Costumes and Body Types

Bellydancer in green
Dance accessories
Dance accessories
A dance costume is the clothing worn by a dancer when performing before an audience. A dance costume may be custom designed for use in a specific dance work, or it may have a traditional design, such as those used in some ceremonial and folk dances. Typically, dance costumes are designed to harmonize with the dance and not hinder the movements of the dancer. | Photo: Miriam Cunha | Hands, Bracelets, Smile, Dance, Costume, Color, India,

What should I wear for my performance?

What can we do to show or to hide the different parts of our body that we like or dislike? We are not talking about stereotypes here, just about the different ways to make us feel better when performing in public. We all have different types of bodies, different highs, different sizes, etc., and we need to feel safe when we are on stage! Wearing the right costume for our body is a way to feel safe, so here we go!

The first thing you have to know is what type of body do you have. Look at yourself in the mirror, and observe your shape. Do you have a triangular type of body? Larger hips or larger shoulders? What do you feel better showing and what do you prefer not to show? It is all up to you do decide, because you are going to use your body to express your dance, and you want to feel absolutely safe, secure and gorgeous, at the end, everything is in our minds and heart, it is all about who we think we are, and how we feel about ourselves, and to pursue this art is to pursue self-steam, self-love, and confidence.

The more important tip: However you feel about yourself and how you perceive yourself, that’s how others will see when you dance, because people will connect with your inner self and will know how you are feeling.

Hip belts…

If you feel insecure about the size of your hips, and you want them to look smaller, choose narrower hip belts or the ones with less decorations, wider hip belts and with lots of decorations will make your hips look larger for different reasons, if it is wider it will visually enlarge your hip, and if it has lots of decorations, it will call the eyes attention to the hips.

Taking the attention away from your hips and calling the attention to another part of your body is a good trick! If you have small hips, do the opposite, use wider belts and with lots of shining decorations.

Fringes are always welcome, they elongate your body and help disguise large hips. They’re also good to make you look taller, although you shouldn't exaggerate on the length of fringes, which might just work the opposite way.

Some bodies are wider on top and narrower on the bottom, or have larger breasts or shoulders, but no hips, kind of like a triangle shape pointing down. For these types of bodies, you want to choose hip belts with a lot of volume and attachments, like for example, belts with flowers or feathers, or attached veils or extra fabric and skirts with lots of fabric. That will create more volume at the bottom of your body and balance out the larger shoulders or breasts.

If you have small hips, or a triangular type of body, but your stomach is not flat and projects to the front, be careful to position your volume or attachments around the sides and back, not on front of your body, because that will make your stomach look bigger.

Hips are a very important, they are the heart of Belly Dancing! Choose your right type of adornment and costume and have a happy dancing!


If you have small breasts and large hips, you should wear a much bigger size bra! I mean much bigger, let’s say, if you are a size 36, wear a size 42 or even bigger. That will call the attention to the top of your body and not so much to your hips, and at the same time make you look that you have bigger breasts. This trick will balance out your body.

So, how do you make your smaller breast fit in a bigger bra? Use old tricks, but not exactly the English muffing trick! LOL, you can stuff it with paddings, tissues, or even socks! Just make sure that whatever you use to stuff your bra, is completely secure into the inner part of your bra, otherwise you can have an embarrassing moment on stage, we don’t want that! Despite that, don’t be afraid to buy a larger bra and enhance your beauty.

Even if you are not concerned about making them look bigger, buy one number bigger, it will make you more comfortable, and avoid your breasts to end up escaping out at the wrong moment! Safety is the key word here ;) - shimmy your babies and be happy!

Curvy Belly
Curvy Belly

A curvy Bellydancer with Isis wings. | Bellydance, Costume, Isis, Belly, Performance, Beauty,

Hiding some undesirable fat areas…

Even if you don’t have them, but you ‘think’ you do…, the important thing is to feel good about yourself when you are dancing. Therefore, choosing the right shape of tops, belts, bras, dresses, etc., can do a lot to make us feel better.

Let’s say you want to hide your abdominal area and don’t want to show your belly button, or you have an unfinished tattoo you want to hide, or skin marks. You can wear a transparent layer top underneath your bra and skirt. Many Middle Eastern dancers wear that, most of the time not because they want to hide their stomachs, but because their culture demands they hide it. Despite the motives, that’s something you can do to bring you some comfort when performing in public.

You can also make use of laces and veils, or other adornments that cover the skin areas you don’t want to show. One piece long dresses can help you with that, always taking into consideration that different styles of dances require different styles of costumes, which will not always adapt to our bodies style.

But if you are confident and bold, by all means, show off your beauty! Again, like I said before, people will see what you want them to see, what you believe about yourself, and believing on ourselves and our own unique beauty is the key of everything.

Traditional costumes rules…

Like I mentioned before, particular styles of ME dance, especially the folk dances, require certain types of costumes, but these types of costumes not always will fit our type of body. Here you don’t have too many choices, and you might not want to exactly follow the traditional costume rules instead of choosing a costume style that will fit your body type in a better way.

When performing with a troupe, it becomes a little more complicated to get away from the group choice of costume to adapt to your body type, but you can always modify a few details and make it fit and feel better on you.


Have you heard the old saying that you get what you pay for? Well, that’s true in a way, and not. There are different cases. Sometimes you might spend hundreds of dollars to buy a top brand costume, and it will be nothing but problems, or you might spend just a few dollars and get the costume of your dreams. One thing that is almost always true, is that longer lasting costumes are made of more expensive material and created by professionals that know what they’re doing, so it is sometimes worth spending the money to get a great costume.

Choices, choices, choices…

I wish you good luck on your costume shopping spree, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to drop me a note or contact me, I am always happy to share my experience.

Until the next article!
May the power of dance be with you!
Miriam Cunha (a.k.a. Yonisha)

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Updated Jan 14, 2018 6:23 AM EST | More details


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