Costuming

Okay, I know you’ve probably heard or read other dancers discussing proper belly dance costuming, but apparently we aren’t speaking loudly enough, or typing fast enough.  Or something.  Because this is still not getting the attention it deserves.

Everyone has costuming problems.  I have yet to sit through a belly dance show without some sort of costume mishap.  And sometimes, it’s even my mishap.  It happens to us all.  No matter how many times we practice in it and how many metal detectors go off because of the safety pins, when you get on stage a skirt will slip a little too far.  Or you have no idea what you were thinking when you bought that latest fringed crasseled monstrosity.  Or your hair flowers are determined to fall off everywhere you go, even after resorting to Super Glue.   Or the color ended up looking hideous on you after all.  I’ve even seen an A-list belly dance star, in a professional show, actually stop dancing to remove a costume piece that was not cooperating (she handled it gracefully and with a sense of humor, so it was not embarrassing).  It happens, and it happens to all of us.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that we can do to prevent it.  There are guidelines we can follow to present ourselves as professional dancers, and not professional strippers.  Yes, I just said that.

Rule #1:  NO UNCOVERED BRAS.  This continues the stereotype that we are strippers, and is UNACCEPTABLE.  If an audience can see the bra straps and hooks, it is not properly covered.  A single swag of beads or a few feathers glued onto a lingerie bra is NOT a costume.  Do you really want your audience to be thinking, “Is she wearing…a bra?”  No, they should be thinking, “Wow, what a beautiful costume.  Look at the bead work.”  We are NOT up there to dance in our underwear.  If funding is an issue, there are functional new costumes available for less than $200, and used ones on Bhuz.com, eBay, etc. for less (or more).

Rule #2:  NO VISIBLE SAFETY PINS.  Yes, we all use safety pins to make sure that our belts don’t migrate around our skirts, but they should not be visible.  Also, if you are concerned that your bra will pop open, you should consider stronger (or more) hooks (the proper kind, NOT the lingerie kind) and placing a safety pin on the UNDERSIDE of the strap.  This will probably require assistance but is better than having a huge, visible safety pin obviously keeping your bra closed.  You can disregard this rule for any 70s/80s punk-inspired looks.

Rule #3: WEAR A COSTUME THAT FITS.  Be honest with yourself.  Belly dance is a beautiful art form that embraces women of all sizes and ages–and that’s one of its most wonderful aspects.  But no matter how thin or fat or in-between you are, muffin tops and armpit bulges are not pretty.  This also goes the other way.  If you have to stuff a sock in it, you need to get a smaller size.  Yes, we CAN see the sock.  If your skirt slips, add elastic, safety pins, or wear a body stocking to pin it to.  (Disclaimer: I’ve probably made this mistake the most…because I lost a lot of weight and suddenly nothing fit and I had gigs.  But I got new costumes ASAP.)

Rule #4: WEAR A COSTUME THAT FITS THE PIECE.  Asharah recently posted a blog that should be required reading for any belly dancer.  If you are performing a classic Egyptian piece, don’t wear yoga pants, please.  Although there is such a thing as tribaret costuming, and that’s cool.  Just don’t call it a classical Egyptian piece.  People will be confused when they expect a bright shiny bedlah or a sleek and modest dress and end up with yoga pants and a halter top.  If you read my previous post, you should know that I have NO problem with fusion and pushing boundaries.  But your costume should still match the piece.  When I danced as a zombie Nurse from the Silent Hill games , I dressed like a zombie Nurse from the Silent Hill games.  No shiny things there.  And yes, there was fake blood, just like I promised.

Rule #5:  PRIVATES REMAIN PRIVATE, meaning your costume should fit (see above) and should be modest enough that your privates do not hang or pop out, even in your most athletic movements.  It also means you should be wearing proper underwear for the costume.  I’m not saying don’t wear daring costumes; I’m saying make sure they are merely daring and not scandalous.

This topic is getting into dead-horse territory, yet I still see these mistakes.  I’ve even made some of them myself.  This post isn’t meant to point fingers or embarrass anyone;  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had some whoopsie costume moments.  I fix the problem and move on, and so should you!

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About Kamrah

Kamrah is a belly dancer in Chicago, IL. They started belly dance as an exercise routine but it turned into a passion for dance that has not lessened, even after more than a decade. They have a powerful presence on the stage, and is particularly known for their amazing shimmies. Kamrah is also known as a very versatile belly dancer, and audiences have come to expect the unexpected from them. Performances can be anything from traditional Egyptian, to tribal fusion, to fantasy cosplay (costume play) pieces.

4 responses to “Costuming”

  1. Intermittante says :

    Thanks for your advice. I’m in a group of dancers that’s been only dancing for a year but we’re very eager to start our costuming. Most of us bought our first belts and some of us already had a taste of too heavy belts, belts that slide off too easy, clothing that doesn’t feel fitting, clothing that just isn’t fit for what we want to do..

    These sort of insights remain prudent if you ask me, because there’ll always be someone like me out there who doesn’t know it just yet.

    Thanks for educating! 🙂

    • kamrah says :

      You are most welcome! I’m glad that the post was helpful, and that if we do spread the word enough, it will, eventually, get out there. I’m hoping to do more posts of costuming tips and tricks soon, too!

      • Intermittante says :

        Awesome. It’s such a big, unexplored world as of yet that I feel like I can use any info and help I can get ;p

        So much appreciated! Will be reading 🙂

  2. Laura (Laela Saeed - Desert Petals) says :

    Why am I not reading your blog regularly already!? (I saw you via Asharah’s recent post.) Agree with you 100%.

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