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Mixing & Matching Costumes

So things are going well for you. You've got a couple of "gigs" in the city, your teacher is having regular shows and you're performing more often. You are out there for the public to see ... and so are your costumes! What do you do if you can't afford to buy, or make a lot of costumes, yet don't want people to see you in the same one(s) all the time? Don't worry, there are some actions you can take.

Buy or make costumes that have more than one colour in them and have matching bra and belt sets. By doing this, you can make (or buy) several skirts that will match the set. The skirt colour will create a big enough change in your costume, that people will think twice about whether they have seen it before ... or not. The shape and style of each skirt will also help to create a different image. For example, a blue circle skirt, a green sarong and a red "fish-tail" skirt to match a bra and belt set of red, green and blue. All of these different skirts will transform the costume, especially if you change your style of dancing with each one. If using a veil, use one the same colour of the skirt if possible. A veil is very visual and it will help draw attention to the prominent colour of your skirt while still allowing people to admire the entire costume. You can also use harem pants for something entirely different and fun.

Don't pass up on cheap, used costumes just because you don't like the design or style. Look past the costume to it's potential. Check the bra and belt to see how sturdy they are. Make sure the bra fits well or can be adjusted and provides plenty of support. So what if the fringe is falling apart, the jewels are plastic and scratched or the design is ugly. It's easy to remove all that stuff and add new fringe, jewels, trim or whatever you want. The hard part is already done for you - the bra and belt. If it's the skirt you don't like, buy it! Skirts are usually the cheapest part of the costume and easy to substitute.

While authentic Middle Eastern costumes are stunning, they are very expensive and the skirt is usually sewn into the belt. This is great for professional dancers, because there is one less piece of clothing to put on and they usually change costumes several times during a show. However, if the skirt gets a tear, you gain or lose weight, or you just get sick of it, you're out an entire costume. It takes a lot of work to separate the belt from the skirt without ruining the belt. Of course you'll always have the bra, but you'll have to make a new belt and skirt to wear with it. Unless you can afford to pay for these costumes, I suggest skipping them and buying two or three "regular" costumes instead. You'll get more bang for your buck, as the saying goes. Again, this is not to say these costumes aren't gorgeous, because they are. They're just not affordable or practical for the non-professional dancer who only performs now and then.

Try wearing different hip scarves or bra and belt sets with your beledy dresses. Experiment with an old evening dress if you can't afford to buy one. Buy some fringe, appliques or sequins and sew them on the dress in a fancy design. Create a slit if there isn't one. Remember, the audience isn't going to know it's not professionally made. No one is going to see your costume up close, so don't worry about any small snags, missing sequins and beads or messy sewing. It's the overall effect that is important.

The general rule is not to be afraid to mix and match. Treat your costumes like everyday clothes in this respect. Always think of the potential of a costume before buying or not buying it. Visualize whether you already have something that will go with it; if not, can you find something to go with it; is it a common colour or unique and difficult to match? All of these questions should be going through your head. If you really love a costume and know it's extravagant, buy it! Don't let practicality completely take over. A splurge here and there is good sometimes ... just not all the time.


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