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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:

Baladi Dress with Veil?

by Dina Lydia


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The Question

Dear Costume Goddess,

I am a full figured woman who wears a size 16, and I have decided to either make or purchase a baladi dress for performing raks sharki. I no longer want to battle the "marshmallow stuffed into a teacup" look which is how I feel inside when wearing the bra/belt set. However, I like to dance with a veil - I enjoy using the veil in both the traditional Egyptian entrance style, and in the North American veil dance style. Is it appropriate to dance with a veil while wearing a baladi dress? Would a highly sparkly dress be better than a plainer one? Is a baladi dress REALLY an acceptable replacement for bedlah? Thank you!

--Full-Figured Faux-Pas


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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Faux Pas,

Yes, a baladi dress really is an acceptable substitute for a cabaret costume. But it must be a dressy style and fabric; something with a sheen or sparkle or ornamented border, not a folksy-looking cotton. It can be form-fitting or loose, whatever is most flattering. If loose, the fullness usually is pulled in at the hip with a suitable ornamented hip scarf or small belt, and this can match the dress fabric for a more slenderizing look.

Don't wear a big, chunky cabaret belt in a contrasting color on top of the dress; this will make you look wider. If the dress is semi-sheer, a simple matching bra (no hardware showing!) and harem pants can be worn underneath.

A compromise is the Ghawazee-style dress, which is cut out in front so you can wear a glamorous cabaret bra with it. If you like to use veil a lot, the dress is fine, but you may want to go sleeveless so the veil can drape over your shoulders and arms nicely. This photo shows a Ghawazee dress and bra of mine.

Dina in a Ghawazee Jacket

--The Costume Goddess


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Further Comments from Shira

Although some dancers in North America have been known to use baladi dresses with a veil, I prefer to steer you in a different direction: an evening gown style of costume known as a fustan raqs or badlat raqs. The baladi dress you mentioned is really only appropriate for baladi style dancing, which doesn't include using a veil. In contrast, the fustan raqs (evening gown) is appropriate for the more theatrical Oriental dance style, which can include veil usage. In fact, the name badlat raqs, which can be applied to such an evening gown, is the same word used to refer to a "suit" consisting of bra/belt/skirt .

These dresses often feature cutouts lined with see-through mesh as a design detail, as can be seen over the left leg in this photo. Sometimes the mesh is beige to create the illusion of bare skin, and other times (as with this dress) it is a color that coordinates with the costume fabric.

For more information on how a fustan raqs / badlat raqs differs from a baladi dress, please see my article Dresses Used in Middle Eastern Dance Costuming elsewhere on this web site.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Kaylyn Hoskins, Solon, Iowa.

Midnight Blue Dress by Hanan


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Related Articles

Other articles on this web site that offer ideas for full-figured dancers seeking a theatrical look rather than a folkloric one include:

  • Dear Shira: What About My Scars? Shira responds to a reader who asked what to do about scars when making costume decisions. These comments may also fit some full-figured dancers.
  • Belly Dance Costume Patterns. Identifies sources of belly dance costume patterns, including assorted outfits that look good on full-figured dancers.



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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