Thought Provoking Belly Dance Costumes: the good, the bad and the hideous

Amulya

Moderator
To slightly paraphrase Rita Rudner: It would look so much better on fire! I have to say that is the fugliest costume I've seen in awhile - but I can't really put my finger on the "why" of it...
😂😂😂😂

one of the reasons is probably because it doesn’t fit. I think the person wearing it does not know it is a belly dance costume and is supposed to fit.
but that weird patch of sequins doesn’t help either
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Fire would clash with the orange, but the smoke might improve matters. Most likely a sincere amateur job, ultimately unappealing due to lack of design skill and fitting ability.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
That orange one is all kinds of sad. I agree with Amulya that we start with the fit. "Saggy Baggy Elephant" is only a belly-dance look with folkloric costumes and cover ups, when you can justify it with traditions of hot climates and/or religious modesty.

I am totally there for anyone who wants to dance and isn't comfortable with showing a lot of skin, but this one is an unflattering mess, from the puckery, weird neckline (which might correct itself on a larger model)...to the awkward way the skirt hangs off the bodice...to the embellishments that look like "'Hey, Ma, what to you want me to do with these giant appliques?' 'Just slap 'em on that orange costume--and get rid of the silver diamond with the fringe while you're at it--and box it up!'"

I can't tell if the main appliques (looks like there might be one on the right hip, too) are supposed to be a bow or a butterfly, but I suspect you can't pick any of it off except the silver diamond without trashing the fabric. Start by getting the silver diamond off, and use it as a neck medallion on a caftan yoke or something else--it wandered in from a different costume and needs to go away.

If you can match the gold and green sequins, build up some design so it looks like integrated work, and not a slapped-on patch. It's hard to tell from the photo how easy this would actually be to do, but I'm leaning toward declaring this a bow, and making a longer ribbon to wrap around and connect things. (With the ribbon idea, you could make the effect of a turning strip that switches between gold and green, and modularize the appliques at the twist points.) I don't love that weird gold edging on the points, so pull it off and replace it with trim that matches the neckline and the skirt.

Put a real middle in, so the skirt can properly attach to the top instead of whatever crazy is going on there, or if not, detatch the pieces and make a crop top and a separate, sane-waisted skirt. (Get rid of the points on the bottom of the bodice, if it simplifies things.) Add more integrated design to the top of the skirt. I'd like to put a sheer orange middle in there (like those old Souheir Zaki costumes), but I don't know how easy it would be to find fabric to match (maybe scavenge an orange leotard or tights?)

Finally, string some beaded swags or chunky fringe for movement (depending on what other design elements are added). And ditch the winter boots.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Most likely a sincere amateur job, ultimately unappealing due to lack of design skill and fitting ability.
Nah, this bottom-feeder "Turkish bizarre" junk has been around for a while. Miss Belly Dance was selling costumes similar to it about 10 years ago. I don't know if this particular orange creation is a cheap Turkish souvenir or a Chinese copy of a cheap Turkish souvenir, though.
 

LibraRaqs

Member
Bumped into this random costume. can it be changed? All the elements don’t match
Oh my goodness. I don't want to be that mean person who picks on somebody's creative effort, but I think a dance in street clothes would be far better for the morale of all involved! The awful cut is terrible enough, but the poly-velvet crush looking fabric is...straight out of a Halloween clearance costume rack.

So, to answer the question, how to fix it: I would agree that the costume is incorrectly sized, but that's not to say it'd look just great on someone else, either. I think applique pearls arranged around all hems and in crisscross rows or swirls would be a good start if keeping it a one-piece was the intention. But honestly, I think better could be done by going to a Salvation Army or Goodwill, filling a bag with skirts, scarves and a few jewelry items, and spending a couple days in the sewing room until you had something else.

Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking costume example!
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Nah, this bottom-feeder "Turkish bizarre" junk has been around for a while. Miss Belly Dance was selling costumes similar to it about 10 years ago. I don't know if this particular orange creation is a cheap Turkish souvenir or a Chinese copy of a cheap Turkish souvenir, though.
I was trying to be kind and think of something even vaguely nice to say. Didn't do a very good job of it, did I? 😜
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I was trying to be kind and think of something even vaguely nice to say. Didn't do a very good job of it, did I? 😜
I don't think of this as being blunt or cruel. It's laying our cards on the table for the benefit of all players in the game.

Just like the Indian butterfly set and the Egyptian cone-bra-and-tuna-can-belt bedlah, these costumes are not quality. They're not meant to be quality. When you buy the "Pizza Organized Crime Boss" costume at the pop-up Halloween store, you know you're not getting a wool, double-breasted, pin-stripe Armani suit, because everybody recognizes it's a cheap, polyester, hastily sewn replica of a nicer suit.

Many new belly dance students, flush with enthusiasm, don't understand the difference between poorly made costumes and quality ones. They may not even know that the different qualities exist for different purposes and levels of dancers, especially if they are DIYing their own education by watching YouTube clips. They just see something in their size and price range.

I don't have a problem with "playing dress up" dance costumes in theory. Something's got to be the bottom of the line, and if somebody wants to buy one to goof around at home, fine. If a dancer is also a textile artist, and they enjoy the Rumplestiltskin challenge of trying to spin straw into gold, good for them. Making a costume from scratch isn't cheap, either, and if you have faith you can rehab a low-end costume into something stage worthy, I admire your thrift and optimism.

But we have a responsibility to make sure everyone in the dance community knows the limits of these costumes, and learns the value of better ones, something we can't do if no one is ever able to speak the difference because it might hurt somebody's feelings.* And we have a responsibility to make sure people making and vending these costumes know we know better, and we're not being fooled.


* If we're going to worry about the feelings of people who work in sweatshops making low-end costumes, let's start by addressing their labor conditions, not by finding kinder ways to critique their artistic choices. Somebody stop me before this devolves into a larger rant about how the dance community hurts itself with its insistence that criticism only exists to wound egos.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I don't think of this as being blunt or cruel. It's laying our cards on the table for the benefit of all players in the game...

* If we're going to worry about the feelings of people who work in sweatshops making low-end costumes, let's start by addressing their labor conditions, not by finding kinder ways to critique their artistic choices. Somebody stop me before this devolves into a larger rant about how the dance community hurts itself with its insistence that criticism only exists to wound egos.
Stop! Stop! :eek:😜;)

You jumped to an interesting conclusion, Tourbeau, about me trying to protect the finer feelings of bad designers and sweatshop workers. I really thought the pumpkin mess might be a costume an amateur made for herself and was trying to be kind re: a beginning costume designer's first effort. Never occurred to me someone was manufacturing and selling disasters. I always made my own costumes (I'm a decent designer and good seamstress) and only wandered the cyber-aisles of trash-couture occasionally to look for contributions for Amulya's thread. Ergo, my lack of familiarity with professional bad design. Please don't yell at me any more. :cry:
 

LibraRaqs

Member
Stop! Stop! :eek:😜;)

You jumped to an interesting conclusion, Tourbeau, about me trying to protect the finer feelings of bad designers and sweatshop workers. I really thought the pumpkin mess might be a costume an amateur made for herself and was trying to be kind re: a beginning costume designer's first effort. Never occurred to me someone was manufacturing and selling disasters. I always made my own costumes (I'm a decent designer and good seamstress) and only wandered the cyber-aisles of trash-couture occasionally to look for contributions for Amulya's thread. Ergo, my lack of familiarity with professional bad design. Please don't yell at me any more. :cry:
While I know that sweatshops for costumes do exist, nearly all bellydance costumes I have seen in person were, come to find out by talking to the dancers, made by the dancers themselves or by an artsy friend they knew. Some of them were incredible, many were re-purposed from thrifted garments with a bit of tailoring skills, some were...sad, and some came from credible etsy sites. This was not one dance group, but several across a two-State area, who followed this pattern, so I also saw the pumpkin mess and immediately thought "diy disaster"!
The sweatshop issue is food for thought, though, when presented with costume nightmares.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Shanazel, I'm sorry. I never meant for you to interpret what I wrote as a personal attack. It's not you. It's me.

The longer I've been involved in MED, the more frustration I've built up over the feeling that, intentionally or not, MED is secretly an industry built on ripping people off, whether it's deluded costumers churning out junk and taking eager, naive dancers' money, or teachers who shrink from their fundamental mission of shepherding their students to their potential because they are afraid or unable to embrace the idea that it is almost impossible to learn and improve without taking a few dings to the ego. Sometimes, I get fed up with how many thousands of dollars and hours of my life I've spent on MED for not nearly as much benefit as I wanted or expected.

None of that has anything to do with you as a person or a dancer or an internet presence. So, please, imagine me as Abe Simpson, shaking my fist and yelling at a cloud because that's the way I intend people to take my posts.🌿
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Hey, no hard feelings in the world, Tourbeau, especially since I agree with you. My post was made moderately tongue in cheek. I don't know who Abe Simpson is or why he yells at clouds. Excuse me while I wander off to educate myself about modern cultural icons. Um, Abe is a modern cultural icon of some sort, isn't he?
 
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