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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:

Using Color

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

I'm trying to make a costume that is color coordinated. But I don't know how to match different colors together. Can you please help me?

--Color Uncoordinated



The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Uncoordinated,

Whole books have been written about color theory as it applies to art, stage, interior design, fashion, and make-up.

But I'll boil it down. After the first step of determining what colors are flattering to your complexion, (and whole books have been written about this too) you are now trying to put those colors together as a costume.

If this is the first costume you've made, keep it simple. The general rule is one or two colors, plus a metallic accent of gold or silver. At the risk of sounding very opinionated, I'll state that it's best to avoid the most gaudy of colors, such as lime green, neon orange, and screaming pink — especially in combination! You don't want to look like you acquired your taste at Clown College.

Dina and Her Gang

The gold or silver accents are usually added because they reflect light for theatrical drama on stage. Gold is warm, and silver is cooler. Because silver is colorless, it reflects whatever light shines upon it, like a mirror. (Rhinestones reflect a rainbow of colors.) Copper is a third, more subdued, earthy metallic. The accents might be just your jewelry — that way you could change or mix them — or they might be incorporated into your costume as trim, appliques, borders, or scattered though the fabric as glitter or metallic threads. Or the metallic accent could be the whole bra or whole belt. For example, a gold-coin covered bra and belt with a blue skirt or harem pants.

Wearing solid gold or solid silver all over is the most flashy, theatrical statement you can make, so if you do this, be confident that you can carry it off without looking like your costume is wearing you.

Using a single predominant color for belt, bra and skirt creates a unified effect that generally makes you look taller, so this is a good choice for most dancers. For instance, a red skirt, belt and bra with red and gold fringe and gold jewelry.

Black against color tones down the brightness of the color, and also adds drama — especially for those with dramatic coloring. You almost can't go wrong mixing black with a bright color, and/or a metallic accent. Black and red, black and sapphire blue, black and gold are good choices.

Conversely, white against color has a lightening effect. Pink and white, red and white, blue and white, gold and white can work, but beware a too-bright candy-like image.

For a two color theme, you may choose either analogous or contrasting colors. Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel, so are related — cousins, so to speak. Examples: Sapphire blue and turquoise are both in the blue family, but turquoise is shading towards green. Sapphire blue and violet are both in the blue family, but the violet is shading towards red. Red and purple, gold and green, peach and pink, wine and rose, are other attractive analogous combinations.

Contrasting colors are not related and, I think, more diffcult to combine attractively. Examples are blue and orange, red and green, yellow and blue, or red and blue. Black and white is the most extreme of contrasts, and needs to be worn by a dancer with dramatic coloring and bold presence.

Combined colors should have harmonious levels of intensity (brightness). A pastel mixed with a contrasting vivid color is visually disturbing, to my eye. I recently saw a dancer in powder pink and electric blue, and I could hardly stand to watch her!!

There are three-color and multicolored combinations too of course, but I don't want to confuse you! If you find attractive color combinations on a patterned fabric, you could choose those colors as a theme for your costume, using the fabric as a skirt or other piece. Choosing colors is a crucial step in costume design! As always, I'd advise anyone in doubt to keep it simple, love your colors, experiment with swatches, and ask the educated opinion of your teacher or a fashion-conscious friend.

--The Costume Goddess



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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