Fit or Fat? What’s the Best Belly Dance Costume?
Updated: Jan 5
"I am over 50 and rubenesque and want to wear a caftan (Moroccan style). Is that something that is done? Most of the company is very young and very fit, so they can wear virtually anything and look spectacular."
Your Choice of Costume Says Something About You
I got this question in my inbox, and I thought, "Well, this is just like the kid in 5th grade who has the nerve to raise a hand and ask the question that we're all thinking." Thank you, Dear Dancer, for asking!
Whether you are going to the market, to work, or to a hafla (hafla is an Arabic word meaning party taken also to mean recital in the Western belly dance scene), your attire is the first impression you give of who you are. How you look triggers a judgment and an emotional response in the person who is looking at you.
This became super clear to me when I was in my early 40's. The beautiful freshness of youth had begun to be replaced by a few wrinkles, gray hairs, thinning lips, and puffy eyes—such a lovely picture! Anyway, I dashed off to the grocery store one afternoon on a busy day, heedless of my grungy housework "outfit," messy hair, and makeup-less face.
Then, true to the Law of Murphy, I bumped into someone who was looking for a belly dancer. Though I'm long past the devastation of losing my youth—OK, well, most of the time—I will never forget the disbelief on that person's face when I said I was a belly dancer! I guess that person simply could not envision the me, raggedly dressed woman in front of her, as whatever she though a "belly dancer"should look like.
But the awesome thing is that the incident gave me this insight: our choices of clothing, shoes, hairstyle, makeup—everything—sends a message whether we intend it to or not.
So back to the hafla...when we are performing, we have the opportunity to convey a specific message with our costume in the first impression the audience has of us.
Though I think you should be comfortable and enjoy what you've chosen to dance in, consider the impression you want to make—do you want the audience to feel mesmerized, shocked, comfortable, excited, relaxed. Of course, there's no guarantee that each person will see us as we want...but, we can do our best.
Here are my guidelines for choosing a costume for an event:
There are no hard and fast rules. Don't feel that you have to wear what you think you are supposed to, "that is done."
Bared skin will always steal the show. Over and above everything, if there is skin showing, the human eye will gravitate to that skin. So if you are self-conscious about a certain part of your body and don't want to draw attention to it, cover it. You do not have to dress like a Hollywood-fantasy belly dancer.
You're in charge. Wear what makes you feel beautiful and that you can dance in without being worried about it staying in place.
Here are some ideas that I hope will inspire you.
And, most importantly, though we love this dance and take it seriously, it is just a dance, and we are only human, so if we screw up and look ridiculous on that stage, let's laugh about it—OK, well, after we recover our pride!
For my thoughts on body self-image, watch this video.
To see all of the dancers at one of the haflas in the photographs above, watch this video.
To see our performance at the Turkish Festival where we did the workshop, watch this video.
To see all our ONLINE COURSES, click on the image or click here: school.jensuya.com.
© Jennifer Carpenter-Peak & Robert Peak, 2020