Fashion & Style

Belly dance costumes

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Belly dance costume
An American belly dance costume includes a fitted top or bra, usually adorned with a fringe of beads or coins
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There's more to belly dance costumes than you would think.

To the untrained eye, belly dance costumes may all look the same but like the movement and music of the dance, belly dance costumes are actually regionally and stylistically distinct. Here is a closer look at the variations in belly dance costumes.

American Belly Dance Costumes

The costume associated with American belly dance is called bedlah, which means uniform in Arabic. It was adopted by dancers in Egypt in the 1930s where it spread to other countries in the region. Over the years, the style changed and implemented new trends, making the kind of costume worn by American belly dancers unique. Some of the adornments and outfits owe their origin to Hollywood, vaudeville and burlesque rather than from actual authentic Middle Eastern dress. American belly dance costumes are much different from the native dress, which covers the body and includes a scarf around the middle to accentuate the hips.

The American version is usually made of a fitted top or bra (usually adorned with a fringe of beads or coins), a fitted belt (also fringed) and harem pants or a long flowing skirt. A veil may also be used and often includes fringe that dangles down onto the forehead. Most American belly dance costumes include free flowing hair, which seems to add to the mystery and allure of the dance. Rings, armbands, necklaces and ankle bracelets are popular while shoes are not. American belly dance costumes include metal adornments such as coins.

While most Egyptian dancers discard the veil at the beginning of the dance, many Western dancers will wear the veil throughout. American belly dance costumes tend to be more about personal preference than custom and tradition.

Turkish Belly Dance Costumes

Turkish belly dance costumes consist of a bra, a belt and a skirt. Among current designs, hip accentuations are built directly onto the skirt in lieu of a belt. Accessories can include headbands, necklaces, wrist or arm cuffs and veils. Heavy gowns and pants are not common amongst Turkish belly dance costumes; dancers generally leave their legs as bare as possible by using a sheer material for pantaloons or skirts.

Commonalities amongst Turkish costumes include fringe that is attached halfway up the bra cup, with an adorning centerpiece draped between the cups. The fringe can also be attached at the base of the bra and extend around the back or cross only at the front. In either case, the fringe on the belt attaches at the base. The surface of the belt and the bra are stitched in one color of sequin with a different color used to create a design on each cup and side of the belt. The edges of the belt and bra are usually scalloped or pointed and the belt is often cut in a V shape, which can be small and dainty or large and bold.   

Egyptian Belly Dance Costumes

The typical Egyptian belly dance costume is made up of a gown or skirt, a bra and a skirt with hip accentuations built directly onto it. Accessories can include a headband, arm cuffs or form fitting (unattached) sleeves and a half circle veil. In Egypt, dancers are forbidden from exposing their midriff and are therefore usually covered with a body stocking between the chest and the hips however; slim fitting skirts are becoming the preferred style.

Egyptian belly dance costumes usually have a long fringe with each strand ending with a bead or palette. Fringe on the bra is attached in two places, across the bottom and in a large V starting at the outside of the cups and coming to a point where the cups meet. The surface of the belt and bra is stitched with colored sequins and no other designs. The styling of the belt in an Egyptian belly dance costume is unique; the front part of the belt is rectangular while the back is a half circle, covering and slightly molding the buttocks. Unlike the Turkish style belt, which comes in two scalloped pieces, the Egyptian style belt comes in one piece with straight and even edges.

While there are many similarities amongst belly dance costumes, tradition, culture and personal preference all have a hand in making these costumes as unique as they are beautiful.

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