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Your First Belly Dance Costume

By Atéa

Belly Dance CostumesOnce you start taking belly dance classes, one of the first questions you might ask is, "How can I get a costume?" Because the cost of a belly dance costume can range from free to thousands of dollars, and do-it-yourself projects can be time consuming, I suggest that you first do some homework. As tempting as it might be to rush out and buy the first intriguing items that you find, if you're on a budget with time or money, it's wise to take it one step at a time. There're so many costume styles to choose from that it pays to do research to find what's really suitable (no pun intended) for your personality, body type, and tastes. Getting the right costume can really enhance your enjoyment of your experience.

A great way to research costumes is to look at as many videos, photos and live performances as possible. Both The Internet is a wonderful resource in which to find belly dancing DVDs, free belly dance video clips, pictures, books and information on events in your area. By seeing a variety of belly dancers, you can observe what styles, colors, and textures you're attracted to, and what will best flatter your body type and express your personality.

Belly Dance Practice Costumes

Chances are you have enough items in your home to put together a practice outfit for free. Probably the single most important item for the beginning student is some type of hip adornment. This all-important item helps accent and define the hip movements so common to belly dance. The most popular hip accessories are the belly dancing hip scarf (also called a hip wrap) and the belly dancing coin belt.

* (A word of caution concerning hip scarves made with glass beads - glass beads can break, and if you step on them, can cause painful injury. It's best to leave the glass beads for performance costumes and to also wear shoes to protect your feet).

Belly dancing accessories are available through teachers, online stores, and supply catalogs. However, you can put together a reasonable facsimile of a belly dance costume with items that you may have in your own closet. A length of light or medium weight fabric (at least 1 1/2 yards or so) can be tied around your hips for a hip wrap. If you have a shawl with fringe, that's even better. Chain belts can be used as a belly dance hip belt, and you can even build it up with other bits of costume jewelry or chains that you might have on hand. If you have enough costume jewelry, you can fashion a matching necklace, or stomach drape, or add jewelry pieces to a swimsuit top to make a bra.

Belly dancers wear either full-length skirts and/or 'harem' pants. Yoga pants are an excellent substitute for harem pants, but even jeans (preferably stretch jeans) are fine for practice. If you have a long skirt with an elastic waist, you can simply wear the elastic at your hips to create a practice skirt. Just put your hip scarf or belt over the top of it and your practice belly dancing costume is almost complete.

To finish off your belly dance outfit, you can wear a leotard or stretchy, form-fitting top. Better yet, keep the midriff uncovered (so you can see the defining movements and your abdominal moves) by wearing a swimsuit top, halter-top, or cut-off. You can also take a blouse or t-shirt and tie it up under the bust line.

And last, but not least, footwear is important. I prefer to dance bare foot, but that's not always practical outside the home. In that case I recommend that you protect your feet by wearing comfortable shoes or sandals that have a soft, flexible sole (ballet slippers are good).

Belly Dancing Performance Costumes

This is where your research can really pay off because performance or professional belly dancing costumes can cost a lot, especially if you buy custom or ready-made belly dancing outfits. These outfits or costumes can be so beautiful that it's tempting to spend a fortune! To get the most for your money and to buy something that's right for you, I suggest you study as many belly dance costumes as you can. Once you have a firm idea of what styles you like and you're ready to purchase, you have a few options. You can buy new or used belly dancing costumes (which can be found in places like eBay or swap meets), or have costumes custom made according to your own specifications.

You can also make your own outfits or costumes. There are books and DVDs on how to construct costumes and there are also belly dancing costume patterns and pattern catalogs. All these items can be found on the Internet. If you do-it-yourself, it can take months to put together your first professional quality belly dancing outfit, so you'll want it to be worth all your effort. Whatever options you choose, if you've done your homework well, you'll get a belly dance costume that will make you look and feel beautiful every time you put it on.

Note: Our free video clips page shows many styles of belly dancing costumes:

For examples of practice costumes, visit:

Magical Motion' Instruction
Slow Moves' Choreography Drill
Fast Moves' Instruction

For video clips showing examples of performance dance costumes, visit:

Magical Motion' Group Dance
Magical Motion' Ninah's Dance
Slow Moves' Dahlia's Dance
Fast Moves' Group Dance

This site also features photos of performance belly dance costumes.

If you liked this article, read other belly dance articles by Atéa. Her article "What is Belly Dance?" discusses its evolution and definition. Another article "Creating Inner Peace With Oriental Dance" is about healing aspects of belly dancing. "The Phenomenon of the American Belly Dancer" discusses the development and impact in America and it's influence worldwide. Learn what music is appropriate for belly dancing in "Choosing Belly Dance Music for Practice or Performance".

Return to section page about the belly dance articles.

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