Costume No-Nos.



So I was looking through random people’s facebook pictures today, and well…I came across a picture that completely annoyed and offended me.

That being said, I decided this blog post was long over-due.

I’m not going to name names here, but I am going to give examples. If you find yourself to be an example, I’d like to say sorry, but um…I’m not. I’m also not saying I’m perfect, in fact, I’m sure I’m guilty of one of these points or another at some point in my dance career. But the point is, I’ve learned and I’ve grown as a performer, and I’ll never…NEVER…make these mistakes again. Ever.

Point I- Ill Fitting Costumes:

I looked at this picture, and I was like “OUCH!”

First off, the bra is -WAY- too tight, this dancer isn’t even a plus sized woman, there’s no reason to have a buldge of back fat from a too-tight-bra. Yes, you want your dance bra to fight snuggly so nothing flies out, but you DO NOT want it to be cutting into your flesh.

Second point, the cups are too small, and are spilling over the tops.

I’ve a feeling this problem can be fixed by cutting the side of the bra under the arms, sewing on a D ring/O ring and adding long straps over the shoulders that will criss-cross over the shoulders and tie mid back. This will hold the bra in place, and eliminate back rolls from the bra. It may even open up the cups a little. I would also suggest maybe not using this style bra as a lone-bra. They’re not the most supportive things in the world.

It’s a shame when we get a beautiful costume piece and can’t wait to wear it, but please remember you want to create smooth lines with your costumes and bodies. Ill fitting too-tight costumes can distract the audience. If you buy a costume piece and it doesn’t fit right, it’s best to have it altered to fit.

The brings me to my next point.

Point II- Too Big Costumes.

“I’m sorry? Did you want to see my undulations?”

Peasant blouses are the world’s worst costume mistake when people think of belly dance…At least the longer belly-covering ones.

I’ve nothing against covering your belly if that’s your thing. That’s completely fine. But seriously, you need to wear something more form fitting and less sack-like.

When people think of gypsies and belly dance, they of course jump right to the “I’ll get a peasant blouse!” And never concider that there’s a world of styles one can concider “gypsy”.

The first problem with this style of shirt, is it’s shapeless. Yes, it hangs off your shoulders, that’s plenty adorable. But it sits like a potato sack across your mid-section making anyone wearing it look huge. It also blocks any abdominal work you’re trying to show off.

Then you run into the problem of what to do with it? Tuck it in? Leave it out? If you’re going to go this route, my advice (besides don’t) is TIE IT UP.

The second problem are the sleeves. The shorter ones aren’t the problem most of the time. The major issues happen when people have the obscenely poofy “pirate” style sleeves. They swish all over the place, block your face, and are seriously distracting. People have come to see you dance, not your costume.

Speaking of distracting things…

III Shoes

For the LOVE OF GODS. PLEASE be sure that your shoes match your costume.

Black boot-shoes with white tube socks and a cabaret costume? Umm…No. I don’t care if you’re feet are in pain, if your foot-doctor told you to never remove them…There is seriously no excause for someone who calls themselves a performer to be wearing this sort of shoe with a cabaret costume while performing.

When I saw this picture, all I could look at were the clunky shoes. What was the dancer doing? Couldn’t tell ya. SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOES. Ug!

Now, I was told this dancer may very well have a foot-problem. And that’s upsetting, but at the same time…I know professionals who wouldn’t be caught dead in an orthopedic shoe while onstage in a costume. Take it off, dance, put it back on if you must.

EDIT 1/22/12: The dancer in the photo above contacted me. She said she had broken her ankle, and only wore the shoes so she wouldn’t let her troupe down. I had NO idea I knew the dancer in the picture (She looks nothing like she did in this picture!) She also told me, under no other circumstances would she ever dance on stage in those shoes with a cabaret costume.

Please please please, you are presenting yourself as a creature of beauty. You have to keep in mind that people take all of you in, you need to dress completely as the character you want to be. That includes shoes.

Ballet flats, sandals, boots, heels, stocking, knee-boots…whatever! They’re all great! Just be sure it fits the theme of your costume.

As a rule of thumb, I find heeled boots that lace up to above the ankle or knee are perfect for and tribal or vaudeville type costume. Heels can also work, but are perfect for a cabaret costume. Ballet flats and sandals are good for most costumes depending on the color and what they’re made of.


Try as I might…I couldn’t find a good pic for this one.

Let me tell you of a little story of a show from last year.

Part of my dance troupe, a few of my students, and I were sitting close to the front of of Qaina last year (Check out the events page on for more info. it’s an awesome event!).  There was a local troupe performing, I can’t recall who and that’s a good thing too. They had on these lovely silk gypsy skirts, the three-tier type. Their choreo was gypsy, and it was cute. I noticed something however…not one of them had pants on under their skirts.

For most of their song, I thought we were going to be safe…but oh no! Just as it ended, they all spun around and fell into a formation to pose at the end. And I saw ever-single-one of their ass cheeks and or granny panties, boy-shorts, thongs, and what have you.

For the love of everything good. WEAR PANTS UNDER YOUR SKIRTS. No one is going to think you less of a lady if you don’t. I promise. I also promise no one wants to see your panties or butt-cheeks.

On another note, shorts are a no-no too. Yes, it gets hot performing at festivals in the summer, but find a pair of harem or wide leg pants that are light weight, breath, and absorb sweat. Shorts are tacky, and when you spin and people can see a pair of shorts under, it kills the illusion you were trying to create. Nothing says “I’m playing dress up!” like a pair of gym shorts under a circle skirt.

So what about Cabaret dancers? Most of their costume are made to show bare leg.

Yes, cabaret dancers show bare leg. They still need to wear something under their skirts. We once attended a show, where a cabaret dancer had the most beautiful gold costume, and was quite talented. And then she spun…and her skirt lifted and everyone saw her vagango in all it’s glory. (She wasn’t a natural blonde, btw.)

They make these things called Spanks. They’re underwear made for dancers, and they’re thin, and cling to your skin, and come in many many colors. I highly suggest a cabaret dancer invest in multiple pairs to match all of her costumes…because the worst thing next to a bare-ass would be a cotton-granny panty butt.

Another reason I love pants? They hide things like knee-pads. Now, not all dancers are as hard core (or stupid) as I am. Some dancers prefer to wear knee pads when doing drops or floor work for whatever reason. And seriously, nothing kills your “Look at my wicked awesome trick!” then the audience seeing you’re wearing protective gear. Congrats, you just killed every element of danger and talent you were trying to portray. Bravo.

Part V- Make-up

This is one of the HUGE things that separate the pros from the am matures.

Make up is your final touch on your look. Never go on stage with out make-up. Stage lights make your skin shine and look pale.

I don’t expect everyone to turn into a guru. I just think if you plan to present yourself as a professional dancer, you should learn to apply makeup- in a way that compliments the style you dance in. What do I mean?

Gothic dancers shouldn’t go around wearing glitter. Perfect example. Just as a Cabaret dancer wouldn’t go around with her eyelids painted pitch black and blue lined lips. Just doesn’t happen.

If there’s a few good pieces of advice I can offer for make up, they’re as followed…

1. Learn to blend. Both your eyeshadow, and your face makeup. Learn to create soft lines, your face powder shouldn’t stop at your jawbone. Use more then one color of eyeshadow, and learn to blend them.

2. Learn to use eyeliner properly. Be it pencil, liquid, or gel. Practice applying your eyeliner over and over again. It does take awhile to get a steady hand, don’t get angry or frustrated.

3. Wear Mascara. This rule is even more important if you have lighter eyelashes. When you put on eyeshadow or liner, your lashes are going to pale out and it gives this very strange look. Get that mascara on!

4. Use a base and set everything. Dancing for long is going to cause you to sweat, and sweating is going to make your makeup run and crease. This one took me awhile to learn, and even longer to come up with a combo of products that stopped my shadow-creasing. (I’ve oily eyelids.)

If you’re confused about make-up, and don’t know where to start, I highly suggest starting to watch youtube. Do a search for “Makeup tutorial” and you’ll get tons of hits from many artists.

A fun all around good look to use for almost any dance style is the “Pin-up” look. It’s a bit different then most makeup these days, and the cat eyes give an “arabic” look. It’s very easy to do as well.

Check out the following channels, these are the gurus I follow:

Xsparkage, goldiestarling, JulieG713, MichellePhan, MissChevious, petrilude, and SayanythingBr00ke (the last one is a double zero in brooke.)

They’ve helped me a lot…and added to this crazy new makeup nail polish obsession.

Blog Bonus:

If you’re like me, and have oily eye lids, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of problems making your eye makeup stay in place. A few hours into an event, you go to the bathroom and all your shadow’s collected in the crease of your eye!

Oh what to do!

This is what I’ve been using. This combo of products rocks, and it got me through a long day of sweating in the sun at a Ren Faire gig….Apply in the following order…

1. Urban Decay Primer Potion. 2. Mac Paint Pot 3. Shadows/Liner 4. Maron Setting Powder

Yes, Urban Decay and Mac are expensive. They’re 158% worth the investment. Urban Decay products can be found at Sephora Stores and Ulta. Mac counters can be found in most major department stores (Macy’s) and also have stand alone stores. Maron powder is a stage makeup setting powder, and can be found on their website or in costume/theater supply shops and runs about 6-8 dollars for a huge container (I’ve had mine for 10 years, it’s not going to go bad or run out quickly.)


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