Friday, March 14, 2008

New to Costuming

Costuming for bellydance is an extremely vast topic, and one that I am enjoying learning about. My first performance was in Jamileh's Portland Area Studio Show in June 2007. I was in the beginner class, so our only rules for costuming were black bottoms (pants or long skirt), a hip scarf, and a non-black top. After a tremendous amount of searching, I found a matte blue surplice crop top, a matte black long skirt, and the green velvet hip scarf I purchased when I started taking lessons. It worked, for a beginner.

My next performance is coming up at the end of the month. I have been working hard and practicing in order to look less like a beginner, so I have decided that I deserve a slightly less beginner-looking costume. When choosing, creating, or piecing together a costume, one factor to consider is the style of bellydance to be performed. Bellydance is a soulful dance, so each woman's dance truly has its own personality. However, there are distinct genres of bellydance, and the costuming varies significantly between them. Jamileh teaches authentic Arabic bellydance, which is what I am most interested in studying and performing. Another factor to consider is the music selection. The selection for our choreographed piece is Enta Ma Oltesh Leh by Amr Diab. It is a more contemporary Egyptian selection. The second piece will be improvised, and it is still undecided if we will have live music or not. Another equally important consideration is the venue. The Downeast Country Dance Festival seems to be a fairly casual event, and so perhaps an excessive amount of glitter and sequins is unnecessary.

My decision? I found and purchased an emerald green velvet choli from Flying Skirts. It arrived, and it fits perfectly and matches my hip scarf quite nicely. (Gwen at Flying Skirts was very helpful in our communication, and my top arrived more quickly than I expected. I highly recommend them.) This picture does not fully show the color or shape, but it gives you an idea. Flying Skirts seems to mostly sell tribal style dancewear, but I think this top can work with almost any style. I also ordered a skirt in a more performance-quality material with a heavy layered ruffle on the bottom which will add fullness and will spin out when doing turns. It will arrive next week at which time I will post a picture. I am hoping that it fits as nicely as the top and will not require alteration.

I have learned in this process that as my costuming requirements grow, I will benefit greatly if I can learn to make my own. Professional costumes are extremely expensive, and would probably require significant alterations. While I have sewn curtains, pillows, small purses, and hemmed several pairs of paints, I know nothing about garment construction. Perhaps this summer when dance classes are on hold I can find a sewing class that could help me with this. Hmmmmm...


  1. Nice blog!
    You're fortunate to be learning from Jeanne...she's a beautiful dancer! I used to teach up north of you in Bangor, but these days I'm super busy with my family.

    I thought I'd steer you toward Ravelry (Kinda MySpace for knitters). There are 2 bellydance knitter groups!

    I'm currently working on Jane Thornley's Cultural Fushion wrap as a hip scarf! (you can google it, it's gorgeous...fringe, beads, who could ask for anything more?)

    also, my former partner runs a forum site for dancers in Maine. If you haven't been there, check out Middle Eastern Dance in Maine (

    Anyway, bookmarking your site. Good to see another Mainer into knitting and dancing.


  2. Glitter and sequins are always appropriate! And fringe! lol.

    The choli top is very nice. Will you post a pic of the complete outfit when the skirt arrives?

    btw, I love the name of your blog!