As belly dancers, we all want to get up on stage in a perfectly-fitting costume that makes us feel, “I’ve arrived…. Now watch me!”
In my last post, we’ve seen that this is possible – you’ve heard about Sarah’s transformation from not being proud of her first costume to outfitting herself AND making costumes for other dancers who can’t find their sizes on the market.
It’s possible! …But it isn’t easy 🙁
In fact, when I started out, I was confused and lost.
I asked my friends where they got their costumes and how they fixed them. I Googled “how to make a belly dance costume”.
But all options seemed difficult and scary… Should I buy a cheap costume and fix it to fit me? Should I buy a used costume? Should I make it from scratch? ….uhhh what is interfacing and buckram? (Is it a stupid question to ask?)
I was lost.
But I came this far with dancing, and I had to make it through the show I had been working towards for months! Could I really get myself a decent costume??
So first, I want to tell you about the mistakes I made and I still see many people fall victim to. These are like traps that are laid for dancers who are hunting for the right costume. These can be expensive mistakes, so I want to help you avoid them!
3 Common Traps in Belly Dance Costume Hunt
Trap #1. Buy a costume that “kinda” fits
When I was new to the costume market, I simply wanted a professional-looking costume. I just wanted something that would make me look more pro.
And I heard that a local dancer was selling her old costumes. I got excited, and went to try them on right away.
…and they kinda fit me. The bra was a bit loose, and the skirt was long, but I thought I could fix them (and other people who were there said I could too). I was so excited about beaded tassels and rhinestones on the professional-looking costumes. So right there, I bought 2 sets of used costumes and paid about $300USD each.
But when I went home and tried them on again, I realized how little I knew about costumes.
The side straps of the bra was a bit loose, which I adjusted to fit, but the bra cups… they were weird. They were loose, but the top edges were digging into my breasts… And the cups were so hard, and covered with beads… what do I do!?
Same with the skirt… The hem was decorated with beads, and I had no idea how to shorten the skirt without ruining the bead work.
This was an expensive tuition I had to pay to learn an important lesson – you shouldn’t buy costumes that “kinda” fits. These pre-made costumes are too difficult to fix for a beginner.
But after I realized this lesson, I was able to shift my approach quickly and didn’t waste money like this… but I’ll tell you more about this new approach in a minute.
Trap #2. Going cheap
At the beginning of my costume hunt, I arrived at a website with really cheap costumes… about $80 for a bedlah set! And they were cute enough…
But when I searched for reviews on these cheap costumes, I started to see so many posts on Facebook and forums about them being extremely small.
Particularly bras. People who bought them would almost always have to find ways to make the cups bigger by cutting them open, adding material, and covering the section somehow….a complete surgery.
Plus the side straps are just lingerie bra straps, covered with sequins. To me, there’s nothing worse than being on stage wearing a lingerie bra for belly dancers.
The worst part is that, because it’s cheap, so many dancers are getting it despite the sizing problem. There was a time when I would see at least 1 group wearing these particular mass-produced costumes at every show.
It looks okay from far, far away… but closer up, it’s not a costume for serious dancers.
This is such a common trap now that these low-quality belly dance costumes are often mass-produced. If you are willing to spend the time to do a surgery on cheap costumes like this, I’d highly recommend you switch your approach because that’s WAY easier and you’ll benefit in a long term.
Before I tell you the new approach, here’s one more very common trap.
Trap #3. Modify what works
This is a common trap for those who are new to belly dance costuming but experienced at sewing. What is it? It’s those commercial patterns for formal gowns, sold at fabric stores.
It’s really fun to look through a pattern catalogue. And from time to time, you find patterns that would look good as a belly dance costume. It’s very tempting to think, “Oh, I can just cut this part out, and do this and do that… and that would be a perfect skirt for belly dance!”
Unfortunately, these patterns are hard to modify for dancewear, because they are not created for dancing. The fabric they use may be different. Or the fit may be different.
Plus these are made based on “average” sizing… regular clothing can be a little loose and fit the average range. But belly dance costumes have to fit YOU, not a range of body sizes… because after all, you’re standing on stage with only that layer of fabric. And the layer has to flatter your body while letting you move freely.
The worst part? It’s the instructions in text… it says one thing and can be interpreted in many different ways. You think you are following the instructions, and all of a sudden you realize you’ve been sewing together wrong parts for the last 2 hours!
After making some of these mistakes myself, I tried different approaches and finally arrived at one that works for me. And I’ve seen it work for other people through my Belly Dance Costume Workshop.
You see, most people believe that they have to have advanced sewing skills in order to make a perfectly-fitting belly dance costume… like they have to be a skillful seamstress with 30+ years of experience.
That’s why many people try to avoid sewing by buying cheaper costumes and trying to fix them or modifying patterns that are already there…. and run the risk of wasting time, fabric and money.
But it’s not true.
Instead, I’ve discovered that creating custom templates for your bra, belt and skirt is far more important, and with those templates, you can create a beautiful costume every time.
The best part is this – all that requires is basic sewing skills.
My Belly Dance Costume Workshop helps belly dancers who regularly perform at shows and haflas create their own custom templates… and their first perfectly-fitting costume that, as they walk on stage, makes them feel “I’ve arrived…. Now watch me!”
In my next post, I’ll share with you how YOU can create your own custom templates and make costumes to fit you with basic sewing skills. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you won’t miss it.
Can’t wait to get started?
And if you can’t wait to actually get started in making a well-fitting costume, I’ll be doing an exciting project next week. It’s called 5-day Create Your Own Mermaid Skirt Challenge!
And by the end of the week, you’ll have a perfectly-fitting mermaid skirt made to your size! 🙂
If you struggle to sum up the courage to try a big project like skirt making, this is perfect for you! With step by step instructions and a gentle push, you’ll actually start AND finish a project 😉 Take a look!
Thanks for reading, and keep sparkling! 😉