Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Camouflage for Jiggly Arms

By Dina Lydia


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The Question

Dear Costume Goddess,

Your figure tips are so helpful. Thank you, thank you for the bellydance costume design tips! I have a new figure problem for you to tackle, O Great One.

Due to genetics, love of pasta, and lack of concentrated exercises, the backs of my upper arms are flabby! As soon as I put my arms up, gravity does its work and I have two half-moons of flabby flesh flapping in the breeze. How can I keep the focus on my wiggling hips, not my jiggling jelly-arms?

Thanks so much for any help you can give.

--Waving 'Hi' in Western Ohio


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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Waving,

It seems to me the bare upper arm is a source of concern for costumed bellydancers second only to the tummy. As with any body part that causes a dancer to be self-conscious, my advice is to cover it beautifully and gracefully. No more anxiety.

I'd first like to mention what NOT to do if you have large or soft upper arms. Don't wear snake armbands, fringed armbands, or any armbands because they tend to draw attention to the area rather than camouflaging the problem. Don't wear fitted gauntlets with tight elastic that cuts into the flesh, for the same reason.

My solution for big arms is - big sleeves. The photo shows how pretty big sleeves can look on a cabaret costume. With my big sleeves on, my arm movements tend to be more flamboyant rather than subtle and snaky - an example of a costume part influencing one's dancing style.

Dina Modeling Red Sleeves

To the right, I've illustrated several styles of sleeves that are good for big arms. Full blousy sleeves, bell-shaped sleeves or ruffled sleeves like mine cover everything, and have a dramatic Gypsy flair.

Choose a soft thin or semi-sheer fabric, perhaps with metallic threads or flecks. You might even cut the sleeves off another garment.

Sleeve Diagram

See my article on sleeves for suggestions on how to make them. If your sleeves are gauntlets that are held up with elastic, try attaching the elastic to the sleeve edge only at two points — the seam and a point opposite the seam. This trick will hold up your gauntlets without revealing any indentation in the flesh, or bunching up the edge of the gauntlet. Another way is to actually tack the sleeve edge to the bra strap at front and back, leaving the shoulder bare. No elastic necessary.

Your sleeves may also be part of a tiny bolero or ghawazee jacket like mine, and this will provide some coverage across your back too, if a bare back feels too revealing. The back of the jacket or the bottom edge could be decorated with tassels, coins, or scalloped trim for an Arabic look and be very charming.

Thank you for your generous compliments, Waving-No-More, I hope this solves your problem.

--The Costume Goddess


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Additional Comments from Shira

The photo to the right shows Shira wearing another example of full, puffy sleeves that cover the upper arm.

These sleeves consist of rectangles of fabric larger than the circumference of the arm. They are gathered to cuffs at the upper and lower edges. Elastic is hidden inside the cuffs to hold them up.

Photo by John Rickman Photography.

Dancers who are self-conscious about their upper arms can follow this tip to reduce the amount of jiggle: If the choreography calls for the arms to be held outstretched to the sides in a "crucifix" position, do not point the elbows toward the ground, because this will increase the amount of upper arm jiggle. Instead, point the elbows toward the wall behind you!

Click on the photo to the right to see more detail.

Another Example of Sleeves


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Related Articles

Other articles on this web site related to costuming for the arms include:


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The contents of this page are copyrighted 2008 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.



About the Costume Goddess

Dina has been sewing for more than twenty-five years (yes, she started as a toddler!)

She's also an artist (Maryland Institute of Art) and perfected her sewing techniques apprenticed to various designers, freelancing for small theaters, restyling vintage garments, and altering wedding gowns.

Dina fell in love with belly dancing costumes upon her very first lesson. Now the pleasure of wearing her own designs, and seeing others wear them, offers as much pleasure as dancing. She's become expert as well in altering those troublesome ready-made Egyptian costumes, and modifying designs to flatter individual figures.

She holds workshops in Seattle to teach design and construction of cabaret costumes, and analysis of figure characteristics. She will also give private lessons, or resize or repair a secondhand costume. She's thus earned her Costume Goddess title.

Photo of Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess

The Costume Goddess Tells All Costuming Books

Dina has published six books of her own on belly dance costuming as well as writing nearly all the costuming section for The Belly Dance Book. For information on her series of books, The Costume Goddess Tells All, see her web site at For reviews here on of some of her books, see:

Photo of Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Costume Goddess Photos

To view a photo gallery featuring pictures of Dina, costumes she has designed, and her friends, either click on the choices below or visit her web site:


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The contents of this page are copyrighted 2009 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.



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