A couple of months ago, I asked on Sparkly Belly’s FB group what everyone wanted to see on Sparkly Belly. And the most popular request was plus size costuming tips.
So! Here are my take on plus size costuming. I focused on the 3 plus size costuming challenges I hear from Sparkly Belly readers most and used their words to describe the challenges. Let’s get started.
Plus Size Belly Dance Costuming Guide
Challenge #1. “I want to hide my flabby upper arms.”
Many dancers want to hide their upper arms, but it’s tricky, because we use arms a lot in our dance movements so we can’t completely hide our arms. So what do we do?
Tip #1. If you want small coverage, you can make loose sleeves like these Princess Jasmine style sleeves.
Tip #2. Or ruffle sleeves that are attached to your shoulder straps. Adjust the width and length to increase or decrease the coverage.
Tip #3. If you want fuller coverage, you can make a peasant crop top to wear underneath your costume bra or vest like this.
Tip #4. Or you can create armbands with drape that hides your upper arms.
Tip #5. Or you can create long puffy sleeves like these, or convert a shrug into a looser bolero style top.
Key is to use lightweight fabric like chiffon, lace and mesh. That way you don’t look completely covered. Play with textures and transparency to find the right balance for your body shape.
Challenge #2. “I have full hips and a little prominent low belly, and I find it difficult to find a skirt that is tight enough to not fall and feel confident and that doesn’t create rolls of fat around my hips.”
Plus size or not, muffin tops are a common challenge for belly dancers.
For the waistband of your skirt, I like to avoid using elastic because elastic is what causes a muffin top.
But then how do you keep your skirt up?
Tip #6. First, for skirts that are tight around the hips like mermaid skirt, make sure it is nice and snug according to your size. If the skirt is made to your belt & hip measurements and the fabric has nice stretch, you don’t need elastic to keep the skirt up. (To make a perfectly fitting mermaid skirt, see Belly Dance Costume Workshop.)
Tip #7. But if the skirt is too loose, add elastic only to the back of your skirt. Just by adding elastic to the back of your skirt, your skirt will feel much more sturdy around your waist.
Tip #8. If your skirt needs a bit more support, and you must have an elastic waistband all around, try using wide elastic. I’ve never tried this personally, but it’s used commonly by curvy dancers. You can find 3-4 inch wide elastic in fabric stores, and sew it on with a thread casing.
Again, you can see how to make a thread casing in my tutorial.
Tip #9. Another solution is a belly stocking.
Make a belly stocking out of powermesh, which is awesome mesh fabric with great stretch. 😀
A belly stocking not only offers coverage for your belly but also acts as a very gentle corset/shaper. You can fix your skirt to your belly stocking with safety pins for extra hold. (I don’t recommend sewing your skirt onto this style of belly stocking, because the weight of the skirt may be too much for the little hooks holding up the stocking. If you want to sew your skirt on, I recommend you make a leotard style body stocking.)
Tip #10. You can play with drapes over belly as well. This is a super easy fix you can try with scrap fabrics.
Tip #11. Also be mindful of the shape of your belt too. If you wear a belt on top of your skirt, go for a belt that has a nice v-shape at the top edge. A belt with a straight edge top tends to emphasize the horizontal line on your body. But the nice curved belt hides the horizontal line and elongates the look of your torso. And it helps smooth out your belly.
Tip #12. Finally, if you are wearing a circle skirt, try tucking the sides of your skirt to the sides of your belt. This technique not only creates a fun visual interest for your costume, but it takes people’s attention away from your muffin top to the fluffy, pretty layers of your skirt. This double layer reversible skirt is perfect for that.
Challenge #3. “I find it hard to make pretty bras since all decoration designs look too small or wonky, also I would like to visually make my boobs smaller since they have a tendency to.. err… take over the show so to say.”
I think this is a challenge that only dancers or performers can appreciate. It’s frustrating when you are rocking your shimmy and notice everyone is looking at your chest!
Tip #13. For large chested dancers, I recommend you go for full coverage bra as a base. I know, using more coverage sounds like bringing more attention to your chest, but in fact, what draws people’s attention to your chest is your cleavage and jiggly skin above the bra cups. So don’t be afraid to use fully coverage bra as a base, cover it with beautiful fabric, and decorate as you like.
A full coverage bra also creates an illusion of narrower torso. Costuming is always about creating contrast and balance. In this case, a large area of fabrics make your torso appear smaller. If you pair it with fluffy circle skirt tucked on the sides of the belt, that’s even better for the appearance of your belly. And it’s a cute outfit!
Tip #14. And yes, don’t be afraid to use large stones and appliques. Because you have a larger canvas, you get to use dramatic decorations and they won’t look overwhelming.
Grape vine appliques are great for creating a dramatic look while adding extra coverage, and you can easily adjust sizes.
And finally, here’s a bonus tip.
Bonus tip – Embrace what you have!
Posting this type of post is a bit nerve wracking, because there are always people who tell me “You shouldn’t feel the need to cover up. You’re beautiful the way you are, so why cover up?”
It’s true, but I feel saying “you’re beautiful the way you are” to a dancer who sincerely wants to hide her arms or belly is not right to me.
You know what it feels like to expose your arms and belly and legs in front of a large audience only when you become a belly dancer (or other types of dancer whose typical costumes require them to expose a lot of their skin.)
It can feel insanely vulnerable to be up on stage, about to perform belly dancing, and so many parts of your body that are normally hidden under layers of clothing are showing. I know, I’ve been there. People have different opinions about this type of costuming.
Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to dress like that or not…. But after seeing other beautiful dancers and after performing a few times, of course you’d want to dress like them. Like real belly dancers.
Not many people outside of the dancer world understand these inner conflicts we deal with when it comes to presenting ourselves as “belly dancers”.
So when presenting yourself as a belly dancer, I want you to feel truly empowered.
I want you to feel proud of who you are and why you do what you love doing.
And I think trying to hide imperfections of your body is part of it. You want to look your best!
BUT. When you dress up for your next performance, think about not just what you want to hide, but what you LOVE about your body.
Think about what you’d love to showcase.
If you’re proud of your legs, put on a skirt with slits.
If you’re proud of your hand movements, wear bracelets and rings that audience in the back of the room can see.
If you’re proud of your smile, put on your favourite red lipstick.
No one is perfect, and that’s why we are all beautiful in our own ways 🙂
So love your body, and try the tips I shared with you today, but don’t forget to give your favourite part of your body a chance to shine.
When it starts to shine, every other part will follow. I promise. 🙂
So I hope you liked my tips, and you can download a free Plus Size Costuming Cheatsheet from here!
Print out the cheatsheet and have it ready in your costume wardrobe for next time you dress up for performance 🙂
If you found this post helpful, please share love and share this post with your dancer friends. And sign up for my newsletter for dance costuming tips and DIY’s.
Thanks for watching, and keep sparkling!
P.S. Pin this image for future reference 🙂