A slight rant about costuming


I write this blog post with a fair amount of regret & sadness.

I am regretful that those who know all these things have to hear it again. I’m sad because I have to repeat it for those that still do not know.

I’m talking about costuming and choosing the correct costume and general costume awareness. It’s unfortunate that all of this has to be said time and time again, but I think people forget and I admit – it’s easy to forget – but that’s no excuse for shabby dressing!

So the first thing I want to bring to your attention is something that seems to have slipped many a mind in the last couple of months, because I keep seeing it on reputable dancers! That is, of course, the short skirt. *cue lightning and dramatic music* So I have been seeing quite a few dancers wearing short skirts like this:

While short skirts in theory aren’t awful, it does take something away from belly dancing. Or at least, I think so. If you’re not a dancer, you won’t know that a lot of belly dance moves are powered by the legs. And not in the same way that ballet is powered by the legs, belly dance leg power is a secret affair and I feel that showing so much of your legs can take away from that “wow! How does she do it?!” effect. I remember when I started classes, I was very surprised at how much your legs move.

Another (silly) reason not to wear a short skirt is that very few people have nice looking knees. You’ll very often find that when models pose, they bend their knees in some way, or turn away from the camera. It’s not often that you’ll see a model standing straight on with straight legs. I’ve always thought that knees can look like demented cherub faces.

This next point/peeve kind of overlaps with the short skirt thing, and that is DRESS FOR YOUR VENUE. This also goes for props – because if you’re dancing at a restaurant between tables, dancing with a cane is probably not a good idea.

If you’re dancing at a venue where you have a raised stage, wearing a short skirt is NOT appropriate, not matter who you are. I have been at 2 events in the last while where I saw a lot more than I wanted to. One of them was a short skirt wearer. I don’t want to spend half the dance in a ‘car crash can’t-look-away’ mode, waiting for you to show your panties (or lack thereof). There’s only so much of your thighs I want to see.

The other one was a dancer who was wearing a GORGEOUS costume, but it unfortunately didn’t work with the choreography or the venue. It was a tight, Egyptian style skirt, and it was quite a fashionable style a while back. The problem was that it had a MASSIVE slit right up the middle of the skirt… And the choreography included an Indian style leg-open pose. I was, unfortunately, sitting right in front and could see EVERYTHING. It’s such a gorgeous costume that it deserves to be worn, all the time! I think a simple chiffon skirt underneath could make it more versatile though.

This brings me to my next point: Skirt slits.

This is a bit controversial, as I can name a number of people who disagree with me. J I do believe that you shouldn’t have a skirt slit so high that I’m distracted. Your costume should always enhance your dancing, and never detract from it. Full skirts are a lot more forgiving when it comes to slits, because they tend to fall really nicely around your legs. That being said, I think that skirts should be full, with slits added into them. Not bits of fabric with a giant gap between the front and the back. I’ve seen costumes where the dancer has 2 panels of fabric and the one on her butt barely covered it – it didn’t wrap around to the front fully, it stopped just as it got past her butt. Your lady-bits are also worth more than just a scrap of fabric. Make sure it’s covered and for GOODNESS SAKE – WEAR DANCE SHORTS. Not a g-string or hot-pants. Dance shorts.

Another trend that has come to light recently is see-through skirts. I don’t know WHY this is a trend, perhaps it’s just an unfortunate thing when buying from a cheap vendor or perhaps it’s a shock value thing.

Let me tell you, you’re not Lady Gaga. You are not there to shock people, scare them away or get religious organizations angry with you. Make sure that your costumes aren’t see-through. A good way to test this (if it’s not obvious) is to ask somebody to take a photo of you (at night, preferably) with the camera flash ON. Camera flashes are mean and usually cut through cheaper/lightweight fabric. I’ve had this happen to me, don’t let it happen to you! A way to prevent this is to layer your skirts/costume. Layering 2 or 3 chiffon skirts on top of each other will stop it from being see through.

The last thing I have to rant to you about is how low your skirt/pants sit. This usually requires a general knowledge of how the body looks. I realize that not every body is the same, but you need to find what works for you. Many a time I have seen dancers with very low sitting costumes and I am sure I am going to get a flash of lady-bits at any moment. NOT something you want your audience to be thinking.

I have a very short torso, made all that much shorter-looking by my scar, so I put my pants as low as I can get them to make me look longer. I never make them too low though. I was always told that my costumes should sit 4-fingers below my belly button. I’ve always used this as a rule, and it’s served me well. If you’re not sure – ASK you classmates/teacher. If you have a longer torso, you might need to pull up your pants more than normal because it might look low even if it isn’t that low. Your pants should sit on your hips. NOT your pelvis.

The last, but VERY important one is: ALWAYS wear a cover-up when you are not performing. There is no argument about this, there is no “but” – if you are not physically on stage, dancing, cover yourself up. It’s distracting to an audience to see a non-covered up dancer and it’s just plain rude to do that to a fellow dancer. If you can’t afford a fancy one, just do what I do and take a big coat to wear for when you’re not on stage. No excuses!

I think that’s all the ranting I can muster for this blog post, if there is something I have left out that you feel is worth mentioning, comment below. J

Also, I revamped my blog and now it looks all pretty. What do you think? x

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10 comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more about the pants.

    I was once, unfortunately, at a party where the guests were invited to dance Limbo. (For the uninitiated, this is a dance where you are required to dance and wriggle, bending backwards, under a horizontal stick, which is gradually lowered towards the floor.) One ‘lady’ – the term is used loosely – who was wearing a very short dress at the time, insisted on revealing all, and I mean ALL, to the assembled guests both male and female. Many years later, I still shudder to think about it! I was extremely embarrassed for her sake.

    So, if you wish your dancing to be memorable, make it so for the right reasons not the wrong ones.

    As for the level at which the skirt sits, I can only imagine that some dancers use Superglue to avoid their skirt slipping down completely, as they frequently ‘sit’ so low as to defy the laws of gravity!

  2. Demented cherub knees.. wha ha ha. Love it. Good article and spot on. I was always told that belly dancing was exotic NOT erotic. Only a difference of one letter but a huge difference in meaning.

  3. Love your plain spoken style, but I don’t totally agree with everything you said. I think that some people can get away with some things in some venues. However, as a general rule, I think short skirts are a bad idea. You really don’t want to be flashing people and this looks like a good way to do that.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! And thanks for commenting even though you don’t agree, I really appreciate that!
      It’s true that some can get away with more than others, but I think until you know what you can and can’t get away with as a dancer (and person!) you should just stick to the rules. Kinda ‘know the rules before you break them.’

  4. I love your “rants”! I’m glad that you’re talking about these things and I agree with all of this, though I’d never heard of the 4 finger rule before – I tend to shoot for the top of hip bones, which having just checked is actually 4 fingers below my belly button!

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