Costuming: The why and the how!

Happy holidays to everyone! New Year means new costumes!


We have come to my final installment of costumes in this series: the why and the how ( Please feel free to comment with suggestions for new posts!)
Why buy a costume? Isn’t it obvious? They are sparkly and dazzling and can make you feel like a million bucks! But there are more reasons than that. Perhaps you had an idea for a neat themed costume over the holidays or there is a piece of music that really moves you that you just can’t find a costume to mesh with. I like matching my routines to my costuming choices, it really helps me get in the mood for my performance and takes the audience with me on the journey. Another thing to take into consideration is your gigs. Not only the type of gigs: restaurant, stage, family gathering but the frequency. As to the type of gig: know your audience! A restaurant full of kids with their parents is not necessarily going to want to see your sexiest skimpiest Sahar Okasha. A stage performance requires thought about lighting (will I sparkle?), the background (will my costume color meld into the background?), and elevation (will the front row see up my skirt?). In terms of frequency, if you are at a restaurant once a month, it should be fine to use the same costume. I find that most places have regulars who show up just for the dancing, these are the people who actually REMEMBER your costume and who notice if you wear something more than once. I have had instances where a customer kept asking me about this white costume that I wore 3 months ago and when was I going to wear it again? For family parties, wearing the same isn’t a big deal as you rarely have the same clients- on the off chance that you do, I would wear a different costume. You don’t want all of Uncle Bob’s birthday party photos with a bellydancer to look the same regardless of how old he is turning.


Now that you know WHY you want to buy a costume, we move on to How.
How do I buy a costume?  I touched on this briefly in my last post. How depends on your means. The best way to buy a costume is to be able to try it on; especially if you are just starting out and you’re not sure of your sizing and measurements. Measurements for costumes are very different from measurements for “street” clothes. In terms of bras, your Victoria’s Secret bra size is not the same as your costume bra size. Typically costume bras do not stretch and with the movements involved, you need that bra to stay put! Cup sizing is different everywhere in the world. An A cup in the U.S. may not be the same as overseas. Getting the vertical, diagonal and horizontal measurements of the inside of the cup will help you the best. You can use your street bra for comparison to start but measuring a costume that fits you well already will help. Keep in mind that this includes the padding that may or may not be inside of the bra already. Your upper hip measurement is where on your hip you like to wear your costumes. Your lower hip measurement includes the wider part of your hips and butt. A bra/belt set does not have stretch so it needs to be an exact match. A skirt that is made of lycra has stretch to it but keep in mind that fabric only goes so far. I try to find skirts that are 2 inches shorter than my upper hip un-stretched. That way it won’t fall down as I shimmy. In terms of “muffin top” on the top of a costume, it is a good idea that the maximum stretch of the elastic is NOT your measurement. This will only result in the costume cutting into your skin and not giving an attractive fit.


Regardless of how well you measure, being able to try something on is always best. Once you know that a demi cup works for you or a rounded cup, or a Dina style cup (cups that are large domes) then you can purchase more easily. Another option is ordering online with a store that has a generous return policy for wrong fit. What few dancers have done is determine local and national dancers who are the same size and match costume measurements and essentially “stalk” their costumes. This way you can save money on a gently loved costume and know that you don’t have to spend countless hours altering it or pay a gifted seamstress to do it for you. Custom ordering is also an option- that is the route I tend to go with. Some (not all) designers will send you a base of your costume to try on at some point during the costume making process. This fitting allows both of you to see how the costume works. I have done these in person but also via mail- the base was sent to me and I took photos of it on and used safety pins to mark any adjustments that were needed. After the first few times, this is usually not needed, but it helps when just getting started.


I hope that my blog posts have helped you all- my costume obsessed friends!


Tune in to the next blog series: Photo shoots! Tips Tricks and HELP! 🙂