Costuming and the plus size dancer
Anyone over a C cup and a size 12 has difficulty finding costumes that are flattering, reasonable in cost and that fit properly. You have to accept what shape you have, know what your challenges are and find the styles, colors and shapes that work for you.
I have started costume swaps with other plus size dancers, had sewing parties, learned how to bead, and made my own custom bras, belts, dresses and cover ups. Making your costumes can also get expensive after you finish buying trims, beading, buttons, elastic and thread. However, you’ll have something that is uniquely yours.
For those who want to make their own costumes, Simplicity has costume selections with patterns for tribal, Bollywood-style, caftans, cover ups (in the pajama section) up to size 26. Amazon and Turkish Emporium also have patterns for all types of ethnic costuming.
Before picking your pattern size, you’ll need to take accurate measurements because a size 16 in a store is different than a size 16 in pattern sizes. You can adjust where you need less or more material on the pattern before you cut your fabric. I keep a paper cut-out of all my patterns for future costumes. A difference in 10 pounds of weight will affect your measurements.
The following measurements should be written down when you shop for patterns or order from the internet: neck, shoulder width, bicep, armpit to wrist length, wrist measurement, bust, rib cage, cup size, waist above and below the belly button, crotch length from the belly button front to the back of the waist, leg length from inner crotch to ankle (inseam), calf width, ankle, upper hip and lower hip.
Lycra, stretchy velvet, brocade and silky pattern fabrics make the best costumes. The beading fringe can be bought but it is VERY expensive and you have to measure exactly where you want to add it. If you cut it, the beads unravel. Feathers, lace, ribbons, embroidery pieces, jewelry, buttons, trims and sew on acrylic gems can be added. There are web sites for Swarovski crystals of all different colors and shapes as well.
When making your own costume bra, find a regular bra that fits. Bras from Fashion Bug, Avenue, Just My Size and Lane Bryant are easily decorated and come in a variety of style, prints and fabrics. I take the straps off and add elastic covered with matching fabric and I can make any kind of neckline, like halter or crisscross, that I want. I take off the bra band and make a band out of wide elastic covered with fabric. I then use large snap closures that give a smooth back and firm support.
Saidi style dresses and caftans, circle skirts, harem pants are very easy to make. I found a Simplicity pattern for an eight-panel skirt that looks good on almost everyone. There are sewing books on Amazon on how to make your own bra and belts sets. I also have checked out books from the library for sewing tips and beading instructionals.
If you don’t want to make your own costume, custom costumes can be ordered, however they sometimes take months to get. I had a horrible experience with a few vendors who didn’t measure correctly or the material/cup size wasn’t accurate. Dina style cups go up to DDD, but I find they fit best on those with C cups or less. I’ve also ordered custom costumes made by L. Rose Designs and I have NEVER been disappointed. They make these great tops for over bras to cover large arms!
For ready-to-wear costumes, I have bought many that fit well and have plus sizes in stock from the following stores: ShimmyShimmy, Bellydancestore.biz, Moondance, Sharifwear, Miss BellyDanc and Dahlal Internationale. Magical Fashions has made custom tribal bras for me using a bra that I gave them, and I had it within six weeks. Dyhanis makes plus size tops and fringe belts that are stretchy and they come in many patterns. Isis Exchange has a few DD and plus size costumes, but most are Dina cups, which are revealing and run small. Etsy has some plus size costumes with various vendors, but most are tribal style. Scarlet Lounge’s pants fit well, and the XL fit sizes 16-18 and are wide legged.
For more plus size costume options, check out Bhuz and Ebay. They may have listings for used DD costumes and they often sell fast. There are also Egyptian companies that sell different color beaded bra and belts, but orders can take weeks to get. I received one set and I had to do major alterations to the straps and belt to make it fit right. I once bought an expensive set that no matter how I altered it, it never fit right.
Undergarments are also important to consider. I find that undergarments such as Spanx, thongs, bras, push-up pads can make all the difference when you try costumes on and also when you perform. Reinforce and pin your bra band, pin your hip belt to your skirt or pants and check the closures on everything to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. There are large safety pins for heavy coin belts reinforcement. Sugar Petals and Dahlal Internationale have great mesh body stockings in plus sizes.
Once you know what colors, shapes and styles look best on you it makes shopping a lot easier.
— By Feiruze
Feiruze started tap dancing on a Mississippi River boat at 3 years old. She has studied salsa, ballroom and Flamenco over the years. She discovered Raqs Oriental style dancing at an adult education class and has been doing it for the last 10 years. She has taken many workshops and training with many teachers in NY and NJ area. As a plus size woman, she has had many experiences that she could share regarding the challenges faced with public perception, bullying, costume challenges, and share motivational stories.
Feiruze means turquoise, my favorite color and the color of my eyes. She has performed in NY and NJ and has been the member of several troupes. She has been a soloist for the last 4 years. She prefers solos over troupes as it gives more opportunity for self-expression.
Lately she has been studying and performing as a doumbek and djembe drummer and has just started an all woman’s band. She enjoys drum circles and spiritual retreats, performing at Rakassah East and Renaissance festivals, in addition to many charity events.
Feiruze makes or adapts most of her clothing, as well as customizing other dancers’ costumes. She would love to design and make a line of plus size costumes and patterns in the near future. She is currently giving private lessons on costuming in my home.
Find Feiruze on Facebook.