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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:

Large Tummy

by Dina Lydia


All about belly dancing! Explore belly dance!

The Question

Dear Costume Goddess,

I am a raw beginner at belly dancing, and I am feeling self conscious about my tummy. It sticks out quite a bit, and I don't know how to make it look good in a belly dancing costume. I am really excited to learn because it seems like a kick-butt workout, (plus it just sounds hip to say that I am learning to belly dance!) but for now, I have no clue on what to wear to look sexy and not silly!

--Tummy Troubled


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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Troubled,

Don't feel it necessary to expose your tummy if it makes you self-conscious. That would tend to inhibit you in class and performance.

As a beginner you can wear a pretty leotard to class — sleeveless would be coolest — and wear a skirt and fringed hip scarf or coin belt over this to get the suitable shimmy and flip effect. If even a leotard makes you self-conscious, try draping a chiffon veil over one shoulder and tucking the ends in your belt.

Large Tummy
Slight Tummy

Later you can wear a lovely baladi dress or evening gown with an easy fit through the middle, perhaps in a sheer lace or mesh that shows some skin without feeling bare, and a more ornate hip scarf or belt.

If your tummy is not scarred and protrudes only slightly, a low-cut belt is actually more flattering than one that cuts the abdomen across middle, as shown to the right in the above diagrams.

More possibilities: A bra and belt set can be worn with a tummy cover to conceal the problem area. Pictured are a beaded or sequined scarf sewn to bra, a decorated chiffon veil draped over middle as shown, and a strip of net in flesh color or costume color.

Click on the drawing to the right to see the diagram in more detail.

Tummy Covers

As you look around among your comrades-in-zills and see dancers' tummies of all sizes revealed, you may decide to do the same with your own, especially if you notice it becoming more shapely and rolling like the wave that rocked the Titanic!

--The Costume Goddess


All about belly dancing! Explore belly dance!

Further Comments from Shira

These photos illustrate some examples of evening gown style of dresses that look flattering on a dancer with a prominent midsection.

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

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

The above three dresses were all made in Egypt specifically for use as bellydance costumes. All contain styling details that de-emphasize large abdomen areas such as:

  • Bare skin in the chest and shoulder area to draw the eye upward away from the problem area
  • Leg slit to create vertical lines and draw attention down to the leg
  • Asynchronous design that leads the eye in a diagonal line across the body
  • Cutouts at the hip that draw the eye down below abdominal level
  • Placement of sequins in vertical lines to draw the eye downward from the abdomen and make it travel up / down across the body
  • Decoration at the hem to draw attention and create balance for a larger middle

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

The photo on the left was taken by Kaylyn Hoskins, the one in the center was taken by Andre Elbing, Bärbroich, Germany, and the one on the right was taken by Lina Jang, New York City, New York.


All about belly dancing! Explore belly dance!

Related Articles

Other articles on this web site with tips for dancers who are self-conscious about their midriffs 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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