Your choice of fabrics, embellishment, and accessories will determine whether your costume looks like a professional dance uniform or a hobbyist outfit just for fun. It will also, of course, have a significant impact on the cost and length of time it takes to make the costume.
When to Use This Design
This design is recommended when:
The basic elements shown here consist of:
A — Head/hair Accessory
Click on either image below to see it in more detail.
The "Sparkly Aesthetic" is best suited to dancers who love glitter and glamor. The "Earthy Aesthetic" is best suited to dancers who prefer natural fibers and embellishments, such as those who embrace the American Tribal Style of belly dance.
"A" - Hair/Head Accessory
Of course, there are many other types of accessories that can be worn on the head, depending on what the rest of the costume looks like. These could include head veils, decorated hair clips, hair extensions, head jewelry, and many others.
The photo on the left above is by John Rickman Photography. The photo on the right is by William M. Smith.
"B" - Keyhole Neckline U-Top or Choli
A company called Atira's Fashions offers a pattern called Marvash's Turkish-Arab Vest for making a keyhole vest like the one pictured above, and Folkwear's Tribal Dancer pattern contains instructions for the choli shown above. Click here for more information on sources for these and other belly dance costume patterns.
"C" - Decorated Bra
The belly dance costume bra consists of a sturdy bra purchased from a lingerie store and then decorated. When trying on bras, take along whatever padding you intend to use so you can see how your bustline will actually look in the completed bra. It is wise to purchase a bra that is slightly larger than the desired finished size, as the stitching used to cover the bra with fabric and decorate it can compress it to a slightly smaller size. Either front-hook or back-hook is acceptable — choose according to which one gives your bustline the most attractive shape when you look in the mirror.
Select a bra that has a hard shell on the cups, not delicate lace — coins and beaded fringe are heavy, and it's necessary to pick a bra that's sturdy enough to support all that weight.
Sometimes dancers replace all the straps on the bra to give it a new shape. For example, they might convert standard one-over-each-shoulder straps to a different style to make the bra look less like underwear. If you are a "C" cup or larger, avoid using a halter strap that goes behind the neck — all the weight of your breasts plus the decorations will give you a genuine pain in the neck after wearing it a while! Instead, either criss-cross the straps in the back or put a T-bar across the back to keep the straps from falling off your shoulders while you dance.
Important note: Cover the entire bra, including all straps and the band. Do this even if you plan to wear a vest over it - because sometime in the future you may want to wear the bra without the vest, or sell it to someone else. There should be no lingerie hardware showing when done, to ensure that the completed item no longer looks like underwear. It looks extremely tacky to perform in a bra that has strap adjustment hardware and original elastic showing - it looks as though the dancer doesn't give a damn about her appearance.
Suggested embellishments for the two different looks appear below in Section "E" - Belt.
"D" - Arm Decorations
If your vest or choli does not have attached sleeves of its own, consider wearing some separate sleeves or gauntlets. Several ideas for sleeve variations are in an article by Dina, the Costume Goddess elsewhere on this web site.
If the choli or vest is made out of a rather plain fabric, wear eye-catching jewelry at the wrists to dress up the overall effect. For an "Earthy Aesthetic", there are many ethnic jewelry options from North Africa and Central Asia that can add interest while coordinating with the overall look.
Both of these photos were taken by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.
Like the Turkish vest, sleeves can provide a little more coverage on the top half of the body, making the dancer feel somewhat less exposed. Their fullness also helps balance the fullness of the circle skirt.
So far as I know, this style of sleeve was invented in the United States. (If anyone reading this can provide me with documented evidence of their origin, I'd be happy to include that information here on this web site.) The sleeves pictured in the "Sparkly Aesthetic" drawing at the beginning of this section are stand-alone, not attached to the vest or any other part of the costume. Their puffiness provides a very feminine look, and they look attractive on just about everybody.
Some dancers are sensitive about having arms that are either too thin or too flabby. These sleeves help ease such concerns, because they cover most of the arm and eliminate one of the worries that can interfere with the dancer delivering her best show.
"E" - Belt
The belt at the hips performs several functions. It:
For the "Earthy Aesthetic", although the bra and belt don't need to match, it is important to plan ahead for the finished look and look for other ways to tie the look together. Without planning and careful thought to what the finished effect will be, the costume risks looking as though the dancer just threw together any old thing without caring about her appearance.
The appealing thing about a coin belt is that it makes noise when you shimmy. That calls attention to your movement and enhances the dance. Beaded fringe also looks very pretty, but it won't jingle the way coins do.
"F" - Full Skirt
Full skirts have long been popular belly dance attire because of the way they swirl and flow with the movement. Even among the Ghawazee
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