit into your year! I don't know about you, but I very often say I will do things, or go places, and at the end of the year, nothing's changed! Planning in advance will really help that - you will be more likely to stick to your plans, and it also gives you more things to look forward to!

4. Get a calendar - and use it! - It may take a bit of time to get into the habit of using a calendar, but by gum does it make life easier when planning, organising and arranging your time. I love my gmail calendar as I can sync it to my phone, laptop and emails, and can sort out nifty reminders and alerts. You should see some of the things I schedule in - sometimes stuff as mundane as taking an hour for a bath and pamper session - but if you don't plan it in somewhere, you'll never get round to it!

I hope these tips help you guys to start thinking about your own schedules and the way you organise your time, above all though - make sure you make yourself the top priority.

Final Note for the Day:
Play around with ways to plan your time - spreasdsheets, calendars, diaries - use what works for you best! I often use a mixtures of excel, diaries, and more often than not, post-its!

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks -