October 29, 2015
I want to talk about costuming! Yes, it’s almost Halloween, but I’m going to talk about belly dance costumes! The photo above is a fun picture of a group of my students in diverse costumes taken by Fred Herinckx.
When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was to play dress-up. I loved to pretend I was a princess or fairy or pioneer woman, and I would spend hours creating different costumes from whatever I could get my hands on from scarves to high heels to sheets!
So, when I first started belly dancing, I loved the aspect of dressing up! I lived in rural Oregon and the fanciest thing I got to wear was a t-shirt and jeans. To belly dance, I ‘had’ to wear sequins and satins. Be still my heart.
The other thing I’ve always loved is sewing and crafting. So for me, half the fun of belly dance is making and wearing fabulous costumes!
I once beaded a winged scarab on the back of a belt and interconnected ankhs on the front with eyes of Horus on the bra and a beautiful fringe that I beaded one seed bead at a time. I learned to bead growing up on an Indian reservation so I just switched from Native American designs to Middle Eastern designs.
When I traveled to dance, I would get so many compliments on my costumes and people would ask me where I got them. When I told them I made them myself, they would raise their eyebrows in wonder. Remember, this was long before beaded fringe and sequined appliqué’s came on the scene and costumes at that time were made with coins. (I’ve always been ahead of my time!)
I’d like to share some costuming pet peeves and tips with you and hope you find them helpful.
First and foremost, your costume should enhance your dance, not distract from it. Now, it’s common sense that boobs coming out the bottom of the bra, nipples out the top and cracks showing in the back are all distracters, but I still see it happening! And I forgot to mention the high slit skirts front and center and coochie shots during spins. I don’t want to see that, and if I do see it, I can’t see your dance because my eye is automatically drawn to your costume boo boos.
Now, that’s a given, but there are other costuming distractions. I once watched a dancer who had a scarf draped over her shoulder and tucked in her belt back and front as an accent to her costume. It slid off of her shoulder over a dozen times during her dance and she’d pull it back up. She should have either pinned it in place or the very least tucked it in at her shoulder. While she was dancing, it never occurred to her to tuck it in her neckline or just let it drop off of her arm and instead of watching her dance, I watched her pull up her scarf at least two dozen times each time wondering if she would tuck it to secure it.
Another distraction is when a costume doesn’t flatter the dancer’s figure. A belly hanging down over the front of the belt is distracting. Belly covers are easy to come by and can be very flattering to all kinds of figure flaws. The same goes for sleeves and not just for bat wings!
Straight beaded fringe can made a torso look shorter and a heavier dancer look heavier, but a ‘V’ shaped fringe can make a torso look longer and flatter the figure.
A face covering is very distracting. It can be great for a dramatic entrance, but then get that thing off your face! And then there is hair. Hair hanging in the face is not sexy; it’s distracting and both of these things block your energy and keep your essence from flowing into your audience.
Now if your hair falls into your face when you’re a wild woman in your dance, that’s one thing, but don’t leave it there and don’t style it that way. Sorry, but it’s not attractive. Really it’s not. Either way, your audience is waiting for you to get that hair where it belongs instead of watching you dance. So, make sure your hair is secure with a head piece or clip, or please just reach up and brush it out of your face. I don’t care if moving your hair isn’t in your choreography because I won’t see your choreography if I’m looking at the hair in your face.
Enough said about hair in the face!
When you costume, it’s important to make sure the color works for you, the shape of the costume flatters your figure, all your lady parts are covered and secure and that you have appropriate embellishments such as sleeves, jewelry and hair adornments. You want to be beautiful and add brilliance to your dance; you don’t want to be remembered for your awkward costuming.
I wrote a booklet called "Costuming Expose, Tell All True Stories!" It’s filled with true stories about costuming and it’s free if you sign up to receive my blog/newsletters on www.mezdulene.com. If you already signed up before I made this offer, and want this booklet, just drop me an email and I’ll send you the pdf file.
P.S. I’d love to receive some replies on this subject!