About Flying Skirts


Water Tower Flying Skirts is Gwen Heckeroths' company founded in San Francisco and now located in the Redwoods of Mendocino. Thanks to all my faithful web customers I have been able to expand and move to the beautiful Northern California coast to live and work. The picture is my water tower warehouse!

It all started with full tiered dancing skirts and a whimsical company name. I sewed the skirts on my grandmothers treadle sewing machine, sold them to fellow folk dancers, and called my budding business Flying Skirts. Then I started taking classes in ATS. It was the costuming that had first attracted me (developed by Carolenas Teacher Masha Archer and added to by Carolena and many many troupe members). Now I dived into creating my own versions! Skirts, bloomers, cholis, belts, and bras -- oh my! . With the perfect setup for innovation, and willing guinea pigs, I'd experiment to get a comfortable fit and then see how it worked in the dance. I must have modified the choli pattern ( thank you Carolena for drafting the original!) 20 times before I got the sleek functional top that I could call the easy-fit choli. Then there was the experimenting with skirt fullness! Did an 8 yard skirt fly as high as a ten yard? did 12 yards improve the flight or impede it? And fabric, how did silk compare with cotton? And color! I learned to hand dye silks and cottons to get the colors I craved. It was wonderful to be able to try a new style or modification and then take it to practice for my tribal sisters. As we danced I kept an eye on how my creations functioned, flowed, and fit over a wide range of body types. It was an exciting time! I lived with creativity every day and was amazed at how eagerly my designs were received and incorporated into the growing Tribal Dance lexicon.

Kajira wrote in The Tribal Bible "Today there are a great many costume suppliers and talented seamstresses who supply the Tribal Belly Dance community with our trademark finery. In my educated opinion everyone of them owes Gwen a hearty "thank you" as her designs and creative vision have inspired so many outright copies and variations"

I would not put it as strongly as that (but thanks Kajira). I had the work of Tribal dancers before me to study, and all costumers inspire and inform each other! I have been a bit shocked (and ambivalently gratified?) to see my company name join the vernacular- much like kleenex or xerox- you can see many flying skirts advertised for sale out on the web that have nothing to do with me!

In the end my greatest delight continues to be encourageing creativity and self expression in dancers using that old familiar childhood tool "playing dress-up" and its deeper aspect of enrobing to invoke the Goddess within.