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A Review of

The Costume Goddess Tells All:
Cabaret Belt & Bra for Bellydancers

by Dina Lydia




Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess, provides detailed instructions for creating the bra / belt sets used in the archetypal belly dance costume. Cover



Fact Sheet


The Costume Goddess Tells All, Volume 3:
Cabaret Belt and Bra for Bellydancers


Dina Lydia




Dina Lydia & Blair Johnson


Nonfiction: Costume Instruction



Number of Pages


Published In





This is Volume 3 in a series of books about belly dance costuming written by Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess. It provides detailed information on how to make a bedlah (bra / belt set) suitable for nightclub-style belly dancing. (Bedlah is the term Egyptian dancers use to refer to their bra / belt / skirt costumes. It's the Arabic word for "suit".)

The book opens with a photo gallery showing pictures of 12 different dancers wearing 20 different bedlah costumes. Many of the pictures show both front and back views. There are a couple of additional costume pictures elsewhere in the book.

Next is a section that talks about the basics of belly dance costume design: color, design lines, and fabric. Since this topic is covered in great detail in Volume 1 of the Costume Goddess books (Flattering Costume for Bellydancers), this section of this book addresses just the most crucial points.

The third major section focuses in on designing the belt. It provides ideas for a variety of belt shapes to stimulate creative thinking. Dina provides excellent detail on how to create a personalized belt pattern that will really fit the curvy female figure, without unsightly gaps. I found that it took me a great deal of time to work through the overall belt section because it contained a large amount of information. You may find it best to read a few paragraphs, then go off and implement the skills presented there, then return to read some more. Otherwise, you may find it hard to retain all that information. Since I sometimes make my own belts, I read the section carefully, and the advice it gave was quite valid. If you follow Dina's detailed advice carefully, you should end up with a finished belt that fits well and looks great.

The costume bra section opens with a discussion of how to shop for a bra that will be used as the foundation for the finished costume, including appropriate advice for generously-endowed dancers. The section on how to cover a bra with costume fabric was full of helpful advice, and also offers useful tips for creating a decoratively-shaped top edge that makes the bra look more like a costume, less like lingerie. A large number of drawings show a wide range of ideas for designing the straps.

The decoration section addresses use of coins, beads, tassels, fringe, jewelry parts, and drapes for decorating the bra. It emphasizes the glittery nightclub look, rather than the more folkloric coins & chains look. A series of drawings show ideas for drape and fringe placement on both bras and belts, and includes information on how to make your own bead / sequin appliques.

The tummy covers section is just one page, and shows pictures of six tummy cover options with a brief phrase identifying how each was made.

The book ends with comments on caring for the costume.

Dina is very opinionated, and it shows. My advice: if she says something you disagree with, stop and give it some thought. Consider whether she might have a valid point. If you conclude that you still disagree with her after thinking about her logic, then go ahead and make your costume the way you want it to be. But if you don't have much experience with belly dancing costumes in general, you might want to stick close to her advice for your first one because it could be devastating if your first effort doesn't turn out well. You can always experiment with your own ideas after you have gained more experience as a dancer and a costume maker.



Is It Right for You?


You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You have enough prior sewing experience to feel comfortable with an intermediate-level sewing project.
  • You want instructions on making bra / belt sets for use in a belly dance costume.
  • You need guidance in how to make clothing patterns that fit you properly.
  • You enjoy Dina's Ask the Costume Goddess column here on the web site, particularly the ones on bras and belts. (The ones related to bras and belts are listed in the "Related Articles" section at the bottom of this page.
  • You found the costuming section of The Belly Dance Book edited by Tazz Richards to be valuable. (That section was written and illustrated by Dina.)


This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You are a novice at sewing, and not secure in your skills.



What I Liked, What I Didn't


What I Liked:

  • Based on my own experience in making my own costumes, I can say with confidence that the instructions for fitting, cutting, and constructing these costume items contain good sewing technique, valuable details, and enough illustrations to demonstrate each step.
  • The entire book is beautifully illustrated with many detailed drawings.
  • All the drawings provide a useful function of helping clarify whatever the text is explaining.
  • Because the drawings are all done by the same artist, they have a consistent look and feel throughout the book.
  • The suggestions for various strap designs, belt shapes, fringe and drape approaches, and decorations offer a nice variety of ideas to inspire your creative energy so that your own bra / belt set won't look like it came off the same assembly line as everyone else's.
  • The opening photo gallery illustrates a variety of costumes that utilize several different decoration approaches. Seeing how these finished products look should make it easy for costuming newcomers to make good choices in developing their own creations.
  • The book provides some appealing ideas for bra/belt sets that look attractive but don't require the many hours of beading required to make the Egyptian and Turkish-style ones.
  • The text is well-written. It is easy to read, and explains its points well.
  • I find the humorous style of writing to be entertaining.


What I Didn't Like:

  • All photos in the book were of slender and medium-sized models - there were no photos of plus-sized dancers in the photo gallery. It would have been nice to have more diversity in body types, especially to show how a plus-sized dancer can look good even in a bedlah costume with the right accessories.
  • Although the advice that the book contained for larger dancers was appropriate, in many cases it could have gone farther. One example of an area that I felt could have used more "coverage" was the section on tummy covers. The ideas it gave were good ideas, but it was just one page with brief comments, and would probably leave a queen-sized dancer hungry for more. There were other such examples as well.
  • Like many other belly dancing books, this one is bound with plastic spiral binding. Although this binding does help keep the cost of the book down, it takes more space on my bookshelf than other binding types and it's hard for me to tell which book is which when I'm looking at the spines of several spiral-bound books side-by-side.




If you don't have much sewing experience, I wouldn't advise doing a bra / belt set for your first effort. Although Dina does provide a large amount of detail in her instructions and explains things well, these projects are not easy. Start with skirts, veils, simple sleeves, and other easy items first, and don't tackle bedlah until you have more sewing confidence.

Assuming you do have enough sewing experience to tackle this project, Dina's instructions on creating a bra / belt set will definitely lead you in the right direction. I would gladly recommend this book to dancers who feel ready to take on such a project.




My association with Dina (the author) began when she offered to write an Ask the Costume Goddess column for this web site. She is a valued contributor, and I much appreciate the many articles that she wrote for me.



To Buy It


Contact Information

Dina Lydia
P.O. Box 30878
Seattle,WA 98103-0878

Web Site:



Related Articles

These articles were written by Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess on the subject of making bra / belt sets for belly dance costumes. If you find these articles useful, then there is a strong chance you would enjoy an entire book written by her on this subject.




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