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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

1940's Costume

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

In an interview you mentioned that 1940's costumes are easier to make. Could you please elaborate?




The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Linda,

I read an article called "Buying Costumes in Egypt and Turkey" at the now-defunct Bellydance New York web site. She described the differences between today's standard Egyptian ready-made costumes and the "Retro" trend, reminiscent of 1940's stars such as Nadia Gamal.

If you imagine the glamorous formal gowns of that era with their form-fitting, yet softly draped dressmaking and luxurious fabrics, that is what a "Romantic" style of belly dance costume resembles. It's easier to make, because it doesn't rely on stiff, heavy, all-over beaded, fringed and sequined embellishment, which is very time-consuming and expensive to do. In "Romantic" style, the light-to-moderate beading, fringe or sequins adorn or outline, rather than encrust, the costume pieces. Try watching a campy 1949 Hollywood movie, "Samson and Delilah", for this style of ultra-glamour. Delilah (stunning Hedy LaMarr) has some fabulous slinky skirts, draped veils and panels, one-shoulder bodices, clusters of pearls, and jeweled snoods!

Of course, we can't all be as physically gifted as Hedy Lamarr, but I also think this style is more flattering to most of us, because the costume will not outshine the dancer. The audience will be thinking "beautiful bellydancer", not "chick wearing a tight holographic neon green and orange sequin bikini costume with fifty pounds of beaded fringe and twelve cut-outs".

The drawing to the right shows my version of a Romantic costume.

Drawing of a 1940's Style of Belly Dance Costume

--The Costume Goddess



Additional Comments from Shira

Tahia Carioca was the very first Egyptian dancer to appear in a motion picture, in 1935. Her career was at its peak in the 1940's.

This photo is a still from a scene in the movie Shatie el-Gharam (Shore of Love), which was released in 1950. Her costume gives an idea of what Egyptian dancers wore in the 1940's.

Click on the photo to see the costume in more detail.

Tahia Carioca

Samia Gamal was another legendary Egyptian dancer of the 1940's. Her career began about 5 years after Tahia Carioca's, and the two of them were rivals for many years. King Farouk of Egypt named Samia Gamal the National Dancer of Egypt in 1949.

This photo is a still from a scene in the movie Afrita Hanem (The Genie Lady), which was released in 1949.

Click on the photo to see the costume in more detail.

Samia Gamal and Farid al-Atrache



About the Costume Goddess

Dina has been sewing for more than twenty-five years (yes, she started as a toddler!)

She's also an artist (Maryland Institute of Art) and perfected her sewing techniques apprenticed to various designers, freelancing for small theaters, restyling vintage garments, and altering wedding gowns.

Dina fell in love with belly dancing costumes upon her very first lesson. Now the pleasure of wearing her own designs, and seeing others wear them, offers as much pleasure as dancing. She's become expert as well in altering those troublesome ready-made Egyptian costumes, and modifying designs to flatter individual figures.

She holds workshops in Seattle to teach design and construction of cabaret costumes, and analysis of figure characteristics. She will also give private lessons, or resize or repair a secondhand costume. She's thus earned her Costume Goddess title.

Photo of Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess

The Costume Goddess Tells All Costuming Books

Dina has published six books of her own on belly dance costuming as well as writing nearly all the costuming section for The Belly Dance Book. For information on her series of books, The Costume Goddess Tells All, see her web site at For reviews here on of some of her books, see:

Photo of Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Costume Goddess Photos

To view a photo gallery featuring pictures of Dina, costumes she has designed, and her friends, either click on the choices below or visit her web site:


All about belly dancing! Explore belly dance!

The contents of this page are copyrighted 2009 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.



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