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Do you find it hard to find the perfect flamenco costume because you are not living in Spain? Despair no longer, because with these easy steps you can now simply make one yourself.

Performance by Camine Flamenco at Maison des Cultures (picture by Lieven SOETE).

Performance by Camine Flamenco at Maison des Cultures (picture by Lieven SOETE).

Step one: choose the style
Starting from the hip or in the waist, wide or narrow, with or without ruffles, little or lots of them. Most flamenco skirts and dresses are divided into panels called godets that become wider towards the floor to create width. To make a skirt even wider, triangular inserts (or gores) are added. Ruffles can be places around the bottom or as a waterfall in the back. Look at examples from flamencoshop.es for inspiration.

Step two: draw the pattern
It is good to have a pattern for your flamenco skirt to start from. Elaine Fraser explains how you make one. It lets you calculate the dimensions for the panels of the skirt, which look something like upside down funnels. This diagram shows how the numbers transfer to the shape:

Picture from Elaine Fraser

Flamenco pattern and calculator by Elaine Fraser

Her pattern calculator also advices how much fabric to buy for the panels, but be careful! You might want to add some ruffles to your skirt. You can calculate your need for fabric for these too with her calculator for circular ruffles. Making them looks like creating several donut shapes that you sew together to create beautiful, high volume frills.

Image by sinnimaria on Crafster

Flamenco ruffles impression by sinnimaria on Crafster

Advice: plan how you will take the panels and ruffles out of the fabric. You might be able to panels and ruffles next to each other (if you make decide to make them of the same fabric) than the calculator advices you. I was able to make a skirt with 6 panels and 2 ruffles with 4,5 meters of fabric for the panels and upper ruffle and 2 meters for the lower ruffle.

Step three: find your fabric
The fabric you choose will define the character of your costume; it can be traditional black and red with polka dots, or it can be outrageously bright with flowers. For a light and easy moving skirt, ideal for dancing, I advise you to look for polyester crepe fabric.

Flamenco fabric

Crepe polyester by flamencokleding.nl

Step four: use lots of thread
Take out your sewing machine or ask a friend and put together all the sides of the panels, leaving room for a zip. Add the ruffles on the bottom and to finish them cut them off evenly and put a zic-zac stitch at the edge. Use a serger (or overlocker) for a professional finish. You will be sewing lot’s of meter’s of fabric, so take your time, and thread!

Step five: enjoy and dance!

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During the Cultural Sunday on Whit Monday, one of the things I visited was the Dance Centre Utrecht. Modern ballet dancers performed an improvisation of which the rules were something as follows (accumulating as time passes):

  • walk forward and backward and lie down on the floor
  • crouch
  • turn around
  • change lanes by shifting sideways
  • introduce another movement
  • turn 90 degrees, allowing movement along the other axis (left, right)
  • move freely, allowing bends and curves

Each new rule would be added when one of the dancers would execute its action (crouching meant that everyone could crouch). The performers were stimulated to copy movements of their neighbours.

The rules lead to a very entertaining whole of movement in ascending complexity. A 3D Mondriaan painting that came to life. The copycat behaviour and later the changing of lanes brought about encounters between the performers, adding a clear game-character to the improvisation exercise. Also, personalities became apparent (or seemed to do so) when dominant dancers forced others to humbly step aside.

A good example of how simple rules, a number of “players” and an outlined space (ball room) lead to interesting game play.

Two modern dancers meet

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