Bellydance Fashions


So, my new student, Z was talking about how she didn’t know what to wear for an upcoming Pageant she is involved in. She wants to do a belly dance choreo, and being the awesome teacher I am (haha!) I said I’d upload some pictures for her.

In retrospect, I think this is good for all my students, and anyone who’s interested in bellydance and just can’t find good costuming pictures.

The only style I haven’t covered here is Cabaret. It’s not because I hate Cabaret, but really, the costumes are much easier to find, and everyone has a good idea of the sparkle that the dancers are known for.


I made these awhile ago for the Shuvani Jezebels as a wardrobe guide. It was very helpful to us, and since then we’re all on the same page as far as costumes go. All the sketches are my property, photos are gathered from the web. (Except the pic of Melanie and K8, I took that gem.)

What I really think is most helpful about this is the breakdown of the costumes. There’s many layers to a tribal dancer’s costume, and when you look at the over-all picture, it can be overwhelming to piece it apart and figure out what is what.

Each sketch is the basic layer of costume minus the belts, layers of skirts, and jewelry.

I’ll go over a list of vocabulary at the end.


Modern Tribal

Example: The Indigo (Zoe Jakes pictured)

Breakdown of the  style.

TOP: Tribal bra of some sort. Choli, Turkish Vest, Choli Bodice

BOTTOM: Black Pants “Melodia” style, wide leg pants, printed pants, lace

ACCESSORIES: Hip Scarf , Tribal Belts, hall fall, hair bands, fishnets on arms, short overskirts, long skirt bustled at sides or back, Coin belts OK if in darker colors w/o gold coins.



Period Tribal

BOTOM: Harem Pants or wide leg pants, long skirt

TOP: Choli, Coin Bra, Turkish Vest, Gomluk with vest, Ghawazee Coat

ACCESSORIES: Hip Scarf, Tribal Belt, Scarves or turbans for the hair, hair falls, tribal face paint

AVOID: Modern coin belts

Troupe Hareem Shareem pictured


Bottom: Harem Patns or other pants with a circle skirt atop.

Top: Choli, Coin Bra with Turkish Vest, Choli Bodice.

Accessories: Hip scarf tribal belts, hair falls, headbands, over skirt, another circle skirt tucked up

Do Nots: Gomluk, poofy pants, peasant blouse

Fat Chance Bellydance Pictured


Much like the gypsy style. Add multiple layers of skirts sometimes tucked up, tassle belts, and larger feather and flower hairpieces or turbans. Skirts are often bustled on sides or back.


Costume Dictionary

Ghawazee Coat: (pictured above in “period tribal” photo) A fitted coat cut low under the bust to show off a coin bra. Sleeves often have the armpit area missing. Sleeve length can vary, from none, 3/4, to a full bell sleeve from the elbow to wrist. Buttons up the front. Used in modern dance as a cover up. For period dance, it is suggested a gumlok is worn underneath.

Antari/Entari- An overcoat much like a ghawazee coat, except not cut under the bust.

Gumlok: A long sleeved under dress slit up the front. It is usually made of a gaze type of fabric. Work as a base to many period costumes, it is worn under the coinbra and/or turkish vest but over the skirt/harem pants.

Turkish Vest: A vest usually made from a thicker fabric such as brocade and made to fit under the bust. The type of closure is up to the dancer and can be anything velcro, buttons, toggles, snaps, pins, laced up, ect. It is suggested you line your vest, and be sure the fabric you use isn’t flimsy as this is what holds your costume in place, be it your coin bra, or a period Gumlok.

Choli- An under blouse popular in India. The choli has many different styles, some tie in the back while others have a closed back and button up in the front. Traditionally worn under a Sari. Most cholis offer a bare mid-drift, while some have what is called a “bib” that hangs from under the bust and covers the belly.

Choli Bodice- These have become popular over the past few years, and are extremely versatile.  A combo of a choli, and a lace up bodice. Don’t pay more then 35-40 dollars for them retail.

Melanie and K8 playing with temp-tattoos, but wearing a choli-bodice.

Coin Bra- A bra decorated with coins, fringe, or other sort of adornment. Tribal bras are mostly decorated with some sort of metal kuchi coin or other sort of chains.

Kuchi- A pot-metal jewlry from the middle east. If it’s a country with “stan” in it, odds are they make some sort of Kuchi. Pieces are fantastic and original as almost every Kuchi piece of jewlry is hand made. The problem is, you never know what’s in the metal. It made by melting whatever metal they can get and pouring it into molds. Wear with caution as it’s likely to turn your skin colors and sometimes cause you to break out. I suggest treating the underside with clear nail polish, and only wear during shows and when interacting with an audience. Any kuchi earrings purchased, I highly suggest removing them from their hooks and replacing them with something hypoallergenic.

This is a great example of Kuchi. This is what is called a “shoe lace belt”.

Henna- A plant based paste used to stain the skin, also called Mhendi. Just check out Cricket’s site.

Cricle Skirt: Also called “Flying Skirts” or “Gypsy Skirts”. A skirt made of at least 10 yards of fabric. If you plan to make one on your own, I suggest using a light weight fabric such as gaze. I’ve also used broad cloth for these, and had them be not too heavy.  A good rule of thumb for measuring a circle skirt. When on, they should hit between your ankle and the top of you foot. You shouldn’t be able to step on them when walking. A half circle skirt will form a U when each side is held in your hands, with arms extended. A Full circle skirt will be able to have the sides lifted above your head while still having the hem at your ankles. When you spin the fabric flares out. Please PLEASE wear pants under your skirt!!

Harem Pants: Poofy pants that are gathered at the ankle. Sometimes split up the sides. Can be made from a range of fabric, sometimes sheer but not usually for period or tribal performance.

Melodia- A style of modern dance pants that are fitted on the legs and flare out on the bottoms, most of the time they are slit to the knee. Melodia is the name brand, and very expensive. There are many knock offs, including Sharif Wear. Unless you are very small, I suggest buying from either the Melodia site or the Sharif Wear site as the sizing on their pants are either large or true to size. Sharif Wear tends to be very stretchy (I wear a Medium/Large, but I -can- fit into a small.). I DO NOT suggest buying from an online vendor, as most of the pants are from China and run VERY VERY small. DO NOT buy them on Ebay, unless the auction states they are Sharif Wear or Melodia Brand. I have a friend who sells Sharif Wear, so if you’re ever interested let me know and I’ll give you her name. Melodia pants run from around 70 dollars to 150 new. Sharif wear you can expect to pay between 35 and 85 depending on the style. Both are worth every penny!

Hip Scarf- A lace or silk shawl folded or cut into a V. The bottom of the V hangs from your butt, while the arms of the V are used to tie it to your waist.

Coin Belt- Can either mean a belt with coins on it, like a Kuchi Shoe-lace style belt, or a scarf with coins hanging on it.

Kuchi Belt- A belt with Kuchi pieces on it.

ATS/ITS- American Tribal Style and International Tribal Style. A troupe with a set group of movements. A leader will cue the rest of the troupe to a combination of predetermined movements.

Bindi- A jewel worn on the Third Eye. Check out Lena’s etsy site. If you see something you like, memo her and tell her you’re a student at Shuvani Dance Studio, and she’ll leave your order there for you most times! She’ll be vending at Qaina.


I hope this terminology helps everyone in their costume searches. I found the hardest part when I started dancing was trying to find costume pieces that weren’t cabaret. The period pieces were near impossible to find, and it’s even harder to find them when you don’t know what to search for name wise.



2 responses »

  1. The ghawazee coat picture is me, dancing at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California, roughly nine years ago.

    • Is it really?? I’m so glad this person finally surfaced!! I’ve shown this picture to students more than once as an example. Your coat is lovely, as are you! Nice to meet you!

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