Thursday, June 3, 2010

Costume musings

A couple of weeks ago a dance friend commented about how I always keep track of costumes (i.e. what people wear to shows and who the designer is). I love costumes and costuming, especially of the belly dance variety, but I don't want people to think it is because I am superficial or because I like to play dress-up. That's just the way I am. I always have been.

I have a distinct memory when it comes to clothing. I remember what I was wearing at important key moments in my life (first kiss, first date, graduations, etc). Even as a child I loved my clothes and attached special meanings to everything. I made clothes and costumes for Barbies and played dress up a lot. I guess that's a teenager I read high fashion magazines (along with the junk magazines) and just love fabric, textures, jewelry, etc. It was a natural fit when I learned how to sew and make jewelry. I even briefly considered a career in fashion design, but I lack skills in precision and I hate the scene is totally not my thing. So yeah, this stuff has just been part of my world. The irony is that I do not dress fashionably at all. Never have, probably never will.

Then I found belly dancing where the costuming is just so fascinating and endless. I love it. When I was at the Mohamed Shahin workshop I honestly picked up and inspected the Eman Zaki's he had. Just so I could feel them, examine them, and know what they are like. If the actual dancing didn't make me so happy, I would start to think that I was in it just for the costuming. I can assure you I am not. BUT belly dance costuming will always have a special place in my heart. My need to create, touch, adhere meaning to clothing-like objects is enhanced where belly dancing is concerned. It is not about being superficial, artificial, judgmental or egotistical. I do not need pretty costumes to make myself feel better than others. In fact when I comment on a costume or buy one of my own, it is usually because I am responding to a visceral reaction...whether it be positive or negative...

I've been thinking a lot about my costume collection and what it consists of. I try to make strategic moves in how I fill my dance cabinet. I try to arrange things so that I am always selling one as a new one comes in (to make room and justify my habit). I also try to have enough different kinds to keep my interest: sleek/modern, solid bedlah, lavish/high end, hafla-wear, oriental dress, saidi dress, plus lots of options for mix and match. With each new costume I buy, I consider whether or not it will meet my needs, and most importantly, fit this buxom bod. Yes, I do make occasional impulse purchases, but they're generally items that will suit my needs and dance styles.

I recently bought a Pharaonics Butterfly costume, a very popular style, and it will be my 4th! Of course I am paying it off over time using my monthly income from teaching (and not my salary or credit!). I know Pharaonics are seen as generic and sometimes cheap, but I am so drawn to the styles. I don't worry about looking like a cliché, or like the rest of the other dancers. I've never had that overwhelming need to be one of a kind...I know that's because my dancing and my personality should speak for itself.

I also custom ordered a Hanan, directly from the source. This should take awhile and I wonder if I will ever get it. I picked Hanan because I think she makes great dresses for plus-sized women (giant cut-outs excluded). Oriental dresses are so hard to find, good ones that is, and I am picky and hard to fit on top of that. We'll see what my direct custom order turns out to look like in the end. It should be better than buying off the rack, but one can never know.

I am also craving an all-silver bedlah, for more versatility. I am trying my hardest to wait to purchase anything else until 2011, but I may falter on this one. I guess it depends on how many paying gigs I will get this year. I either want a Pharaonics like this or this (although that extra fringe on the side of the bra would have to go), custom ordering a Bella (yes, I said it), custom ordering from Dahab Designs, or perhaps making something of my own.

Of course my home-made and refurbished to-do pile has gotten large! I am still working on the chunky blue and gold refurb. Progress has slowed because I am doing something boring, beading the straps...After that will be my brown and pink, following that I hope to finish my pearl costume, and then the last is my gold costume (I only have fabric, no bling or beads yet). I also need to find time to make 4 double-layer chiffon skirts. I hope I get a serger for my birthday.

Yeah, so this whole costume business goes a lot deeper than just needing to look hot. Sure it's our official "uniform" and part of the job. But it's so much more than that. It's a hobby, it's an art, it's a passion and it's a dream fulfilled.

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