Choosing the Perfect Belly Dance Costume

Choosing the right costume can be a stressful event. With performance opportunities few and far between and budgets tighter, making the right choice can feel very daunting. In this article I will give some costuming guidance to help you make more informed decisions, especially if you are new to belly dance. I will use examples that illustrate those suggestions.

This article will focus on the positive and accentuating features or elements of your dance that you want to highlight, instead of hiding or obscuring. In my own journey with costuming myself and others, I’ve found that this approach is more successful. It is my hope that by using this perspective and sharing it with others, we can work to create a healthier culture towards our bodies. The focus will primarily be on costuming for performance, but may include some practice wear examples to illustrate an idea.

If you are looking to create a longer body line, accentuate your height or long limbs, it is best to avoid garments which create hard lines cutting horizontally across the body. This can be achieved by wearing dresses like this Lace Beladi Dress from the Cairo Collection.

If you prefer a two piece look, another option would be to use a narrower skirt silhouette. Instead of opting for a full circle skirt, a half, quarter or rectangle skirt may be a better choice. This Royal Blue Bra and Skirt Set from the Cairo Collection would be an excellent choice.

If you want to accentuate your hip movements in your performance or make your hips appear wider, one way to do it is by choosing a wider belt and/or one that is a straight-across shape instead of a V shape. This Art Deco Belly Dance Costume is a good example of a wider belt.

Another option for accentuating the hips is to wear a skirt or costume that has vertical ruffles. This chiffon skirt in black or purple has long fringe pieces descending from the waistline which are made of circular ruffles. I have a skirt like this in purple and I love combining it with a simple straight-across belt with contrasting fringe to make my hips the main focus of the costume.

In this same vein, you can select a skirt or costume with draped fabric over the hips. This example is a pink practice set but it illustrates the idea perfectly. The drapes could be even longer and more voluminous to bring even more attention to the hips and hip movements.

An alternate method to accentuate the hips is by incorporating something like a waist belt, especially if you have a significant waist-to-hip ratio. This 2-Piece Egyptian Classic Bedlah satisfies three of my recommendations for hip spotlighting! The belt is wide, the bottom edge of the belt is straight across and it incorporates a waist belt accessory.

It is also possible to purchase a waist belt as a separate accessory and mix-and-match it with various costumes. This Elegant Gem Belly Waist Chain is pictured at the hips but could be fastened at the waist to achieve this look.

Moving on to the upper body. For my fellow long-torso having dancers, a bra that has fringe falling from the center of the bra like this Beaded Satin Belly Dance Bra is way to draw attention to that part of the body and also visually connect the top and bottom halves of the costume.

If your plan is to draw attention to your arms, either because you like them or your performance has a strong emphasis on arm movements, try something like this Elegant 4-Piece Belly Dance Costume in Black or Red. The arm bands wraps down to the wrist and the rhinestones decorating them are a sparkly way of achieving this idea. An alternate choice would be these Sequin Double Cuff Beaded Drape Bracelet and Armbands, the beads and sequins ad style and provide a beautiful twinkle. If your aesthetic is more vintage, these Gold Costume Armband Bracelets also make an excellent option.

As with other forms of clothing or accessories, your costuming is extremely personal. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and beautiful in them. I hope that these suggestions will encourage you to approach costuming from the perspective of appreciating aspects of your body or your dancing that you enjoy rather than concealing those you dislike.  This will contribute to a change of mindset regarding your relationship with your body and how you adorn it.


Please comment below how you like to approach costuming to highlight your favorite aspects of your body and/or performance!

Aditi is a dancer and custom costume designer working, performing, and competing in the Sacramento and Bay Area in California. She has endeavored to bring a nuanced and respectful representation of the dance form to the general public for almost ten years. She has a degree in anthropology with a minor in music; and has studied various folk and social dances both in the United States and internationally for over 10 years. She has been sewing and embroidering her whole life and became a professional costumer 5 years ago. You can follow Aditi and her work on Instagram