Healing Through Cooking

Spices and herbs. Photo by Elocin91 on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Medicinal Properties of My 5 Favorite Kitchen Herbs

What if I told you that you could have more than chicken noodle soup and salted crackers on your menu when you’re sick? As it turns out, the herbs you keep in your cabinet and refrigerator have just as much—if not, more—healing power than the most trusted, all-time sickie staple. After all, herbal remedies have existed as long as time itself; the herbs in this list are just my five favorites that you can actually EAT, thereby obtaining healing through cooking!

Yup, from stomach aches to flu and even to some types of cancer, the herbs on this list can treat* just about anything. So whether you sprinkle some of these on your classic chicken noodle soup or decide to try them with a different dish your stomach can handle, you can literally eat your way to better health! Keep reading to see what basil, cumin, garlic, ginger, and lemon grass can boost for you!

*NOTE

Please note that I say “treat”, not “cure”! Big difference. You treat an illness with the hope of eventually curing it. Read the disclaimer below for more important information prior to reading this article.

DISCLAIMER

I, the author of this article, am not a medical professional nor a nutritionist/dietician. This article does not substitute for medical advice nor nutritional counseling. Please consult a medical professional prior to consuming these herbs for medicinal benefits, and avoid consuming herbs that you have a known allergy for. Be aware that excess consumption, improper storage, and/or improper preparation of these herbs could result in dangerous side effects not listed here. By reading this article, you agree not to hold any members or persons otherwise associated with Poise and Potions, nor the business entity of Poise and Potions itself, liable for damages incurred to your person or persons you share this article’s information with.

Basil (a.k.a. Sweet Basil)

Ocimum basilicum

Sweet basil. Ocimum basilicum. Photo by tookapic on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Sweet basil. Ocimum basilicum. Photo by tookapic on Pixabay.

First on the list is basil, specifically sweet basil. The vibrant green leaves of this herb have a strongly herbal flavor with a lightly sweet, floral complement. It pairs best with tomato-based dishes and can treat a little something in nearly every part of the body!

Part Used: leaves

Flavor: strongly herbal, lightly sweet and floral

Common Recipes: tomato soup, spaghetti, caprese salad

Medicinal Properties: antibacterial[1,2], antifungal[2], anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative[3]

Regional Treatments of Basil

Head: migraines[1]

Throat: sore throat

Lungs: cough[4]

Digestive Tract: abdominal cramps, colic, flatulence (i.e. is carminative), indigestion, nausea

Nervous System: spasms (i.e. is antispasmodic)

Reproductive Organs: low breastmilk production (i.e. is galactogogue)[1]

Full-Body Treatments of Basil

Mental Illness: depression[1]

Physical Illness: bronchitis[4], cancer (specifically prostate cancer and glioblastoma)[3], cold, fever[1], flu[1,4]

Energy Problems: exhaustion, insomnia[1]

Cumin

Cuminum cyminum

Cumin seeds. Cuminum cyminum. Photo by usernamehastaken on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Cumin seeds. Cuminum cyminum. Photo by usernamehastaken on Pixabay.

Second on the list is cumin, the seeds of which are typically ground into powder and incorporated into many Mexican recipes. The smoky, salty flavor makes this seasoning a great substitute for salt, and, in addition to alleviating digestive upset, cumin may serve as an aphrodisiac as well.

Part Used: seeds

Flavor: salty and smoky, a little spicy

Common Recipes: tacos, Spanish rice, chili

Medicinal Properties: antibacterial[2,5,6], antifungal[2], larvicidal[6]

Regional Treatments of Cumin

Digestive Tract: abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence (i.e. is carminative)

Nervous System: spasms (i.e. is antispasmodic)

Reproductive Organs: low breastmilk production (i.e. is galactogogue), low libido (i.e. is an aphrodisiac)[6]

Full-Body Treatments of Cumin

Physical Illness: cold, fever

Energy Problems: insomnia[6]

Garlic

Allium sativum

Garlic bulbs. Allium sativum. Photo by stevepb on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Garlic bulbs. Allium sativum. Photo by stevepb on Pixabay.

Garlic quite possibly proves to be the most diverse herb on the planet, showing up in dishes all over the world, from Italian cuisine to Chinese cuisine, and Indian cuisine to–well–EVERYWHERE. The salty, buttery flavor of it just goes with everything! Where garlic really shines as a healing agent is within your cardiovascular system, whacking high levels of cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.

Part Used: bulbs

Flavor: strongly savory, buttery, salty

Common Recipes: butter chicken, garlic bread, Pad Thai

Medicinal Properties: anthelmintic (eliminates intestinal parasitic worms)[7], antibacterial, antifungal[2,7], antioxidant[7]

Regional Treatments of Garlic

Lungs: asthma, phlegm buildup (i.e. is an expectorant)[7,8]

Gallbladder: general bile flow (i.e. is cholagogue)[7]

Digestive Tract: diarrhea[7,8], parasitic worms

Skin: general perspiration (i.e. is diaphoretic)

Cardiovascular System: arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure (via vasodilation)[7], high cholesterol and/or LDL[7,8], fluid retention (i.e. is diuretic)

Nervous System: spasms (i.e. is antispasmodic)[7]

Full-Body Treatments of Garlic

Physical Illness: cancer, chronic lead poisoning, diabetes (via reduction of glucose metabolism), fever[7], flu[8]

Energy Problems: fatigue (i.e. is a stimulant)[7]

Ginger

Zingiber officinale

Ginger roots. Zingiber officinale. Photo by congerdesign on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Ginger roots. Zingiber officinale. Photo by congerdesign on Pixabay.

Although ginger seems to be primarily favored in Asian cuisines, it has “root”-ed its way into beloved desserts in the West. Similar to licorice in that it’s sweet with a slight bitterness to it, its earthiness and spicy kick give it a strong distinction. Ginger is most widely known for its digestive upset and cold/flu remedies, but it also possesses some anti-cancer properties.

Part Used: roots

Flavor: sweet with slight bitterness, earthy and spicy

Common Recipes: ginger tea, kung pao chicken, gingerbread

Medicinal Properties: antibacterial, antifungal[2], anti-inflammatory, antioxidant[8]

Regional Treatments of Ginger

Head: headaches[8]

Lungs: cough, phlegm buildup (i.e. is an expectorant)

Liver: general function

Digestive Tract: colic, general digestion, nausea

Skin: general perspiration (i.e. is diaphoretic)[9]

Cardiovascular System: artherosclerosis[8], general circulation[9], inflammation[8], peripheral circulatory problems

Nervous System: pain, spasms (i.e. is antispasmodic)[9]

Cells: buildup of damaged cells (i.e. promotes autophagy)[8]

Full-Body Treatments of Ginger

Physical Illness: cancer[8], cold[8,9], flu[9], type 2 diabetes[8]

Lemon Grass (a.k.a. Citronella Grass)

Cymbopogon citratus

Lemon/citronella grass. Cymbopogon citratus. Photo by alondav on Pixabay. Image used in Healing Through Cooking.

Lemon/citronella grass. Cymbopogon citratus. Photo by alondav on Pixabay.

Lastly, lemon grass, the most rare herb on this list, made it here simply because of how much I love it! The tangy, citrusy flavor is so refreshing and makes my favorite Tom Kha Gai soup feel light despite how much rich coconut milk is in there. Lemon grass mainly works as an anti-inflammatory agent and a fever reducer.

Part Used: leaves

Flavor: sharp, tangy, citrusy

Common Recipes: Tom Yum soup, rendang curry, Thai larb

Medicinal Properties: anti-inflammatory[10]

Regional Treatments of Lemon Grass

Head: general brain cell production[10]

Digestive Tract: abdominal cramps, flatulence (i.e. is carminative)

Skin: general perspiration (i.e. is diaphoretic)[11]

Cardiovascular System: inflammation

Nervous System: neuroinflammation, spasms (i.e. is antispasmodic)[10]

Full-Body Treatments of Lemon Grass

Physical Illness: fever[11,12]

As you can see, although the primary goal of cooking may be artistic in the sense that a cook creatively pairs herbs with meats, grains, or veggies to create unique flavors, a good secondary goal can be scientific, for healing through cooking!

For ideas on recipes you could easily add these herbs to, check out our Recipes page!

This article brought to you with love from Rose Auflick of Mingled Vitality.

References

[1]L. “Ocimum Basilicum.” Plants for a Future, by L., Plants For A Future, 2012, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ocimum+basilicum. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.

[2]Liu, Qing et al. “Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Spices” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,6 1283. 16 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18061283

[3]Bayala, Bagora et al. “Chemical composition, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative activities of essential oils of plants from Burkina Faso”PloS one vol. 9,3 e92122. 24 Mar. 2014, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092122

[4]Lemos, Izabel Cristina Santiago et al. “ETHNOBIOLOGICAL SURVEY OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS USED FOR THE TREATMENT OF ACUTE RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS IN CHILDREN OF A TRADITIONAL COMMUNITY IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF BARBALHA, CEARÁ, BRAZIL”African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM vol. 13,4 166-175. 3 Jul. 2016, doi:10.21010/ajtcam.v13i4.22

[5]Bag, Anwesa and Rabi Ranjan Chattopadhyay. “Evaluation of Synergistic Antibacterial and Antioxidant Efficacy of Essential Oils of Spices and Herbs in Combination” PloS one vol. 10,7 e0131321. 1 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131321

[6]L. “Cuminum Cyminum.” Plants for a Future, by L., Plants for a Future, 2012, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cuminum+cyminum. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.

[7]L. “Allium Sativum.” Plants for a Future, by L., Plants for a Future, 2012, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Allium+sativum. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

[8]Tsui, Pi-Fen et al. “Spices and Atherosclerosis” Nutrients vol. 10,11 1724. 10 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10111724

[9] Roscoe. “Zingiber Officinale.” Plants for a Future, by Roscoe, Plants for a Future, 2012, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Zingiber+officinale. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

[10]Mediesse, Francine Kengne et al. “Inhibition of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced neuroinflammatory response by polysaccharide fractions of Khaya grandifoliola (C.D.C.) stem bark, Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (Lindl.) Schltr and Cymbopogon citratus Stapf leaves in raw 264.7 macrophages and U87 glioblastoma cells” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 18,1 86. 12 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12906-018-2156-2

[11](DC. Ex Nees) Stapf. “Cymbopogon Citratus.” Plants for a Future, by (DC. Ex Nees) Stapf, Plants for a Future, 2012, pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cymbopogon+citratus. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

[12]Clement, Y N et al. “An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Trinidad”Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine vol. 11 67. 15 Sep. 2015, doi:10.1186/s13002-015-0052-0

How Sleazy, Free Webinar Scams Hook You

Pic by geralt on Pixabay. Webinar.

Advertising equals the Art of Manipulation…but that’s no surprise to you, right? You know that the fast food companies showing you melty, cheesy burgers on TV just want your money, and same goes for the technology companies showing you sleek new phones with epic music playing in the background. A lot of the time, you KNOW you’re being played, so you don’t really take it personally, even if you buy the product you saw advertised.

But what if an advertisement successfully got you to buy something…by promising you something FREE, wasting an HOUR of your time, and NOT EVEN GIVING YOU THE FREEBIE??? You’d take it personally then, wouldn’t you?

This is how many free webinars work. A lot of companies will advertise a free webinar on social media, get you to sign up and attend, and spend the whole hour making a sales pitch instead of giving you the information you came for. What’s even worse is HOW they get you to stick around for that full hour: by sneakily accumulating engagements with you using minimal effort on their part, which gets you emotionally invested in them and makes it more likely you’ll purchase one of their products.

Here is an Engagement-Hook point system that will show you how sleazy, free webinar scams hook you and get you to engage with their content.

The Ad

Stock photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay. Generic free webinar ad created with Canva.

Stock photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay. Generic free webinar ad created with Canva.

FREE

The word “free” in all capital letters is the most important part of the ad; people LOVE free stuff. So the ad says, “FREE(+1) Webinar on Interesting-Topic-You-Care-About(+1)”. You are intrigued.

+2 ⚓️⚓️

Call to Action

Believe it or not, a button with the words, “Schedule now!” is more effective than just a picture ad. I learned about this technique called a “Call to Action” from Health Coach Institute which quite literally means to give your potential customers a command(+1). I guess people like being given direction, but whatever makes it so effective is why so many ads say things like, “Buy now!” or “Call us today!” Plus, if you put these words on a button, you can’t deny that clicking that button(+2) is more satisfying than clicking a link that doesn’t move(+1).

+3 ⚓️⚓️⚓️

Input Form

The call-to-action button then leads you to an input form. When input forms ask you too many questions, you’ll likely click away, so the smarter businesses only ask for two things: your name(+1) and your email address(+1). You think, “Okay, sure, I can give them my first name and email; those aren’t too personal.” You click, “Submit”. BOOM—you’re now subscribed to their email list(+1), so they can spam you! And repeated viewings of a company increases the likelihood you’ll purchase something from them.

Oh, but that’s not all; their automatic email generator now has your name, which it will include in EVERY email(+1). Well guess what? Another advertising trick I learned in school was to USE A PERSON’S FIRST NAME as often as possible, because hearing your name increases your feeling of connection.

+4 ⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️…for now…

The Webinar

Stock photo by StockSnap on Pixabay. Generic free webinar setup created with Canva.

Scheduling the Webinar

Either the input form or the first email you receive will let you choose which webinar to attend. The webinars I attended offered four different timeslots per day on at least three days of the CURRENT week.

But here’s the tea: they offer free webinars EVERY week. By only featuring the CURRENT week in their ad, people who want but cannot attend the webinar that week panic and comment on the post (+1), asking, “Are there other ones I can attend?” which offers an opportunity for the business to reply (+1).

Those previous 2 points may not be for you, so we won’t count those. But with at least 12 available timeslots in one week, you’re almost guaranteed to find one you can attend eventually. You schedule the webinar(+1), which results in the link being emailed to you(+1).

+2 ⚓️⚓️

Logging In

You open the email(+1). You click the webinar link(+1). You’re now logged in, and you see the video screen, a chat feed, and a textbox. Here’s where it starts to get MESSED UP.

+2 ⚓️⚓️

Webinar Video

First of all, you are NOT attending a LIVE webinar. This webinar was live once—the FIRST time—but the one you’re watching now has NO ONE on the other end. You’re watching a pre-recorded webinar—and that doesn’t stop the person in it from playing several tricks to make you feel like it’s live.

+A LOT, just wait…

Chat Feed

Second, the active chat you see might not even be live. In fact, you might be seeing the chat from the FIRST airing of the webinar, but it has names and comments streaming right along with the video, making it feel live(+1).

+1 ⚓️

Textbox

If the chat is NOT live, the textbox beneath the chat feed does NOT submit your comments to chat; instead, your comments get EMAILED to the business(+1), giving them the opportunity to reply(+1). Otherwise, you DO have a live chat, in which case when you submit a comment(+1), you see it appear in the feed(+1).

+2 ⚓️⚓️, per submission

Keeping You Hooked

Stock photo by LUM3N on Pixabay. Extra details added with Canva. Fishing man.

Stock photo by LUM3N on Pixabay. Extra details added with Canva. Fishing man.

These webinars typically last one hour, so the speaker has to put in a lot of work to keep you there the whole time. Remember, the longer they keep you there and the more engagement they get from you, the more invested you become with their company and the more likely you are to purchase from them, even if they gave you none of the useful info they promised in the webinar. They have this live-feeling setup which buys about 15 minutes before you lose patience and peace out, so they use the following tactics to appease you for the remaining 45 minutes:

Filler Talk

To fill up an entire hour with zero information, the speaker needs to use a lot of filler talk: vague sentences that outline the subject but have no real value to you. These are the types of filler talk I can almost guarantee will appear in a free webinar:

Power Words: things that everyone desires. The speaker will say, “We know you want confidence, money, and success.” (+1 per word)

The Index: a list of subjects you want more information about that are part of the webinar’s theme. The speaker will say, “Today, we’re gonna talk about x, y, and z.” (+1 per reference to the index)

Testimonials: information about people and/or businesses their business has helped. The speaker will say, “This is Name, the Position of Business; we helped him/her boost sales by X% within Time!” (+1 per testimonial)

Inspirational Quotes: …yup. (+1 per quote)

+4 ⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️, at least

Open-Ended Questions

The speaker will prompt you at least twice to engage in the chat. At the beginning, they’ll ask at least one personal question such as, “Where are you from?” so they can then say, “Wow, we’ve got people from all over today! We have Name1 from Place1, Name2 from Place2, etc.” This contributes to the live webinar feel(+1), because who’s really gonna scroll back through the feed to check if those people are there? The speaker will also encourage you to submit any questions you might have(+1)…even though there’s no one there to answer them.

+2 ⚓️⚓️, at least

Diversions

These are the sleaziest of the engaging tactics, because these are just straight-up LIES. The speaker will make promises to you that they won’t keep. Every once in a while, after referencing The Index, they’ll throw in a, “And I promise we’re gonna get around to this, but first I wanna mention More-Filler-Talk.” This makes you feel assured that you’re not wasting time(+1), even though you are. They’ll also promise a Q&A at the very end while requesting that you submit your questions early on(+1), counting on the fact that you’ll: 1)have already made it through the presentation by then, and 2)not scroll back through the chat feed. If they do NOT offer said Q&A, they’ll usually excuse their lack of response to the chat feed by saying, “If I’m not answering any questions, it’s because we’re gonna go fast during this part,” which also contributes to the live webinar feeling(+1).

+2 ⚓️⚓️, at least

Total Damage:

⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️

Stock photo by luntan6644 on Pixabay. Text added with Canva. Wall-mounted clothing hook.

At minimum, a typical free webinar will hook your attention TWENTY-FOUR times, and the count rapidly increases every time the speaker uses a tactic or you submit a comment. That is a LOT of interaction between you and the business with minimal effort on their end. Free webinars really are brilliant forms of advertisement, but when they’re conducted as mentioned above, it kinda makes you feel sick from being taken advantage of.

Are ALL Free Webinars Bad?

No; in fact, some free webinars are great! Granted, they ALL are trying to engage with you as much as possible for the benefit of their business, but that’s just advertising for ya. Businesses need to make money to survive. But as long as their freebies (webinars included) actually give you something useful, your engagement with them feels a little more mutual and a lot less parasitic.

Have you stumbled upon any amazing FREE knowledge sources? Feel free to share the links on our social media or in the comments below!

 

For more of OUR free knowledge, check out our other blog posts!

Poor, Little Woman’s Guide to Belly Dance Costumes

Photo by Brett_Hondow on Pixabay. Pink princes piggy bank.

While the greatest hurdle for a new belly dancer to overcome as she transitions from lessons to her first stage performance is confidence, the second-greatest hurdle might actually be the most frustrating: finding an affordable costume that fits right. Belly dance costumes aren’t exactly mass-produced in the same way standard clothing is, so a vast majority of the time, you’re stuck browsing online through limited—and often quite expensive—options. And if you decide customization is the only way to get what you want, you’ll typically be shelling out a MINIMUM of $400.

I have yet to reach a place in life where I can spend that kind of money, so when I started belly dancing five years ago, I had to get quite creative. Sorted piece by piece, here is a poor, little woman’s guide to belly dance costumes: the tricks I learned in order to come up with belly dance costumery that helped me fit in with other dancers onstage.

Tops

I have never been comfortable with dancing in a belly dance bra top. Even though it’s the most traditional thing a belly dancer can wear, I could never get over the paranoia of my boobs popping out from a bra that failed to secure them into their proper place. Heck, I even feel panicked when another dancer in a bra top goes to bend over. Just—nope—I refuse to wear a bra top until I can get one custom-made…with extra coverage…

Since that hasn’t been an option for me, I went the unique route of wearing crop tops. Luckily, crop tops turned out to be quite cheap, and, with a bra on underneath, they offered adequate coverage of my chest (from above the nipple line to just beneath the bust). I likely would not perform professionally or at a competition wearing a crop top, but for local events and just dancing for fun, they have served me well. Additionally, I have received numerous compliments for my tops, from audience members and dancers alike.

One of my first crop tops came from Forever 21 as a gift from my mom. It likely did not cost more than $25.

My photo. Red lace crop top. Rak the Brazos! Nov. 2014

My photo. Red lace crop top. Rak the Brazos! Nov. 2014

My favorite place to shop for crop tops was Body Central, where they usually cost $15-20. The business itself is no longer open, but multiple secondhand stores still sell their brand.

Photo by Tom Adams. Black and red rose crop top. TAMU Belly Dance Spring Hafla, Apr. 2018

Photo by Tom Adams. Black and red rose crop top. TAMU Belly Dance Spring Hafla, Apr. 2018

Lastly, eBay proved to be another great resource for crop top shopping; I found tops there from $5-10! Summertime is the best season to find them, but you can still find them year-round.

Photo by Tom Adams. Black velvet turtleneck crop top. Rak the Brazos! Nov. 2017

Photo by Tom Adams. Black velvet turtleneck crop top. Rak the Brazos! Nov. 2017

Hips

Although hip-wear isn’t always required, I preferred to include it in most of my costumes. At first, I started out with basic hip scarves/coin belts, which you can find on just about any belly dance costume website for about $10 (see Full Costumes section below for links).

Also, when in a pinch, a regular scarf will do as long as it is long enough to tie around your hips. Then you can either “diaper” it (the “technical” term for tucking a scarf or veil into the sides of your skirt) or tie it (after either folding it lengthwise or into a triangle). Target seems to be the most promising place to find large enough scarves, where you can get them for around $15.

Photo by Tom Adams. “Diaper-ed” scarf. TAMU Belly Dance Spring Hafla, Apr. 2018.

Photo by Tom Adams. “Diaper-ed” scarf. TAMU Belly Dance Spring Hafla, Apr. 2018.

Photo by Tom Adams. Folded scarf. Rev’s Belly Dance Night, Sept. 2018.

The last type of hip accessory I’ve used is an imposter—and a very effective one. Somehow I came across a kid-size shawl in some of my or my mom’s old stuff, and it was just long enough to tie around my hips. The thing was beautiful, all embroidered and bordered with fringe. Although I don’t know the price of that exact one, I browsed on eBay and found that kids’ triangular shawls can be found right around $5 each.

BlueFloralKidShawl_DTTS3.2015

Photo by Michelle Ochoa. Blue floral kids’ shawl. Dancing Through The Sahara, Mar. 2015.

Bottoms

For some bizarre reason I can’t figure out, shopping for pants (or tribal pants, at least) that fit my short-legged, curvy figure is easy (see Full Costumes section below for links), but skirts prove to be a whole ‘nother story.

First of all, you can’t simply buy a maxi skirt in a store that will work for belly dance. Most maxi skirts you’ll find in department stores are made of two panels stitched together at the sides, a design that is restrictive to movement beyond casual walking. Belly dancers typically need full-length circle skirts which are, as the name implies, created from a giant circle of fabric to allow for a great range of leg motion, including the splits.

Second, if you’re short like me, most circle belly dance skirts online won’t fit you. This is because most companies who produce cookie-cutter costumes create skirts with a minimum length of 36”. The longest skirt I can wear as a 5’3” person is 34”.

Some dancers have told me that they will buy the oversized skirts anyway and roll up the waistband several times over, but I can’t stand things that don’t fit right as they are. This leaves me with having to shop online through normal skirts, which leads me to the third problem: most normal skirts are designed to fit at the waist, not at the hips like a belly dancing skirt.

So what on earth are we tiny dancers supposed to do??? Fear not; if you use the following shopping parameters on eBay, you can actually find a decently-priced ($20 or less) skirt you can dance in:

Skirt Shopping Parameters

Bottoms Size: Your Size +3. For example, if you are normally a size S, go up 3 sizes to XL to find a skirt that will sit on your hips. If you’re normally M, go to 2XL, and so on. If you worry this won’t work, go to a store just to try on oversized skirts to test which size fits the best for your hips.

Length: Check “below knee” and “mid-calf”. You’re shopping larger sizes to wear lower, so the skirt length will be longer. But also keep in mind that some eBay sellers will be lazy and just list their skirt as “long”, so you can check that box, too. Regardless of what you check, ALWAYS check the description for an actual measurement of the skirt’s length.

Style: Check “A-line”, “Circle & Skater”, “Flare”, “Trumpet & Mermaid”, and/or “Wrap & Sarong” for best results. These styles of skirts flare out either at the hips or legs, which will prevent unsightly stretching of the fabric during performances.

Here are pictures of two skirts I’ve bought using those search parameters:

My photo. Black gypsy skirt.

My photo. Black gypsy skirt.

My photo. Black velvet skirt.

My photo. Black velvet skirt.

Full Costumes

Believe it or not, reasonably-priced, good-looking belly dance costumes do exist! From experience, I’ve found that costumes on the following websites do run about one size smaller than standard US sizes, so if you’re an M, buy an L, etc. Also be sure to have caution (as I advised before) if you’re shopping for anything with a skirt; these are the kinds of websites whose full-length skirts tend to be a minimum of 36” long. Dress Lily This website doesn’t always sell belly dance costumes, but they’re worth searching every once in a blue moon. I found a lovely red costume here for only $30.
DressLilyRedCostume_FF7.2017

Photo by Tom Adams. DressLily red costume. First Friday, July 2017.

Light In The Box

You do have to search “belly dance costume” on this website, but they have so many options available (including individual pieces like skirts, tribal pants, and hip scarves). I’ve purchased two beautiful, lacey costumes there, one of which had tribal pants which fit great, and the other which had a skirt that luckily wasn’t too long for me! Most of the costumes on this site are between $10 and $30.

Photo by John Trevino. LightInTheBox black lace tribal costume. Rev’s Halloween Belly Dance Night, Oct. 2017.

Photo by John Trevino. LightInTheBox black lace tribal costume. Rev’s Halloween Belly Dance Night, Oct. 2017.

Photo by Ka’ili. LightInTheBox blue lace costume. First Friday, June 2017.

Photo by Ka’ili. LightInTheBox blue lace costume. First Friday, June 2017.

BellyDance.com

Surprisingly, I have not bought anything from this website…yet. But with so many options for $30-$50, I will eventually! Since this website is solely dedicated to belly dance wear, it’s much more organized than the previous two sites and offers dang-near everything you could ever need including bindis, props, music, and more.

Coverups

Last but not least, every belly dancer could use a coverup! For those of you who don’t know, coverups are oversized, draping “dresses” that belly dancers wear over their costumes when they’re not performing. Most dancers think of it as a formality or as a sign of being respectful to other performers, so you could think of it as our version of a business suit. It separates our “business” self from our “performing” self.

So where do we get said coverups for cheap? Ross. That’s right, the best place to get cheap (but beautiful) coverups is Ross in the dress section for a mere $10.

My photo. Blue paisley coverup, One-Size.

My photo. Blue paisley coverup, One-Size.

Well, that's everything; thanks for reading!

This has been a poor, little woman’s guide to belly dance costume shopping! What have been your best costume finds? Share with us on social media or in the comment section below!

Still not quite sure what you’re looking for? Click here to read more about the pieces that make up a belly dance costume!

Want to know more about your costume options? Click here to learn about all the ways to obtain costumes, from making them to buying them!

Starting a Dance Troupe

So, you and your friend are sitting in your room on a Saturday night dancing to music and looking up youtube videos like this one (Who doesn’t love Shakira?) and thinking, “We should start a dance troupe!” Have you ever had that thought? Have you ever wondered what you actually need to start dancing on a real stage? The answer to what all it takes may surprise you.

Here is everything you need to start a dance troupe:

People:

The first thing you need is actual dancers! This is typically the easiest to get since you probably know at least a few people who like to dance. When asking people to join your troupe, especially friends always consider group dynamics. If you’re going to have any type of leadership structure in your troupe, you will want to organize that ASAP. Establishing those roles, expectations, and responsibilities sooner rather than later can cut down on a lot of potential drama. The last thing you need is for your troupe to fall apart over an argument about a guy. (I’ve seen it happen, trust me, it’s ugly)

If you want to attract dancers that you may not personally know then that can be easy as well. In this wonderful world we live in social media makes it easier than ever to find others with similar interests. Post on Facebook, stalk Instagram accounts of local dancers in your area, or post flyers around your college. If you are in high school or college look into your schools already existing organizations. They may already have a belly dancing group established. If not you can look into starting one.

I know when I looked into starting a belly-dancing organization at Texas A&M it was surprisingly easy. They had me sign up for a class online, which gave me all the information I needed. They were also kind enough to offer to to connect me with an adviser to assist with any technical details. See if your school offers a similar service. You can also post a flyer offering auditions at local bars and coffee shops. Or anywhere else you think you may be able to find fellow dancers.


Practice Space:

Dace space is important, but a practice space does not necessarily need to be a dance studio. However, if you have access to one that would be the most ideal. For those of us who don’t live in mansions with a free dance studios in our basements, here’s some alternatives.

The best teacher I ever had taught out of our friend’s garage. She cleaned the garage, hung a few mirrors on the wall, used some curtains to hide the power-tools, and voila! Instant dance studio. The key to turning a garage (or any room) into a dance studio is the mirrors. Mirrors can be found at most large locations like Target or Walmart for only $20

It can be incredibly beneficial to see what you are doing as you practice. You also need space. If you are going to perform on any stage, even a small one, it will typically be at least as large as a standard room if not many times larger. That is why it is important to not practice in your bedroom where you are having to dance around a bed, but rather in a living room with your couch moved out of the way, or even in your backyard (or a friend’s backyard) with some free space that isn’t taken up by a pool (Falling into the pool is generally not recommended).

If you do not have access to any of those spaces, I know of one last option for you. Most gyms will have some sort of dance room or racquet ball court. One with a dedicated dance room that would be ideal, since they should already have mirrors on the wall. Check their class schedule, and see if you can use the room when there are no classes in there. If you cannot find a dance room, try looking for a racquet ball court. These tend to be a bit more spacious, however they do not have mirrors. You can bring some mirrors from home and lean them against the walls.

Just be aware if you do this option your rehearsals may not always be private, and you may get some onlookers or run into issues with the gym staff. Always be polite and respectful and ask before you bring in large pieces of equipment like a stereo or mirror into a gym. The last thing you want is to get kicked out of the middle of your practice by an angry staff member. In my experience though, especially if it is a small group, most gyms don’t mind you using their room as long as you are a member of the gym and don’t mind the lack of privacy.

You can also consider looking at martial arts studios as they typically also have an open space with mirrors on the wall. My troupe was able to work out a deal with a local martial arts studio where we were able to rent the space for only the cost of the lights as long as the owner’s wife could join our troupe. This was a great way to get another excited dancer AND a practice space all in one! This was a no-brainer decision, and she quickly became one of the best dancers in our troupe.

If none of these options are available to you, that is when you may have to look into paying for spaces. If you know where you want to perform, then you can potentially make a deal with the venue to let you practice there, in agreement for bringing in a large crowd on performance day. You can also ask about coming in during non-traditional hours and seeing if they may give you a discount for that. Most venues do not open until later in the day. So if you are your group are willing to come in early especially during the weekday than you may be able to get a better price on using the space. It never hurts to ask for a discount!


Music:

Besides the actual music, you also need a way to play that music. That is where most of the problems come in. While most professional venues will have a sound system, a lot of the smaller or outdoor venues that you may be starting out at will not. You may also want to consider a sound system if your practice space does not have one built in. Your phone will not and should not be able to provide the necessary sound for the large practice space you will need. (Can you imagine accidentally turning up your phone volume loud enough to be heard over an entire large outdoor venue? Ouch!) If your practice space is small enough that you can hear the music through your phone speakers, you need a larger space to practice.

What my troupe did was each chipped in a little bit towards the sound system. Our group collected tips at each performance, and we agreed as a group to not take home our tips, but instead save them to buy the sound system that we wanted. This worked fairly well for us.


Choreography:

Youtube is an excellent resource for choreography. There are countless videos ranging from the most basic how-to tutorial, to incredibly professional and beautiful performances. This can be a great (and free) starting place to begin learning choreography. You can also consider asking some of the local dancers in your area. When I wanted to connect with other dancers I found Victoria Teel. I was lucky enough to work with her when we were both still in college. She later went on to perform on BellyDance SuperStars. Now she teaches belly dance classes online, and sells the fans she uses for her Teel Fan Method. Taking classes with her, or any other professional bellydancer, is a great way to get choreography. The major drawback being that it won’t be free.

Don’t underestimate your own creativity though, you can do so much just by taking the time to practice. I would spend an hour or two before all of my training sessions with Victoria practicing by myself, and if I thought of a great move I wanted to remember I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it. There were so many times when I would just be playing around and think of some great choreography, but forget to write it down or record it. Your phones video camera can be your best friend when practicing choreography! Don’t underestimate the value of writing down and recording choreo like I did! Trust me my performances got so much better when I started watching my recordings and taking notes. I would suggest you do the same.

You do not need a fancy camera to record choreography, but having a tripod might not be a bad idea. There were many times when our troupe would have to find an innocent bystander to take a video of our practice because we didn’t have a way to prop up a phone properly. Asking a friend works, but man there were times when having a tripod would have really helped us. You can get them for cheap on amazon


Costumes:

We have talked a whole bunch about bellydancing costumes in our previous article “From Bedleh to Baladi”. For learning about all the differences between the different types of costumes definitely check that article out. We also have an article talking about the differences between making and buying a bellydancing costumeSo check out these articles to learn more about costumes.

Tip1

A name and brand for your troupe:

Coming up with names can be the most fun part of starting a dance troupe. There is a reason why people pick out baby names before they are even close to becoming parents. So it is very possible that you have names in mind already.

Your name doesn’t have to be perfect right off the bat though! Names, logos, and styles can all change. But what is most important however, is your brand. If you want to be known as the family friendly middle eastern dancers, rather than the sexy and sensual belly-dancers, that’s important to establish early on when forming your troupe. This will define your brand. Having a dancer who has a more sensual style can be a great thing! If that is what your
troupe wants. However, if they do not want seduction and instead want to be branded as more family friendly than there are now different brands within a troupe, making you look disjointed, and may cause some venues to not want to work with you.

This is not to say that any one brand or style of dance is better than the other. The exact opposite can be said about a troupe wanting to be more seductive, and a dancer in that troupe wanting to be more family- friendly. There should be no discrimination within a dance troupe. I am only offering experience from the perspective of someone who started a troupe in a relatively small town in south Texas, where everything is bigger in Texas including the differences in responses we would get from others about our troupe. We would have performance venues think we were strippers, and were not only okay with the idea but wanted it. (Needless to say- we didn’t work with those places). While other venues would only accept us if we were wearing certain, more conservative outfits.

What we did is have one group of dancers that was more engaged with our performances at bars and music events, and another group of dancers more engaged with our family friendly events. We were all part of the same troupe, we just branded ourselves differently for different events based on the nature of the crowd, venue, and performance. Being aware that venues may ask you about branding, and being prepared for an answer is important. If you are in a large city the style may not be as important as it was in Texas, but differentiating yourself from other troupes they might already know will be.

I would recommend picking one person from your troupe who will be the coordinator for your performances. This person (or people) will be responsible for representing your group. So pick somebody with appropriate social skills, who can ask the questions necessary to find out what type of branding is necessary and what the expectations of the venue are. Having that go to person is part of your brand, they are identified as one of you. So it can be completely appropriate to have one go to person for the bars and music event venues, and another for the community-oriented family-friendly events.

This is what we did and it worked well in part because it took the burden of being the single contact person off of one individual. However, once a venue has made a connection with a member of your troupe, I would not recommend changing this person often. As once venues gets to know a group, if they constantly are interacting with different people within the group they can get confused. They will want one person who is their go to person, so they know who to call.


Places to perform:

Whew! What a lot of work so far! But now that we’ve made it this far we’re finally ready to start talking about WHERE you’re going to perform! Finding venues is a simple matter of networking. Find local bars in your area that have local musicians come and perform. Look for community events, horse races, talent shows, campus-wide student activity events, or anything that you can think of really. The chances to perform are practically endless!

Once you have identified a list of potential places to perform. Spend some time preparing before you pitch to them. Know what dates you can perform on, how long you can perform, what your set list will be, if you will be open to recurring events or not, if you will be asking for tips or not, etc. These will be standard questions asked when starting to work with a performance venue. Just know that not every place that you may want to perform at will be a good fit for you. Be prepared to talk to 5 places, and even if 4 say no and one says yes, this means that you have your first performance venue for your very first dance performance as a troupe!


Drive and Passion:

There can be many logistical issues with starting a dance troupe, but if you have the energy, drive, and passion, there is no reason you can’t start your very own dance troupe. Even if you have 100 hurdles between you starting your troupe, and fail 99 times, just remember what Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Combine his resilience and the “Just keep swimming” attitude of Dory and you’ll have the winning combination of characteristics necessary to start a dance troupe.

Making vs. Buying a Bellydance Costume

Catlina and Rose Dancing

Hey there readers, Catlina and Rose here! We wanted to write an article together talking about costuming basics. Rose wrote a great article on the basic pieces that make up a belly dance costume, so now that we know what those pieces are, we can talk about where and how to actually get a costume. I know this may seem like a big topic–and it is–but that’s why we teamed up: to give you two different perspectives on costuming.

When it comes to bellydance costumes, you essentially have two options: 1) you can buy a pre-made costume, or 2) you can make your own costume. This article will show the pros and cons of making vs. buying a bellydance costume.

Both Rose and I purchased our first costumes. I had a costume purchased before I even paid for my first lesson or my membership into the belly dancing group. I quickly realized though just how many different ways there were to get a costume. You could find costumes on eBay, participate in costume swaps with other dancers, or go to local Ren-faires. I wish I would have considered all the things we will talk about in this article before I had purchased.

If you make you own costume, you can get the supplies almost anywhere. Craft stores like JoAnn or Hobby Lobby will be gold mines for materials, but almost any bra, T-shirt, or skirt in your closet can be converted into a costume as well.

There are a few key things that you will need to look at when making the decision to make vs buy a bellydance costume. Those include price, time, fit and customization, quality, frustrating learning curves, and ease of coordinating with other troupe members.

PRICE

Costumes can be made in whatever budget you want. Some professional dancers may spend thousands of dollars on pre-made costumes, but I also know dancers who spend less than $20 on supplies that they then turn into beautiful, handmade, professional-looking costumes. So really the question of budget depends on the type of costume you want and how much you want to spend.

PRICE: Make

If you plan on making belly dancing a regular part of your life, making your own costume will definitely be cheaper in the long run. Fabric can be bought at almost any craft store for only dollars on the yard. Most large chains like Hobby Lobby or JoAnn carry materials and have coupons on their mobile apps, or annual sales that make shopping even cheaper. Where making your own costumes gets expensive however, is when costumes get more complex, and in the upfront costs of materials. This is because in order to make costumes without spending hours and hours hand-sewing seams, you need a sewing machine, pins, pin cushions, a tape measure, thread, needles, beads, sequins, trim… the list goes on and on. And while these things are not expensive individually, they add up. It is very common for someone new to bellydance to walk into a craft store and spend $100-300 on supplies, make one costume, and never use any of it again. This is exactly what you want to avoid! Ask yourself if you will really use these items again, and set a budget before you go shopping.

I was lucky enough to be gifted a sewing machine, and came from a crafty family that had most of these basics already. So for me my upfront cost was relatively low. I used what I had, and my costumes were not pretty, but I didn’t care. I taught myself through asking friends and watching YouTube videos. For me, making my own costumes was an investment because the skills I learned and the equipment I purchased would last me a long time. I knew they could be used for making many other things besides bellydance costumes. For example, I used my skills on my sewing machine to re-do the couch pillows on my sofa, because I did not like the fabric that they had before. So when looking at the skills you learn and the other uses for the supplies you buy, it really can save you money in the long run.

There is also the possibility of turning your costume making adventures into a profit. If you make your own costumes you could potentially sell them. Even if you just made a few for your troupe that may be enough to cover the costs of the necessary supplies and then some. If you get really skilled than Rose and I know one dancer from our troupe that works with her mom to make costumes and sells them for high prices. This covers all of her dancing expenses and then some. So don’t e discouraged by the high upfront cost! If you teach yourself, ask for help, and potentially sell your own costumes than you can more than make your money back.

PRICE: Buy

Rose: Costumes that are purchased can also vary in price depending on quality. I know a few websites that sell full costumes for cheap (from $10-50). They are pretty, but I’ll explain later where these cookie-cutter types have their fallout.

Pre-Made Costume
Pre-made costume from DressLily.com, cost $30

On the other hand, if you want a legitimate, pre-made costume that essentially has nothing wrong with it, you can get one from a good designer…for a minimum of about $400. Yup, that’s right: MINIMUM. And prices quickly escalate from there depending on fabric (type and amount used), beadwork (pros usually hand-sew hundreds of beads and sequins on their costumes), and design complexity.

TIME

Catlina: Just like with price, time is a huge factor to consider when making costumes. Making your own will be time consuming, especially if you are teaching yourself to use new tools or techniques. Buying your costumes can have long shipping times as some costumes may be shipping from China, and take weeks or months to deliver. So which one takes longer?

TIME: Make

Rose: I remember spending hours at a time over several days during my attempt to make a costume, just to make an unhemmed skirt! I then wasted another couple of days measuring and cutting out patterns to create the top. Only to find that I had not accounted for fabric overlap needed for stitching in my measurements. So I would’ve needed to spend another two days, at least, making the top, likely needing another two days (again, at least) to piece it all together with elastic strips. And this is when I was out of school and unemployed! I can only imagine how much longer it would take someone with a normal life to make this kind of costume which, by the way, was an incredibly plain costume with zero embroidery, decals, or beadwork.

Rose's Unheamed Skirt
Rose’s sad, plain, unfinished costume attempt

Catlina: I, however, knew just enough about sewing to be dangerous. I could hem a skirt in an hour due to my sewing machine, Bertha. (Whoever says sewing machines don’t have personalities is obviously lying… that machine is more temperamental than my cat.) I would constantly find myself with a performance in two days, and not enough time to wait for something to come in the mail. (This was before I learned about Amazon prime… how did we ever live without this!?!?!). So I would stay up all night sewing, have a costume, and hope that in my sleep-deprived state, I remembered to pull the pins out. I certainly do not recommend playing with sharp needles late at night before a huge performance. But I can also testify to the friendliness of the late-night workers at most craft stores.

TIME: Buy

Rose: For someone like me who isn’t very skilled at sewing, buying a costume saves me a lot of time. Granted, most costumes ship from the Eastern hemisphere, so shipping to the US can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. Which probably sounds like a longer time than you were expecting given that it’s 2019 but you can’t rush qualtiy. Also, if you ordered a custom-made costume, it may take an additional couple of weeks for the costume designer to make it. However, keep in mind that, during these weeks, you’re not having to do anything except wait. No sewing, no trimming, no weighing down obnoxiously mobile sheets of chiffon…nope. All your “work” just involved spending an hour or two online clicking around and typing in your debit card info.

Ultimately, when it comes to time, it depends on your skill with sewing. Someone with a good grasp on sewing like Catlina might be able to make a costume in 2 weeks or less. But someone like me, who once sewed a crappy quilt in 9th grade and years later attempted and failed to make one belly dance costume, might be better off leaving that work to someone else.

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION: Make

Catlina: This is where making your own costume truly wins. When you make your own costume, nobody else will have that costume. It can truly make you stand out from a crowd. Making your own also allows you to know exactly what you are getting, how it will look, and that it will fit. I have heard horror stories of girls ordering costumes from China, and after weeks of waiting, they are the wrong size, wrong color, fit awkwardly when they wear them, or don’t allow the same flexibility in dance moves. So be careful before you order, and take the time to read reviews and ask about sizing in detail. Good shops will have specific measurements, lengths, and/or bra sizes listed on their site. Look for these before purchasing.

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION: Buy

Rose: The pre-made costumes that Catlina is referring to here are the “cookie-cutter” costumes I warned you about, a.k.a. costumes that are mass-produced with no customization options. You don’t get to make them to fit, so you have to buy as close of a size to yours as you can, which can be challenging for a couple of reasons I’ll discuss in a later article (stay tuned!).

Another thing about cookie-cutter costume customization that can actually be a pro or a con depending on what you want, is something Catlina and I experienced in the belly dance club we were a part of in college. There was this one particular bra & bedleh set on Amazon that kept appearing on our fellow dancers, because it was cheap and easy to find. So we had several dancers with the same costume, just in different colors. It didn’t end up mattering then, fortunately, but had these dancers been hoping to stand out, they would not have been happy. On the flipside, for troupes wanting to appear more uniform, purchasing the same style of costume could be a plus.

Dance Troupe in Similar Costumes
Amazon costume coincidence at Dancing Through The Sahara, Mar. 2015

But now I need to talk about the custom-made costumes for purchase. It is common practice for professional belly dancers to choose their favorite designer and work with them to create unique costumes, so you CAN buy costumes that fit AND have a custom look! Here are a few examples of costumes one of my favorite belly dancers, Magnolia, had made for her:

Anastasiya Romania costume:

Dogan Gok costume: h

Yana Novikova costume: h

QUALITY

Catlina: Quality is similar to fit and customization. Work from online shops may not be guaranteed, but then again, if you are new to sewing your own outfits, your work may not be guaranteed, either. If you want true quality, there are several professional belly dance shops that guarantee their quality for life. Especially a few in Egypt and the Middle East that will ship to the United States or worldwide, however with this guaranteed quality you are paying high prices to match. Once you start knowing how to make your own costumes you know the weak spots, and tend to have higher quality than what you buy online and you know how to fix any issues that may arise.

QUALITY: Make

Rose: Like Catlina said, the quality of a costume you make is mostly dependent on your skill. The other factors that come into play are the fabric you choose, the stitch patterns you apply to hold the fabric together, and the embellishments. Lower-quality costumes tend to be made out of cotton, which looks cheap and gets worn out and “fuzzy” quickly, whereas higher-quality costumes will most often be made of silk or chiffon. When it comes to stitch patterns, a true seamstress will know which kinds will hang on better, where and how much to backstitch, how to hide as many seams as possible, and how to keep the fabric straight for an even seam. And lastly, embellishments can take a costume from “blah” to “huzzah!”. You can add embroidery, beadwork, fringe, coins, and many other things. For higher-quality embellishments, you can both buy more precious items (ex: sapphires instead of blue craftstore gems, bone beads instead of plastic) and SEW the embellishments on as opposed to hot-gluing them.

QUALITY: Buy

Unsurprisingly, buying the cheap cookie-cutter costumes means lower quality, whereas paying $400+ for custom-made costumes means higher quality.

Think you don’t care about quality when a costume is only ten bucks? Maybe that’s true…if you’re not trying to dance professionally. Now I don’t know if there is any written rule that states such specific costume requirements for professional events as fabric type and price, but I’m willing to bet that you won’t win any competitions or earn any paying gigs in your lint-fuzzed, loose-stringed wardrobe-on-a-budget. So keep your goals as a dancer (whether to go pro or no) in mind before you buy.

IN SUMMARY

Catlina: When it comes to making a costume, it may have a higher upfront cost depending on the materials you need and be VERY time-consuming, but it will result in learning many skills, being able to make costum∆˜hes quickly, and guaranteeing quality. It is possible to have lower overall costs when making your own costumes depending on how many you make. When buying a costume, it is a perfect example of getting what you pay for. Buying costumes can be cheap, easy, and quick to coordinate with troupe members, but can sacrifice quality and customization, OR it can save you the time and hassle of making a professional-looking costume at a high monetary cost.

Rose: So what do you think? Do you prefer to buy or make your belly dance costumes? Comment below!

STILL CONFUSED?

Catlina: We hope this article has helped answer any questions you have about the pros and cons of making vs buying a costume. If not, please feel free to reach out to us through our contact us page! We are happy to answer any questions.

We look forward to writing more posts for you soon!

Catlina and Rose Dancing
Photo by Rachel Junek. Rev’s Belly Dance Night, Feb. 2014. Catlina & Wilderthorne.

 

From Bedleh to Baladi Dress

Belly Dance Costumes Egypt

What all is in a belly dance costume anyway?

Rose Belly Dance Oct 2013

My first belly dance performance, October 2013

When most people think of belly dance, they picture a woman in a bedazzled bra and skirt. While this image of costumery is correct, it is not the only acceptable attire for the genre. Dancers can wear pants, dresses, vests, and more with a wide variety of accessories. Fortunately, one only needs at most three items to meet the criteria of an appropriate belly dance costume.

Here are the bare bones of belly dance costumery:

One-Piece Costume

A belly dance costume can really be as simple as one piece??? Yup! In fact, dancing in a full dress has been a thing since the dawn of belly dance time, for both men AND women.

Females

Women will most typically wear a form-fitting Assuit dress (I’ve also heard dancers use the term “Baladi dress”) which is ankle-length and has long sleeves and a low-cut front. Also, dresses are typically used for older, more traditional styles of belly dance such as Saidi(1) and Baladi(2), but I have seen a dancer wear a dress in a Modern Fusion piece(3).

Males

Although I am uncertain as to whether public chest exposure was acceptable in belly dance’s early years, I do know that today’s men (in the United States, at least) can get away with leaving their chests bare, meaning that belly dance costumery for men can be as simple as an ankle-length skirt, harem pants, or tribal pants.

Unisex

Going back to costumes that are typically only appropriate for old-fashioned belly dance styles, males AND females can both wear a galabeya, a loose-fitting, ankle-length, long-sleeved “dress” that is typically made of cotton and dyed in pale colors(1).

Two-Piece Costume

Once a belly dance costume graduates to being two or more pieces, all you’re looking for are a piece to cover the upper torso (from above the nipple line to just below the bust) and a piece to cover the crotch and legs. Most commonly for women, you will see a bra and skirt, as this was the first traditional two-piece style, born as a part of the Raqs Sharqi style(4).

Tops

Oh my heavens, do you have a million options for tops! The most traditional are bras and choli tops for women and Turkish vests for men. Other options include butterfly tops, tube tops, and crop tops.

Please note that, when I say “bras”, I do not mean women can just go onstage wearing their underwear; bra tops for belly dance distinguish themselves by offering much more secure straps as well as having the breast cups stitched closer together to really squeeze the girls into place. Bra tops are also usually quite bedazzled in such a way that wearing them beneath a shirt would look ridiculous.

Also note that, since tube tops and crop tops are designed for modern wear, one will likely need extra coverage beneath those garments if using them for dance costumery.

Bottoms

All of the items that men can wear as one-piece costumes can serve as a woman’s second costume piece, so ankle-length skirts, harem pants, and tribal pants are acceptable.

When it comes to skirts, make sure to select one that allows for a lot of leg movement. Skirts can cling to the hips (like mermaid skirts) so long as you can take long steps without getting hung up on yourself.

About the pants styles, I’ll quickly detail their differences here. Harem pants are typically a bell shape, fitting very loosely on the legs, whereas tribal pants cling to the thighs and flare out at the lower leg. It is common for either style of pants to have long slits in the outside of the legs.

Three-Piece Costume

The only thing that differentiates a three-piece from a two-piece costume is an extra garment on the hips. That garment can be a bedleh belt, a hip scarf/coin belt, or just a regular old scarf.

Bedlehs are matching bra-and-belt combos and are considered very traditional in belly dance. The belt part of a bedleh is wide and fits around the hips, covering the top part of your skirt or pants. Hip scarves, also known as coin belts, are wide strips of fabric (sometimes triangle-shaped) with several rows of coins or palettes, and these, too, are very traditional.

Using just a regular scarf tied around the hips is actually more traditional, even, than the two aforementioned options, but because it is associated with Saidi and Baladi styles of belly dance(1,2), you don’t see that particular accessory very much in modern belly dance.

In Conclusion: You should have what it takes to belly dance.

As a poor millennial who has been belly dancing for five years, I can assure you that, no matter where you are in life, you can afford a belly dance costume. After all, you don’t need more than three pieces to make one!

For more specifics on how to get stage-ready, Catlina and I wrote another article about the differences between making vs buying a bellydance costume. We talk about several ways to get bellydance costumes affordably without sacrificing quality!

Then, when you’re ready to upgrade the costume you have, follow our guides on jewelry and props (coming soon)!

Sources
1. Haas, Lauren. “Learn Bellydance Styles: Saidi and Raqs Assaya.” Bellydance U, 2015, bellydanceu.net/styles/learn-bellydance-styles-saidi-and-raqs-assaya/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
2. Haas, Lauren. “Learn Bellydance Styles: Egyptian Baladi.” Bellydance U, 2018, bellydanceu.net/styles/bellydance-styles-egyptian-baladi/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
3. “Seamless Amanda ~ Ghost Belly Dance Drum Solo.” YouTube, uploaded by Seamless Amanda, 10 Mar. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQjy_lNQDL4. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
4. “History of Raqs Sharqi Belly Dancing.” Club Cairo, edited by Adam Bull, Raqsarabia, 25 Apr. 2018, www.clubcairo.co.uk/html/history.php. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.