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A Review of

The Belly Dance Costume Book

by Zarifa Aradoon


This book is out of print. The review remains on this web site to assist those who may be considering purchasing a copy through used-book sources.




In this 1978 book, Zarifa Aradoon provides instructions for creating a belly dance costume. During this era, costumes imported from Egypt or elsewhere were rare, and most dancers made their own. Aradoon offers ideas for design, garment types, sewing methods, and decoration. Cover



Fact Sheet


The Belly Dance Costume Book: All of the Lore, Lure, and Merriment of Making a Costume


Zarifa Aradoon




Dream Place Publications


Non-Fiction: Costume Instruction



Number of Pages





In this book, author Zarifa Aradoon provides an overview of many topics that would be helpful to a belly dancer just beginning to learn how to make her own costumes. The book was published in 1978, and the costume information it presents is representative of its time.

The book opens with an overview of belly dance costuming, by showing pictures of different costuming styles with a couple of paragraphs next to each describing what it consists of and what type of performance it might be appropriate for. From here, it moves into the history of costuming, with a particular focus on the garments worn in the 19th century. There are a number of images reproduced from Orientalist paintings and Chicago Columbia Exposition dancers.

Following these introductory chapters, the book moves into its primary focus, instructions on how to design and make belly dance costume items. The chapter on designing a costume appropriately explores fabrics, color, pattern drafting, bra/belt design, and adapting thrift shop finds into costumes. It also includes tips on costume care, followed by do's and don'ts for creating belly dance costumes. The chapter on craft supplies contains many drawings of trims available for use in costumes, with recommendations on how each might be incorporated into a costume design. This includes different types of fringes, sequins, beads, coins, chains, spangles, and more. After describing these materials, Aradoon provides a chapter on to do appliqué, fabric painting, stencil, and rhinestone setting, complete with a variety of patterns to inspire you in creating your own designs. She then provides a primer in how to do hand sewing, apply sequins, do flat beading, and attach coins. This is followed by a section on how to do machine sewing. The chapter on bras and girdles provides instructions for constructing your own belly dance bra / belt set. It describes in detail how to construct these costume items, and the book includes an appendix containing a variety of belt patterns to get started.

From here, the book moves on to a chapter on Middle Eastern jewelry. Although it's somewhat interesting, and is attractively illustrated with drawings of jewelry pieces, the information is a bit superficial and other books provide much more information on this topic.

The chapter on veils talks about different ways to drape a veil, including a suggestion for draping 7 veils of varying sizes and shapes for a dance of the seven veils.

The projects chapter provides detailed instructions for making a variety of costume pieces, including:

  1. Three variations on rectangular veils
  2. Circle skirt
  3. Coin bra
  4. Coin belt
  5. Appliquéd bra
  6. Appliquéd belt
  7. Turkish slippers
  8. Harem pants
  9. Jewelry piece (headpiece, stomach drape)
  10. Jewelry girdle

This ends the main body of the book. It is followed by several Appendixes.

The first appendix contains drawings of a large number of designs intended to provide ideas for decorating bra/belt sets. Back when I was using this book in the 1980's, this chapter bewildered me because these designs didn't seem like practical shapes or detail levels to suit belly dance costume pieces and decorative materials. In contrast, I relied heavily on the second appendix of girdle patterns for ideas on what shapes to use for making belly dance belts. A jewelry appendix shows diagrams of various jewelry pieces, but doesn't seem particularly informative to me. A suggested readings appendix one page in length lists some books that are recommended for further instruction in making costume items. I relied heavily on the appendix listing suppliers of costume materials back in the 1980's, but sadly nearly all of these are out of business today. The book ends with a glossary of some costuming-related terms and a page of endnotes.



Is It Right for You?


You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You enjoy collecting vintage books about belly dance.
  • You would like to make a costume in the style of those popular among U.S. belly dancers in the 1970's.
  • You would be interested in reading a slice of U.S. belly dance history by gaining firsthand insight into how costumes of the 1970's were made.
  • You would find it useful to have detailed instructions on how to use a rhinestone setter, how to do flat beading, and how to apply sequins.


This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You're not interested in making your own costumes.
  • You're interested in the latest fashions rather than what people wore in the past.



What I Liked, What I Didn't


What I Liked:

  • At the time I bought this book, it was the only costuming instruction book I could find.
  • The appendix with belt patterns offers a rich variety of shapes to inspire creativity.
  • The book is richly illustrated with black-and-white images. Some of these are photographs, and some are detailed line drawings.
  • The advice on costume design holds up well even today.
  • Aradoon is clearly quite knowledgeable about the craft of constructing a belly dance costume, and writes from the perspective of someone who has successfully done it, many times.


What I Didn't Like:

  • Certain sections of the book, such as the "designs" appendix, seem to wander a bit, and aren't really actionable.
  • The book has no index, which makes it a nuisance to go back and find specific information.
  • The spiral binding makes the book annoying to deal with on my bookshelf.




Back when I purchased this book in the mid-1980's, there was almost no published information on how to make a belly dance costume. This was all I had available. I spent many hours with this, and followed its instructions to make many costume pieces. Aradoon clearly has experience in costume construction and provides a wide range of material in this book.

Today, I feel the books by Dawn Devine Brown and Dina Lydia are much better resources for teaching dancers how to make their own costumes. I wouldn't recommend the expense of acquiring the out-of-print book reviewed on this page unless you're either a collector of vintage belly dance ephemera or you're looking for a retro perspective on costume making.




There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone associated with this book.



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