Costuming for the well-endowed belly dancer
I receive a lot of emails from women expressing how happy it makes them to see a larger sized dancer. My biggest costuming SNAFU is that I am large in the chest. Mother Nature has indeed blessed me generously and finding even normal bras requires the patience of Job. Egyptian costume designers seem totally clueless about this phenomena (do they not have this issue?) and most pre-made costumes come in the B/C size range. If you search diligently and are willing to usually pay more, then you can find other cup sizes.
But that doesn’t mean it’s ok!
Guess what? The riot of the situation is even if you find the elusive cup size you’re after, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I kind of chuckle to myself when I see what designers seem to think would actually look good on a large chested woman and I sadly know that the costumes do sell because…well, it’s hard to find that size!
There are a lot of tutorials and postings on how to find (or alter) costumes that are flattering to your body type, but I haven’t seen a lot geared specifically to this topic, so here’s my advice based on personal experience:
1. Avoid bras that are covered in doodads or have very long, heavy fringe. This increases both the visual and physical weight of your chest and pulls it DOWN. It seems counter-intuitive but less is more! If you happen to find a bra and belt set that fits but has a lot of fringe, see if you can take a row or two off. This shorten the length of the fringe and decrease the visual weight.
2. If long fringe happens to be the focal point of the bra and you don’t want to take it off completely, try to tack it up in the middle where the cups meet as a swag. Again this lifts the visual weight.
3. The biggest issue I have is that my cups runneth over with cleavage. There is a fine line between a little cleavage and the feeling that you are going to fall out! You can either find matching fabric or beaded trim and add strips to the tops of the cups or see if the costumer has a matching headband/ spare fabric that you can use.
4. Side boob. Either do the same thing you did for the cup tops or use a cute bolero/Turkish vest. Although I have to say, extra cleavage on top is pretty common but side boob (or under boob) is a definite sign that your bra doesn’t fit correctly.
5. A lot of fitting issues are caused by the fact that the cups are simply connected corner-to-corner like a clam shell. Normal bras in the full figure range have a small triangle piece of fabric separating the cups to allow for more volume in the cup. If this is your scenario, you will have to manually add the piece in. If your best fitting bra has that piece, and your costume is pushing you “up and out,” then you need it!
6. If you’re having issues with the clasps in the back coming undone: consider installing a button hole and a large decorative button instead. I’ve had terrible issues with the jacket clasp a costume came with breaking from the tension, but a big button evenly distributes the weight and won’t slip out. I’ve also had issues with the tiny hooks and eyes, so I’ve used larger ones for the same reason.
7. I do own halter style tops, but only if there’s enough support on the sides and back. The cross strap method works much better and holds everything in place immaculately. Do not get anything with cut out side panels! You need all the fabric and support you can get honey. You can, however, create the illusion of cut outs with nude fabric pieces over the bra base if you are making it from scratch.
8. Keep the decoration delicate. Heavy beads, large motifs and that weird trend right now to encrust the bra with big beads is not flattering for a big busted gal. Again, you’re adding on more weight!
9. For whatever reason, even in normal bras, the cups may fit but they will have itsy bitsy spaghetti straps and a tiny thin band. Unless you are willing to completely redo the whole thing, resist the urge and scrap it.
10. Take a belly dance costuming workshop! Learn to make your own! I learned everything I know from Jennifer in Orlando, and it has made a difference. The more you know, the more you can pass up those ill-fitting bras that you can’t fix! This is the hardest part, because I know how it is to find a great fitting bra. Trust me, if it doesn’t fit correctly, your audience will know!
Oriana first began dancing in 2007 and has been performing across the Florida Bay Area since 2010. Descibed as “energetic and electric;” Oriana is known for her stage presence and engaging performances.
Originally an award-winning actress and painter, Oriana brings her multifaceted knowledge to dance as a well rounded performer. Well-versed in Classical Egyptian, American Cabaret and fire performing; Oriana also enjoys Fusion, Burlesque, Jazz and Folkloric performances. She takes her inspiration from Drag Queens, Greta Garbo, Jillina, Samia Gamal, mythology, mermaids, Vegas showgirls, and basically anything shiny.
She teaches in Largo and enjoys helping her students not only understand the folkloric underpinnings of belly dance, but also perfecting their stage presence. She began competing nationally as a Middle Eastern Dancer in 2012 and took third place in the Bay Area State Competition in 2014.
Privately, Oriana decorates cakes by day and drinks entirely too much coffee. She chronicles her adventures on her blog: Shake and Bake. Be sure to check out her personal website at orianaredstar.wix.com/
This article originally appeared on Shake and Bake: The Confessions of a Budding Competitive Bellydance…with Cupcakes on May 18, 2014. Used with permission.