Hoop Wear for Grownups
I attended several classes at the 2008 Hoop Convergence held in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, NC. I can’t say what I expected; I did note that while I may not have been the oldest hooper in attendance, I hit the 90th percentile. Same could be said about BMI. By the time I left the last class, I was feeling quite out of sorts with my life, and the feeling took a while to crystallize into something I could take action on. The next day, I found myself at JoAnne Fabrics, and then I was able to identify the problem: I wanted hoop costumes. Many of the women attending the Convergence had worn “fancy” hoop gear–midriff tops, tightly fitted flared dance pants, some ruffled skirts; “outfits” is the term used in the South. I wore clean sweats and tank tops. Boring.
To date, I have been hooping in some weather-appropriate version of shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, with tights and a hat in the colder months. On show days, I simply wear a better version of this, without the paint stains, with sparkly earrings.
There are plenty of links to hoop wear on various professional hoopers’ websites. Some of the women make performance wear as source of income; many have close links to the performance and costume industry. To say the least, little of what I’ve seen suits my style, or my market. At this height:waist ratio, we’re not going out with bared midriff, no matter how much easier it is to hoop against skin. Bare arms are pushing it.
The design challenge is two-fold. The first is my own older-than-average-hooper’s body, and the second is my market. I’m not hooping at Burning Man. I’m hooping at small street fairs and community events in the more rural parts of what is still primarily a rural county, in a predominantly rural state. We don’t see a lot of facial piercings south of NC 64. Not too many women flash tattoos on public skin. The first people who walked through the last street fair I worked gave me a Bible. So I’ll leave the bare midriff and the sliced dance pants and fake fur leg warmers to a different audience. I don’t quite understand hair extensions myself, and personally, I think the grey is a validator (you’re right I’m older and if I can do it, so can you) so I don’t see any value in covering up my hair. (I may think of something to wear in the 4th of July parade, however, both for shade and for flash.)
In defense of the Carrboro hoop community, there is a significant emphasis on hooping in full skirts, with the hem of the skirt serving as a second hoop. This had given me some ideas in the past. A full circle skirt, however, flares out too high at the waist and interferes with lifts and spinning.
At JoAnne Fabrics that Monday afternoon, I meandered through the rolls of fabric. I had made one “costume” to date; shimmery wrist bands for a brief performance at the 2006 Pittsboro Street Fair. They helped the show. Now I wanted more. Unexpectedly, JoAnne’s was in the middle of a good sale, with lots of fabric marked down to $2 / yard. I hit pay dirt.
Over two trips, I came away with: Two pieces of vibrant floral-on-black coordinating prints (one stripe, one floral) in polyester with pink holographic spangles across the fabric. I didn’t realize the second piece also had spangles until I unfolded it at the washing machine at home. Three pieces of spangles-on-mesh in silver, red, and green. The green will be stashed for a costume party in an Outer Space theme (Girl from the Green Dimension, for Lost in Space fans); the red is for inventory, and the silver will become a skirt for the Goldsboro 4th of July parade. I was envious of the cheerleaders in the 2007 parade who had Mylar pompoms; now I’ll be spinning off sparkles when I turn as well.
Finally, an entire remnant roll (6 yards) of two-tone curtain gauze, in red and blue blurring to purple, embroidered. You’ve seen the same finish on cars… I wasn’t sure what this was going to be (very sheer) until I found a ball gown at the thrift shop with a similar fabric as the overskirt, above a solid underlayer and tulle petticoat. The flare of the overskirt is exactly the shape I want, fitted at the hips and flaring to a full circle. The dress itself is size 5/6, which is a long long way from large enough. I am hoping to cut the skirt a bit lower into the circle, where it opens up a bit, and still have it fitted into a flare. I’ll use the black gauze from the dress as the pattern for my own fabric. The dress cost $30 at the thrift shop which is a bit steep, but I’m hoping that I’ll save at least that much by not having to make a lining and underskirt from scratch.
I probably have a dozen patterns that I could adapt, but that’s hard to remember when you’re in the store with all the pretty pattern books. I specifically did NOT want the basic “tiered, gathered” skirt with gathers at the waistband. I wanted a flamenco skirt, but it turns out that’s not exactly a specific style. Several suppliers to the DanceSport field make variants of their own; one site even sells a pattern for $45. That was a bit much.
I purchased Vogue 8295 Easy Options; it has a hip yoke, what appears to be a circle skirt flaring from the yoke, and a second band at the bottom, which could be doubled into gathers (but is not shown as such in the pattern). The pieces are cut on fold lines which make them easy to adjust for size, and the skirt would gather if it should happen that my hips get smaller. At this point, I’m imagining that I will line the yoke with something grippy so that the skirt itself doesn’t slide around me as I hoop. I am also thinking of making an inner dance short, but I haven’t worked that part out yet. Yet one more option is to cut the outer top band out of some grippy fabric, such as stretch velvet. It would also be good to cut that piece a bit longer, but I haven’t figured out how to adjust the circumference of the next band to accomodate that change. It is easy enough to extend the length of the third band and add extra “twirl” there. When the third band is laid out on the fabric, it’s also easy to add “handkerchief” points because the band arcs across the full width of the fabric, limiting the additional length available at the seams, but allowing extra to be added at the quarter points.
I started with the black floral & stripe spangled fabric, two yards of each pattern. The stripe is marginally see-through, and at first I thought to use that for the middle of the skirt. However, the flare of the circle would mean piecing the stripes to create chevrons, and then I realized that it would be easier to line the yoke with something opaque, and using the strip on the lower band would be fun rather than overly revealing. If I used the floral on the middle band, no-one would notice that the flowers moved from straight grain into bias.
Apart from one sticky moment when I realized that if I lengthened the middle band, I had to adjust the amount of lower band I cut (think concentric circles), so far so good. The spangles don’t like to be pinned. I need to think about how to finish the seams on this fabric.
In between cutting out and sitting down to sew up this skirt, we were invited to participate in Fiesta Latina, an outdoor event sponsored by the Hispanic Liaison. I need to wear this skirt at that party. As I write this, I am just beginning to think of making dance shorts from the rainbow sparkle fabric I found in my own stash, but I think they may turn out to be too hot. Stay tuned.
Sewing Vogue 8295
Because I had pieced the lower-edge panels, I had to seam them first before I could assemble the skirt and test the length. I sewed all the vertical seams in one step, then stepped back to pin the three tiers to each other. It was late. I should have stopped. When I set the top two tiers together, I knew something was off because I had too much on the second tier, and the picture didn’t show gathers. But I assumed that maybe I had enlarged the pattern a little too much, and simply gathered up the second tier and made it fit.
Fortunately, I only sewed the seam together with a single line of stitching and didn’t finish and trim the edge first. As I held up the two tiers to see how the seam looked, I saw the problem. Instead of “small circle to small circle” the way many facing parts go together, I should have pinned “large edge to small edge,” to make a smooth cone. Years ago, I knew I had to stop sewing by 9 pm because after that, I made my expensive mistakes and any time “saved” by sewing later would only be used up in unpicking the next time out. Looks like I may have to move that deadline up a little now.
Eventually, I got the seam unpicked and the tiers pinned together the way the pattern suggests, and sewn, and it looks good. The little spangly bits are hard on my needle. I don’t have enough pins in the house to pin out all the horizontal seams at the same time, but it’s coming together. I made the right decision to put the stripes at the top and bottom rather than in the middle tier.
4th of July Parade
The event for which I needed the black floral sparkly skirt was cancelled, so that project went to the back burner. All of a sudden, June was gone and I was facing the Goldsboro Jaycees’ 4th of July Parade, with nothing new to wear. At least I had fabric on hand, and a plan, and enough time to put the plan into action. I didn’t have a full red-white-and-blue ensemble, as I had thought about making after the 2007 parade, but sparkles are sparkles and than would have to do. One adjustment that made the entire process easier was raising my cutting table by the height of a 2# coffee can, filled with concrete. I had noticed extreme backache from not much effort invested in cutting out the first hoop skirt and I didn’t want to go through that again. Commercially-available risers for tables and couches cost real money; there are several sacks of half-used concrete around this house at any time. Concrete, coffee can, spray paint to make it look a little nicer, and carpet scraps to pad the floor, and I’m set. Made cutting the fabric MUCH easier.
Cut, pin, sew, fix. This fabric is a lightweight mesh knit in black and silver, not very much more substantial than nylon hosiery or perhaps dance tights. Impossible to unpick mistakes without nicking the fabric, but so sparkly that you can’t spot the repair. Futhermore, it starts to stick to my iron at the lowest heat setting. At least this time, I was expecting the problem of pinning the concentric circles to each other, and started with large-edge to small edge, so I didn’t have to undo that mistake.
Because I wanted maximum sparkle and had no particular plans for the remnants, I cut the last tier with a “dip” making a handkerchief hem, in effect, and giving me a few more spangles. This put part of the hem edge on a part of the fabric that curled on itself naturally, making half the hem simple. The rest will have to be pinned first.
The pattern calls for a self-fabric yoke made on the first tier pattern piece. Either I forgot to “cut 4 on fold” and only cut two, or I lost that lining piece. No matter. This fabric is utterly sheer where it’s not spangled, and I wanted a bit more coverage for the parade. I rooted through my stash of used clothing waiting to be turned into rugs, and found the inner lining of a party dress in black taffeta. It was hemmed already, and the perfect circumference, and reached to mid-thigh which is all I needed. The extra body from the taffeta makes the spangled fabric drape a bit better, too. I tested the almost-finished skirt at hoop class on Wednesday. It works pretty well. I wouldn’t mind a little more flare in the lower tiers, and maybe if I make it again, I’ll experiment with adding gores or gathers (lowest tier only). The waist yoke solves the problem of moving the flare away from my waist, where it would interfere with lifts and the vortex hand-off.
If there’s time this afternoon, I am still hoping to make a tiara out of an old baseball cap (cut the hat part off, saving the band, then cut the brim into star-points, decorate, and wear upside down. It gives a Statue of Liberty look. Wrist bands are another possibility, time allowed. My parade hoop is a 5′ diameter, 1″/100 PSI hoop with silver holographic and white with black accents cloth tape. It’s not exactly a traditional 4th of July ensemble, but should I have an opportunity to hoop in a different type of parade, it will work.
Ball Gown Reconstruction
Note: Consider turning the dress into an underskirt and a sheer overskirt, so that I can wear the black overskirt to the Penguin Party and then switch it out with the color morphing skirt for other occasions.
Note: I bought a silk dress at the Beggars and Choosers bargain basement this weekend for $5. It was too small, but the skirt gathered into the bodice and I thought there might be enough fabric in the gathers to more than circle me. After washing and drying the dress to get any shrinkage out of the way (if you’re paying $5 for the starter kit, you don’t want to be signing up for a life of dry cleaning), I cut the bodice off immediately above the gathers. Right away, I thought I should have basted the interlining to the outer fabric first, but I was able to recover. This leaves me thinking I should perhaps baste the two inner layers of the ballgown together before cutting them apart.
Furthermore, in terms of hoop wear, I’m not sure that a separate gauze overskirt is the best answer. That puts an additional layer of slip between the driving power of my hips and the surface of the hoop. As it is, hooping in skirts can result in a full-body twist. I suspect Velcro is going to make an appearance in this garment before it’s all over.