You know there’s basically nothing I love talking about more than costuming, right? So let’s look at the idea of a capsule wardrobe for belly dance, especially fusion styles.
If you look for advice on starting out as a professional belly dancer, a lot of people will tell you that you should start out with a silver or gold beaded bedlah and one solid-colored skirt, and then buy more solid colored skirts as you go along. That’s great if you do an Oriental style and are looking at doing restaurant and party gigs. It doesn’t work as well for the fusion crowd!
I prefer the approach my teacher Martina Crowe-Hewett takes. She believes that a fusion dancer should always have a black bra/belt set and an ivory one. I didn’t have an ivory costume until I did some guest-dancing with her troupe this Summer, so I thought that would be a great way to look at how to build a capsule wardrobe for a fusion belly dancer.
The Core of Your Capsule Wardrobe
Your wardrobe is going to start with three pieces. Just three! You’re going to want to make or buy the following items:
-Bra (or other top)
It’s up to you whether you want your top and belt to match perfectly, or just coordinate with each other.
For my ivory costume, I had already made the white and gold beaded belt, and I already had a Snake Church super bootie skirt in “Mermaid Food”, a beautiful oyster-hued velvet. I just made to make myself an ivory bra.
I personally like the silhouette of a mermaid skirt, but you may prefer to go with a straight skirt with one or two slits, or a full skirt that flows out when you spin.
Whatever sort of skirt you go with, these three pieces allow you to present a somewhat simple but elegant look, and the fact that you’re wearing all one neutral color means that if you dance with a silk prop, it can be an exciting pop of color.
Once you’ve got your three core pieces, you can start buying secondary pieces to expand your wardrobe. You’ll still want to go with your single color (in our example we’re using ivory, but you could be doing black). Secondary items include:
-Pantaloons or another style of skirt
-Hip scarves and other layering pieces
-A headdress (if you get a mixed metal one, you can also wear it with your black capsule)
-A piece of Assuit, piano shawl, or other statement layer piece
For my ivory costume, I have a pair of ivory and light grey pantaloons, a light beige velvet hip scarf, an ivory piano shawl with colorful floral embroidery, a lace mermaid skirt, numerous ivory flowers… And I borrowed my friend Saga’s ivory antique Assuit for some photos.
Adding these secondary pieces allows you to mix, match, and layer. Since everything is still in the same color family, it gives your layered costumes a very pulled-together look.
Adding A Pop of Color
Once you’ve built your first capsule, you have two options. You can either build your second neutral set (so in our example, having finished your ivory set, you would build a black one), or you can choose one accent color and start integrating it into your dance closet.
For our example, let’s go with emerald green. I love how emerald looks with ivory.
Now in this image I’m wearing a green bra and belt with an ivory skirt, but if I were to start all over and build a capsule wardrobe, I’d do it differently.
To accent your ivory costume, you can buy the following things in emerald green:
-Skirt or Pantaloons
-Hip scarf or other layering pieces
-Hair flowers and headbands
If you choose just one color, it makes it really easy to make smart purchasing decisions and know that anything you’re buying will be really easy to integrate into your wardrobe and wear right away.
Keeping it Fresh
The great thing about the mix-and-match aesthetic of fusion style belly dance is that you almost never have to buy an entire new costume. You may eventually want to replace your ivory bra and belt, if your size changes or they get worn out or you’ve grown bored with them. But otherwise you can easily refresh your wardrobe by phasing out your old skirts and pantaloons, and replacing them with different silhouettes or prints, or getting rid of your emerald pop of color and replacing it with ruby or sapphire blue.
Items like hip scarves and hair accessories are even easier to rotate in and out.
Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe
The main benefit of this approach to costuming is that it really simplifies things. If you’re buying within a limited color palette, you’re less likely to go overboard with purchases. And if you start out with a neutral bra and belt set, it’s easy to integrate colors or prints into your costuming.
I’d say one of the biggest problems that has plagued me as a fusion dancer was that by just buying things that I liked when I saw them, I ended up with a lot of great individual pieces that just did not go well together. My costuming pieces didn’t match each other, and my fan veils didn’t go with most of my costumes. What a disaster!
I’m in the process of trying to streamline my wardrobe, and thinking of things in terms of capsules and sets definitely helps.