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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:

What Is a Baladi Dress?

by Dina Lydia


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The Question

Dear Costume Goddess,

Okay, you have mentioned hiding the tummy... What is a baladi dress? I am a very excited beginner, but I have very very bad stretch marks. I want to show skin but "it is bad". I can't find any pictures or patterns to help. Any suggestions?

I appreciate anything you can do to help!

--Stomach Stripes


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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Stripes,

This picture shows a typical baladi dress. It's a long sheath style for folkloric dance that's worn with a hip scarf or fringed belt, and usually has sleeves. It can be glamorous in sparkly stretch lace, sheer knit, or velvet, or more folky in an ethnic pattern or assuit (hammered metal strips in the fabric).

Baladi Dress

If you are an accomplished seamstress, a basic fitted sheath can be used as a pattern — cut the neckline as low as you like, in front and back, but keep a small strap across back neck to avoid shoulder slippage while dancing. Zipper could be at back or on the side. The "Arabic" cut-out sleeve and semicircular sleeve ruffle are modifications.

Click on the photo to the right to see the dress in more detail.

Dina Wearing a Baladi Dress

If you have a slim figure but need to cover stretch marks or scars, the dress could be form-fitting. If you need to camouflage a protruding tummy, the dress could have a roomier fit.

The dress in the diagram to the right shows a more theatrical variation, with form-fitting style, and neckline cut low enough to show the bra.

Drawing of a Baladi Dress


--The Costume Goddess


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Examples of Baladi Dresses

The dancer Morocco from New York City is one of the leading experts in the U.S. on Egyptian dance. In this photo, she is wearing a beautiful baladi dress designed and made for her by the legendary Egyptian costume designer, the late Madame Abla.

As this photo shows, a baladi dress can be very sparkly.

Click on the photo to see this dress in more detail.

Photo of the Dancer Morocco in a Baladi Dress

In the photos below, I am wearing two different baladi dresses. (The blue unitard worn under the dress on the right is not a traditional way to wear such a dress.) Click on either photo to see more detail.

PHOTO CREDIT: The photo of the striped dress on the left was taken by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California. The one on the right of the black assuit dress worn over the blue unitard was taken by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.


Leyla Lanty is an Egyptian-style dancer. These photos show her performing in baladi dresses:

Performing in a Baladi Dress
Leyla Lanty Performing in a Baladi Dress
Leyla Lanty Performing in a Baladi Dress

The above photos were taken by Leyla's dear friend, Marcia Morris Conklin.


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Additional Comments from Shira

In Egypt, the word baladi literally means "my country", the "home" someone's family came from before they migrated away from the villages and into the cities. Today, the term has taken on the broader meaning of the culture of traditional values and traditional lifestyle. Whether still living in rural areas or now living in an urban center such as Cairo, the word baladi carries a connotation of wholesomeness, tradition, and simple lifestyle. It is similar to how the word "country" is often used in the United States to refer to a "heartland" or "salt of the earth" culture. The word can also be used in a disparaging sense, to refer to someone who is unsophisticated.

The term baladi dress can be used interchangeably with the word gallabiya, when referring to the women's version of the long, loose-fitting garment in the traditional style. An Egyptian person would normally just use the term gallabiya.

The image to the right is on the envelope for the "Egyptian Shirt" pattern sold by the Folkwear pattern company. A dancer who wished to make a traditional style of gallabiya could use this pattern, choose opaque cotton fabric, and make the dress long enough to reach the floor.

A traditional gallabiya or baladi dress has a high neckline, wrist-length sleeves, and no slits in the skirt.

Folkwear Egyptian Shirt

In contrast, a dress used for purposes of a dance costume may be modified from this basic style for theatrical purposes. It may have a lower neckline, be made of a sheer fabric worn over a slip, have sleeves that come only to the elbow, feature some embroidery, use sparkly beads and sequins in its decoration, and have slits on the sides.

For more detailed information about baladi dresses and other costume dresses, see Dresses in Middle Eastern Dance Costuming elsewhere on this web site.


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Related Articles

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Other articles on this web site about midriff-concealing costume options 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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