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Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Apple-Shaped Figure

by Dina Lydia


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The Question

Dear Costume Goddess,

How about advice for short, apple-shaped bellydancers? I have a large bust, but my waist and hips are almost the same diameter! Thanks.

--Apple Annie


Dear Costume Goddess,

What are the most flattering costume options for a plus sized apple shape?

--No Waistline In San Francisco


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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Apple Annie and No Waistline,

First, I'll repeat the advice I gave to "Tummy Troubled" in a previous column: don't feel any obligation to bare your midsection. You want a glamorous cabaret costume, yes, but you have some lovely options that don't require you to reveal vast expanses of flesh that might make you self-conscious and distract the audience's attention from your dance moves and pleasing stage personality.

Luckily for those of us who dance Middle Eastern, we have an unusual wealth of costuming options that include the artful use of veils, scarves, jewelry, ornamentation and cosmetic adornment. Of course, these are useful as beauty enhancements and tricks. But they also fool the eye of the viewers and get them to notice what we want them to notice and overlook what we don't want them to notice.

You have already analyzed your figure type and decided that you are of larger than ideal proportions through the midsection. Baring this section, as shown in the "Don't" illustration, calls attention to it. Other mistakes that give the illusion of even greater girth are halter straps, horizontal design details such as fringe and trim, a tight skirt, a saggy bra, and small hair.

The "Do" illustration shows a dancer using layers of sheer veiling to disquise her exact body shape while still keeping the look of little covering. The belt is a curvy shape, and has a strong center medallion and fringe, drawing the eye away from the width of the body. (Don't worry — there will still be plenty of hip action!) The sparkles on the veils, and the layers of sheer skirt and pants further blur the body shape. Of course all these veils would be in harmonizing colors that enhance your complexion.

Apple Figure Do's and Don'ts

Details that catch the eye and distract it from the midsection are sparkly wristbands with tassels, hair ornaments and pretty hair, earrings, perfect manicure/pedicure, and dramatic but tasteful make-up.

Another excellent costume option illustrated here is a baladi dress or evening gown in an eye-catching fabric such as a sparkly stretch lace, which reveals and covers the skin at the same time. (Again with the sparkly, Dina? — Yes! I'm insisting that you sparkle!) The dress is not loose enough to appear baggy, nor tight enough to reveal rolls of flesh. You can go completely glamorous with this: pretty shoes, jewelry, cleavage, glittery makeup — yes, glittery.

If possible, make this dress or have it made for you. However, if you buy ready-made, choose a larger rather than tighter fit. It can always be altered if necessary.

My theme is: if you must be an apple, think of yourself as a Golden Delicious!

A Baladi Dress

Hope I've inspired you to play your own version of dress-up!

--The Costume Goddess


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Examples of Dresses

The dresses below are not the baladi style of dress, but rather an evening gown style of dress known as a fustan raqs ("dance dress") or badlat raqs ("dance suit"). In the 21st century, evening gowns have become popular as a costuming option in Egypt, particularly those made of slinky lycra fabric, such as the ones shown below. Cutouts are a popular design feature of these costumes, such as those on the dress to the right.

Burgundy Dress by Hanan
Black Dress by Hanan
Midnight Blue Dress by Hanan

Click on any of the above three photos to see the costume in more detail.

These photos show dresses from Shira's collection that disguise excess weight around the abdomen and draw the eye to other parts of the body. Techniques that these dresses use to achieve this effect include:

  • The placement of the sequin designs lower on the hip, arranged in vertical lines
  • Asynchronous style of the garment's cut, creating diagonal lines
  • Use of bare skin at the chest and shoulders to draw the eye away from the abdomen
  • Use of cutouts to draw the eye away from the abdomen, down to the hip
  • Use of a slit in the skirt to create a vertical line and draw the eye away from the abdomen
  • Decoration at the hem to draw attention and create balance for a larger middle

All three of these dresses were designed by Egyptian designer Hanan Mahmoud.

The center photo was taken by Andre Elbing, Bärbroich, Germany, and the other two photos were taken by Kaylyn Hoskins, Solon, Iowa.


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Related Articles

Other articles on this web site that offer suggestions for costumes that flatter an apple-shaped body or a short dancer include:



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:


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



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