Monday, January 13, 2014

The Rise of Hair Falls

This is the first part in a series of articles on my contributions to bellydance style/fashion. Because you wanted to know.  So it's totally your fault. 

It all started with Jessie.

Jessie was a fellow RISD student, majoring in Painting while I majored in Printmaking.  I'm a bit foggy on how we met, but my junior year I had a second studio in the What Cheer Painting studios, so maybe there...or maybe at Club Hell (the local goth club) or maybe through the Cauldron of Annwyn Pagan Society that I led, or maybe whatever that force is that brings like minds somewhere around 1998. She introduced me to the concept of fake hair in unnatural colors, which she was experimenting with.

This development was incredibly exciting for me, as I had discovered that to dye my hair any sort of interesting color took a LOT of bleaching, which my scalp and fine hair did NOT like.  So here finally was a chance to have cool colored hair without the pain and frustration!

Through Jessie (she was known as "Mobile Jessie"), I discovered the work of Lana Guerra, who did amazing things with dye, Ashbet of PsySheep - who made amazing falls and wigs out of incredible yarn, and many other talented hair ladies.  There was a particular online "Fake Hair" board that was central for all discussion in things fake hair in the Goth community - where to get it, how to make it, who to buy from, how to take care of, etc.

I also got into bellydancing shortly after that, and even with my first performance, I had my eyes set on making sure my hair was part of the costume too!  My first attempts involved braids and coins - modeled after the lithographs of Ghawazee dancers (see image above), which used my own hair and added fake hair.

Natural was good for that look, but I wanted the crazy colors! I was on quite the budget, so I had to DIY instead of buying custom. I tried to find the right yarn to make my own hair falls.  Alas, the type of yarn Ashbet and others used "Colinette Point 5" was imported and VERY expensive (to me, about $30-$50 a skein).  This was the yarn that actually looked like REAL dreaded hair, just in really awesome colors (something to make note of!) - and at the time, the only kind like it on the market.

After relocating to California, I came across Sarah of when she was fairly new and starting out (she now has an empire of awesome!).  I had a desire of peacock-colored hairfalls to go with the peacock costume I was making, and her falls were in my price-range, so in 2002 I placed my order!

So here comes shocking truth #1 - the first crazy-colored, dreaded hairfalls were teamed up with a beaded "cabaret" costume - and debuted at Rakkasah 2003, not at a Tribal event! (photo below at a Moroccan restaurant, some point later that year)

It wasn't until I commissioned Sarah for another set of falls - in black/white, with twists - to go with a costume that was more vintage-inspired, that it started to get a little more "Tribal" in look - first to go with a beautiful assuit panel skirt that I had been gifted for Tribal Fest 3, and then a more silent-film inspired costume that I performed in for Festival Fantasia that October. (Festival Fantasia was the Oriental "older sister" counterpart festival to Tribal Fest).  These falls also became the iconic ones that grace the splash page of The Gothic Bellydance Resource. 
"silent film costume"
"assuit panel skirt, ghawazee & sleeves"
I also commissioned Sarah for a "natural" colored set of falls, and then a really luscious extra full "dolly" black set, that debuted with the first ever corset belt and bra (which also happened at Rakkasah - 2004!)
"natural" falls with an early pair of Mardi Love Cowrie tassels

Surprisingly, the falls caused quite a stir.  While cabaret/oriental dancers have been using fake hair - a la wigs and extensions -  for as long as anyone can remember (and there were certainly theatrical productions that utilized all sorts of crazy hair and wigs) - and unnatural colored-hair was seen on punk folks from the early Tribal scene, folks who had dreads naturally (Melodia had gorgeous natural dreads when I met her back in the day) and the Goths had their falls for club nights and dressing up, no one was purposely using crazy-colored, dreaded falls to go explicitly WITH their bellydance costuming. It just made sense to me that my hair should match my costuming! Print and online mags took notice and spread the word.  And I was more than happy to spread the word of my hair lady to anyone who asked!  In fact, the next couple of years, Sarah made bunches of falls for me to sell at events (I believe 2004-2006 at Tribal Fest).
Rakkasah 2004 with Solace, corset bra/belt,
dolly falls, and blue strands, hair tassels
Another view of the "dolly" falls, that also had
black "rex lace" woven in and shiny beads

In 2005, I cut my hair short to a bob to more easily to pursue more vintage/20's style pieces...and to give my scalp a break. My skin never agreed with California, and so on top of heavy falls, which required tight ponytails and buns, and LOTS of hair sticks to stay put, my scalp/hair had taken a beating I had some dreads installed in my hair for about a month - mixing my natural color with blonde (I call this my "Fraggle" stage (see left image, from the first year I taught at Tribal Fest).  The red hair I'm wearing on the cover of the Gothic Bellydance DVD were on large clips.

And after the release of the DVD and touring around the US in 2006, and happily sharing my resources with everyone - the world of hairfalls had exploded in the fusion scene.  It was really was true - everyone and their grandmother had some variety of falls!  Alas, when it came to yarn falls, a lot of folks missed the point of those initial gorgeous PsySheep falls - so a lot of cheap crazy yarn falls hit the stage - and also not a lot of folks got the concept that your falls should look like they are an integrated part of your headdress - not just plopped on top of your head or ponytail.

By late 2006-early 2007, I started focusing more on headdresses and other sorts of headgear to adorn that piece of real estate - the HR Giger headdress that was featured on "Revelations", mini-top hats (another influence I brought in from the Goth scene, and made until folks flooded the market), fascinators, the "Salomatra" Mucha-inspired headdress with braided falls, the Metropolis headdress, and so forth.  (As you may have guessed, I believe it's a very important thing to adorn your head when performing!).

I think it was Tribal Fest 2009 or 2010 when I fell in love with curly braids at the Diva Dreads booth. I had been friends with Brandie and her family for several years, and noted to them that there was definitely a market for excellent hair falls - and someone to show folks how to properly install them! With their mad skills and years of experience of working with braids, dreads, and other fake hair for other markets, they've taken the bellydance world by storm! I ended up custom-ordering a set for me, and more for two of my students - together we performed a siren-inspired piece!  I especially liked that Brandie's falls were on elastics big enough to use as a headband, which was so much gentler on my scalp!
Morgen, Tempest, & Samara with their Diva Dreads curly falls
I also commissioned Brandie to make me two other sets of falls - really big earthy beaded dreads, and twisty ones, that I occasionally use for both performance and just for fun!  Especially when I am going for a more earthy or folkloric look. Some of those dreads ended up getting incorporated into the wig I made for the Klimt piece (I removed the beads and added wire).

Alas, blogger doesn't want to put any more photos or videos where I want them to appear, so we're at an end - but there you have it!


  1. I am so guilty of cheap yarn falls, although I only ever wore them to Ren Faire and such, never performed in them, thank goodness.

    1. "I absolve you of your sins, my bead one necklace for your penance...."

  2. You have me blushing with your lovely words about my falls -- thank you!! <3

    It's a pleasure to see such a gorgeous retrospective -- it's been delightful to watch your style evolve and change over time, and having the photos all in one place brings back happy memories!

    Cheers -- and, as always, keep on bringing beauty and creativity to your practice of dance, and to your hair and costumes!


    -- A <3