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What is a Belly Dancer Costume?

A belly dancer costume is an ensemble of vibrant, flowing fabrics and ornate embellishments designed to accentuate the fluid movements of the dancer. It often includes a fitted top, a hip belt with fringes or coins, and a skirt or harem pants, creating a mesmerizing visual effect. Wondering how these costumes have evolved over time? Join us as we explore their colorful history.
April S. Kenyon
April S. Kenyon

The belly dancer costume is considered by many dancers to be just as important as the dance itself. In many western countries, where belly dancing is most popular, the bedlah is the costume primarily chosen by most belly dancers. A bedlah is a belly dancer costume with a fitted bra, hip belt, and skirt. Some may include harem pants in place of the skirt. The costume is often elaborately decorated with fringe, coins, beads, or other ornamentation.

While the traditional bedlah is generally the preferred style among belly dancers, other types of costumes might be worn instead. For example, in Egypt, it has been illegal since the 1950s for belly dancers to show excessive amounts of skin or reveal an exposed navel. Consequently, the baladi dress has become a popular belly dancer costume for Egyptian belly dancers. This one piece sheath style dress often includes sleeves and is generally worn with a fringed scarf or hip belt. In most other countries, the bedlah is still the preferred style of belly dancer costume, though some dancers may choose to wear separate skirts, haram pants, bras, sequenced tops, scarfs, and other belly dancing attire.

Shoes worn with a belly dancer costume might be simple or elaborate, depending upon the preference of the dancer. Some belly dancers may even opt to wear no shoes. Ballet type slippers and sandals are commonly worn with belly dancer costumes.

Belly dancing costumes usually include a flowing skirt.
Belly dancing costumes usually include a flowing skirt.

Props used in belly dancing are also considered to be an important part of a belly dancer costume. These may include such items as tambourines, snakes, fire sticks, fans, swords, or finger cymbals. Belly dancing props are often used to add variety to a dance and attract the attention of the audience. Some professional and skilled belly dancers, however, prefer to keep the emphasis on the dance itself, and might frown upon the use of belly dancing props.

Ballet type slippers may be worn with belly dancer costumes.
Ballet type slippers may be worn with belly dancer costumes.

Many professional belly dancers choose to have costumes custom made. The belly dancer costume is often considered to be an extension of the specific personality of the dancer. Professional and skilled belly dancers often prefer to seek out a designer who can tailor make a costume designed specifically for the dancer. The majority of belly dancer costumes are made of form fitting fabrics and often include loose or flowing overlaying material. Some belly dancers choose to avoid the use of elaborate decoration on a costume so that the focus can remain upon the dance and the skills of the belly dancer.

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Discussion Comments


@widget2010- I like Indian clothing too, especially harem pants and other things that remind me of belly dancers. However, I have pretty much decided that I will never look good in harem pants. I'm pretty curvy in the hips, and it's so hard to find a pair that don't just accentuate hips and make you look bulky. I also think a lot of these pants don't look good on anyone shorter than about 5' 8". Oh well, not all styles look good on everyone.


Harem pants have become an almost mainstream part of fashion in the last few years, and I have to say I actually really like them. They can look so cool and billowy, fancy but carefree at the same time. I've been on the lookout for a good pair for years, though I have yet to find them.

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    • Belly dancing costumes usually include a flowing skirt.
      By: katrinaelena
      Belly dancing costumes usually include a flowing skirt.
    • Ballet type slippers may be worn with belly dancer costumes.
      By: Petro Feketa
      Ballet type slippers may be worn with belly dancer costumes.