by Dina, The Costume Goddess
Dear Costume Goddess,
What can you recommend for a tall, pear-shaped bellydancer? I mean in terms of belt-shaping, but also the overall ensemble. The 10-yard skirt, bra, belt thing is cool, but I'd like to try something different. I love those groovy deMille-type panel skirts but my saddlebags don't. Help?
--Apples & Oranges
Dear Costume Goddess,
Tall and pear shaped isn't my problem, but do you have any advice for short and pear shaped? I'm extremely long waisted to boot.
Love the site and the help.
This is a challenge I can get my teeth into. Apples & Oranges, you don't say whether you are a round or a slim pear, but either way your height is an advantage. You don't give me a clue to the size of these so-called saddlebags either. Are we talking spare change here, or could these contain the Crown Jewels?
If moderately sized, you could wear a variation of the "Demille" style, (by which I think you're referring to a slinky sheath) with some artfully arranged drapes disguising the problem area, as pictured to the right.
For instance, I think the mermaid style of skirt with a flared hem would be a flattering variation.
The illustration shows how a big circle skirt can make a pear shape look like a pyramid (you may not want to look that Egyptian) and a tapered sheath can call attention to the hips' width.
Forget the super-shiny satin, lamé and glitterdots and go with a non-reflective such as velvet, lace, or chiffon.
The big, wide, straight-across belt is the worst for you. The V-shape, or any curvy or angular shape is much better. If you make your own, please refer to my instructions on fitting a belt because it's crucial that it fit perfectly with no gaps at the top - you must avoid the fit shown in the "Don't" picture.
Having the fringe in clumps instead of all the way around visually breaks up the hipline, and so does having a large center motif in front and back, such as a cluster of jewels or an applique.
Your upper half needs lots of attention-getting details. Those with small shoulders can wear those pretty fringed shoulder decorations without looking like they stepped out of a World War II movie starring Joan Crawford. Gauntlets with beads at the wrist will make your arms and hands more important. Sleeves can draw the eye upward and balance the size of the hips - see my Sleeve Variations article for ideas. Wide straps are better than a halter. Make the bra bold with big chunky jewels and lots of fringe. Need I mention padding?
Lastly, wear something sparkly on ears or hair.
If your costume is properly proportioned, you will appear not pear-shaped but alluringly voluptuous.
Pocket Venus, Everything I suggested above for the tall, pear-shaped dancer I would also suggest for you, with a few additions.
It's even more important that you bring the most attention-getting details of your costume above hip level. That means your hair ornaments, jewelry, and bra decoration and fringe. But don't pile on overwhelming heavy and bulky layers that make the costume appear to be wearing you. This is a matter of judgment and, as always, I suggest that you ask the opinion of another dancer or teacher whose taste you admire. Have informal full-length photos taken and critique them bravely.
Most importantly for the short-legged figure (I know!), do not drag the visual interest to the floor. That means no horizontal border or ruffle on the skirt. In fact, even a horizontal hem is undesirable. A handkerchief hem (four points) or multi-pointed hem is better because it breaks up the horizontal line. A tulip shape that overlaps and curves up to a vertical line is also good. Outlining these angled or curved edges with trim looks nice, but don't make it more important than the details on the top half.
Another item to avoid is big, balloony harem pants. You'll appear to be standing in a hole! Make your pants slim and tapered at the ankle, more like Indian-style pants, and a point in the front is a graceful detail that lengthens the leg when you rise on your toes. These pants can be simple, with perhaps a vertical line of trim up each side, or glamorous in sequined lace with some skin showing through. With the pants underneath, your skirt can be shorter, which again adds to the illusion of a longer leg.
If it suits your style, pretty shoes with two or three inch heels can also give you some height. And practice perfect posture, just like Mom always told you.
You'll be transformed from short and dumpy to short and gorgeous.
--The Costume Goddess
About the Costume Goddess
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