The bandeau style top

ElizabethArena

New member
It seems that the bandeau top is kind of a 1940s to 60s thing, but I wonder why in modern costumes you just don’t see it.
is it just a style preference to have a typical cup type bra, or has it to do with the current emphasis on boobs rather than hips? is it considered just ‘vintage’ or its more suited to small chests and breast size has just increased over the years?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
At a guess? Insufficient support. If you look at professional costumes the dancer is essentially strapped into that bra until the girls simply cannot move. I've seen plenty of dance bra's decorated in a bandeau style over the support, but not instead of.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Lack of support gets my vote, too, though it was a popular look in regular clothing in the forties and fifties and not just costumes. Bandeaus just sort of mashed everything flat. Samia Gamal wore them a lot and looked adorable, though.
 

ElizabethArena

New member
I could have pulled that off in my teens, but not now. :cry::D. It would be interesting to see how one of the old ones were constructed. I imagine that there was a very stiff bias material with the chiffon stuff on top.

I think this is what you mean Ariadne? Shahrzad's top looks like a bandeau, but on closer inspection is a bra constructed to look like a bandeau:
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Interesting mix of old and new elements in the costume. Pretty color. Bra construction was clever. The skirt silhouette was nice but I didn't care for the transparent fabric (seeing her legs constantly was distracting) or the band across her middle. Re: golden era dance, it was more than arm waving and posing. I kept waiting for her to break out and dance which she finally did in the last minute of the performance.
 

hippyhips

Member
It seems that the bandeau top is kind of a 1940s to 60s thing, but I wonder why in modern costumes you just don’t see it.
is it just a style preference to have a typical cup type bra, or has it to do with the current emphasis on boobs rather than hips? is it considered just ‘vintage’ or its more suited to small chests and breast size has just increased over the years?
can you post a pic of the types of bra you mean?
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I would say the reasons go beyond support. A bandeau is basically a strapless bra, and strapless bras aren't just despised because you have to wear them suffocatingly tight to get cup support. In the absence of straps, a bandeau is constantly under assault from gravity. It is also prone to doing unpleasant things as your upper body moves around like rotating and/or gapping at the top (if it's not quite tight enough) or digging into shifted tissue (if it's that magical combination of too tight but not tight enough to keep everything where it's supposed to be). Depending on the cut and how well it fits your body, wearing a bandeau can devolve into miserable vigilance unless you glue it in place with theatrical adhesive. And let's dispense with the fantasy that some little V-string haltering up from the center of the cups will do anything other than dig into the back of your neck.

No matter which style you go with, a bandeau has issues.

Darted, flat-front "shelf" style or stretchy tube top? You can describe these with one word: uniboob.

Center-ruched tube? It gives you some contouring, but unless you're small on top, you'll probably need to build in cups or cut it so you can wear a strapless bra under it.

Embellished strapless bra style? This is the vintage BD look, but see above about straplessness. If you modernize this style with clear straps on the side or as a halter, is it still a bandeau or is it just a bra top now? This is a great look on Samia https://tenor.com/view/samya-gamal-samia-gamal-atrash-atrache-farid-gif-17144851, but if I wanted to recreate it, I'd make a crop-top mock version, wear a regular bra under it, and be ten times more happy and comfortable.

I think there's also a bit of a perception that a bandeau isn't as sexy as a halter or a bra (especially a Dina bra). If you're small on top, a bandeau gives off the vibe of a young girl's outfit, and if you're not small, it can look sort of matronly by modern costuming standards.

I don't have the feeling that the bandeau style was ever really that popular in dance costumes outside of Egypt and Lebanon, but maybe that is my imagination or mis-recollection. When I think of vintage Turkish or AmCab, I picture those cup bras with narrow side straps. I'm sure there must have been old-school American dancers who wore bandeau tops, if for no other reason than the fact that the center-ruched tube is a much easier project than constructing/covering a BD bra, a lot of dancers had to make their own costumes back in the day, whether they were very experienced at sewing or not.

You could still buy the occasional bedlah with a bandeau top when I started dancing in the late 1990's, so they were around pretty much up until stretch fabrics took over. Here's Lebanese dancer Dani Bustros wearing one...eh...from the looks of it, in the early 1990's? (She died tragically in 1998, so that caps the upper time frame).

There are probably angles to this conversation about larger and older dancers in the community needing more modest and/or supportive bra options, increased pressure to get implants on performers wanting top-tier work in the ME, and the rise of more energetic/balletic arm work in belly dance, which all contribute to the bandeau style being less desirable, but it's probably just a matter of it being out of fashion as much as anything. Bandeau tops in other clothing areas (two-piece swimsuits, clubwear, etc.) don't seem to be a red-hot trend now. You can still buy slide string bikini swimsuits, but even they don't seem to be promoting the bandeau top configuration as enthusiastically as they did in the 1970's. I kind of anecdotally feel that the bandeau with a ruffle is still a thing in younger circles, but that almost makes sense. The ruffle camouflages that you have to be almost flat to pull off a bandeau (but the ruffle top was never a BD look).

I don't sense there is much commercial interest from the major design houses for retro costumes now, but if vintage Arabic is your thing, a bandeau would be a classic look.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Stupid male question: How does this differ from a "tube top"?
A tube top is a type of bandeau. When you say "tube top," most people imagine an unbroken cylinder of fabric that is completely or partially (usually the back) elasticized, either because it is made from stretchy fabric or it is smocked with elastic thread. In terms of a belly dance costume, one would typically expect a bandeau to be a strip of fabric with ends that are connected into a tubular shape by a closure, like a bra.

There's also a whole corner of fashion influencers on the internet making bandeau tops out of scarves, so feel free to google that...
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
A tube top is a type of bandeau. When you say "tube top," most people imagine an unbroken cylinder of fabric that is completely or partially (usually the back) elasticized, either because it is made from stretchy fabric or it is smocked with elastic thread. In terms of a belly dance costume, one would typically expect a bandeau to be a strip of fabric with ends that are connected into a tubular shape by a closure, like a bra.

There's also a whole corner of fashion influencers on the internet making bandeau tops out of scarves, so feel free to google that...
So all tube tops are bandeaus, but not all bandeaus are tube tops! Makes sense, actually. Thanx!
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I think this is what you mean Ariadne? Shahrzad's top looks like a bandeau, but on closer inspection is a bra constructed to look like a bandeau:
Yes, that is what I was talking about.
Embellished strapless bra style? This is the vintage BD look, but see above about straplessness. If you modernize this style with clear straps on the side or as a halter, is it still a bandeau or is it just a bra top now? This is a great look on Samia https://tenor.com/view/samya-gamal-samia-gamal-atrash-atrache-farid-gif-17144851, but if I wanted to recreate it, I'd make a crop-top mock version, wear a regular bra under it, and be ten times more happy and comfortable.
Even in that clip you can see that she has ruched sleeves that can hide a strap, plus the bandeau isn't just a strip of fabric. That bra is constructed, darted, re-enforced, sequined, and beaded.

When it comes to dance costuming structure matters.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
How a costume looks in motion is something too many folks don't think about when they fall in love with the design they see on a hanger or while standing (erect posture, head up, tummy in) in front of a mirror. How it affects the audience's sensibilities is important, too: not whether some puritanical individual is going to be shocked by so much skin, but whether one's audience is actively making bets on whether or not the girls are going to pop out, the split-to-the-nth degree skirt is going to reveal the secrets of the crypt, or the dancer is going to step on a trailing hem and fall flat on her bottom. If the audience is watching the costume with varying levels of anticipation or apprehension, it's likely they aren't giving the performance the attention it deserves.

I love the green of Shahrzad's costume. Do any older dancers (if such there be on this forum) recall hearing that green was a poor choice for costumes? Back in the seventies, I heard explanations varying from it didn't play well under stage lights to it being bad luck. I love green; my first costume was forest green and silver. Wore it many times, yet the Wee Folks never got me. ;)
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Even in that clip you can see that she has ruched sleeves that can hide a strap, plus the bandeau isn't just a strip of fabric. That bra is constructed, darted, re-enforced, sequined, and beaded.
From what we can see (just the outside of the costume), it's not entirely clear to me if the lighter, ruched ”straps” are load bearing or just decorative. I think the black part is built like a strapless costume bra and it isn't really depending on the "straps" for support, but I'm not dismissing the possibility there are actual supportive straps somewhere inside or underneath the lighter fabric.

I was just trying to say you could make a knockoff to reference this costume that would be less work and more comfortable. A crop top that was basically a bandeau of pre-sequined or glitter-dot black fabric pleated a bit in the center and with gathered tubes of chiffon over the shoulders would give you approximately this look, and you could wear a regular bra underneath.

Most dancers don't do enough retro performing to make it worth their expense and effort to recreate this as a Samia-quality costume (especially if you only need it for a one-time, retro-theme hafla, and, yes, of course, glitter dot is not a vintage fabric, but I'm talking "one 3-5 minute specialty performance," not "rigorous historical-recreationist standards" here). TBH, even if I was advising Alia Mohamed (who clearly does do enough retro performing to get her money's worth from a top-quality, vintage-technique costume recreation), I'd suggest making a black, sequined strapless bra and use hooks or snaps to attach the shoulder pieces. That way you could change them out with different colors or styles of "strapless bra accessories" for more mileage. (I suppose you could even come up with a way to attach and remove that cat flap of silver fringe on the belt to mix and match even more looks, but that's for another discussion...)
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Do any older dancers (if such there be on this forum) recall hearing that green was a poor choice for costumes? Back in the seventies, I heard explanations varying from it didn't play well under stage lights to it being bad luck. I love green; my first costume was forest green and silver. Wore it many times, yet the Wee Folks never got me. ;)
I remember a discussion on the old MEDLIST about green being one of those YMMV colors. Green is the designated color of Islam and the Prophet Mohamed's favorite color. This makes green both really popular in Muslim countries and somewhat controversial for dance costumes (but mostly controversial to people who already find dancing to be problematic and indecent, so...)

Even among people who raise a concern over green costumes, I don't have the impression there is a problem with all shades of green, just that middle kelly color. I don't think anyone would get too worked up over mint or olive (but those colors don't flatter everybody), or pine green (but you can't usually just roll into your local craft store and buy beads and sequins in that color), or neon green (but that seems like it's only in style for a short while every 20 years).

Souheir Zaki wore a number of green costumes, including the one here with Nagwa Fouad. If you slog through the comments with Google Translate (lots of bickering about who is the better dancer and requests for the name of the song), the few people who commented on the costumes seemed to be in favor of them--not that this proves much.

نجوى فؤاد وسهير زكي
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Green is generally considered to be an unlucky color for a car, particularly a race car - BRG "British Racing Green" notwithstanding. My father and I each owned green cars, and had bad luck with them...

Whatever relevance that comment may have - green is my favorite color also, and I have one costume that's green.
 
Last edited:

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Thanks, Tourbeau. I vaguely recall connections of green to Islam now that you've mentioned it.

It's considered unlucky in some Gaelic societies because it's the color favored by the sidhe (faerie folk) and in China it's associated with infidelity. There's also a famous frog who tells us it isn't easy being green.

None of which has anything to do with belly dance, of course.
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I love the green of Shahrzad's costume. Do any older dancers (if such there be on this forum) recall hearing that green was a poor choice for costumes? Back in the seventies, I heard explanations varying from it didn't play well under stage lights to it being bad luck. I love green; my first costume was forest green and silver. Wore it many times, yet the Wee Folks never got me. ;)
I don’t know of any superstitions or rumors or culture etc. I have however seen what can happen when you mix green clothing with generic harsh yellow stage lights. The light can reflect and make your skin look sallow and jaundiced. I don’t think you’re going to run into those kinds of lights anymore though so you’re probably safe to wear whatever you want.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I don’t know of any superstitions or rumors or culture etc. I have however seen what can happen when you mix green clothing with generic harsh yellow stage lights. The light can reflect and make your skin look sallow and jaundiced. I don’t think you’re going to run into those kinds of lights anymore though so you’re probably safe to wear whatever you want.
That's one of the things I recall now that you've mentioned it- that green costumes didn't work well under stage lights. I never quite understood it since I ran lights a lot as a high school drama student and we always spent a lot of time getting colors and directions right.
 
Top