Before You Put on That Belly Dance Skirt, Read This…

Just like wedding dresses, there is a universe of gorgeous costumes that can get applause all on their own even without a dancer in them. But design is also about the way a costume moves with a dancer. The way it frames us. How it makes us feel.

If you’d rather listen to this than read it, check out this podcast on belly dance skirts

When we worry about something popping out or coming undone or getting tangled, we are not immersed in the dance and the music. We are distracted or nervous dancers, and the audience can see it. Uncomfortable costumes don’t deserve space in a sacred costumes trunks. Uncomfortable costumes go in a Memory Bin if they have sentimental value or give away piles if they don’t.

So instead of thinking about skirts in terms of the music and style they match, let’s think about skirts based on what they are good for and how well they work.

When figuring out what costume to wear, these are the considerations:

  1. Type of audience (Conservative or not? Majority or hosts from a self-specified country or culture? Will children be there? Drinking or not? Burlesque?)
  2. Music style at the event
  3. Floor situation (Dirty or clean? Wet or dry? Elevated or at crowd level? Fire pit? Port-o-potties?)
  4. Transport plans (Walk, bike or ride?)
  5. Size of your bag (Purse or rolly suitcase?)
  6. Lighting (Stage lights? Sunlight? Poorly lit?)
  7. Background behind dancers (What color skirt will be a good contrast? ex: If curtains are red avoid red, if curtains are black wear something bright, if busy where a solid color)
  8. Plans for afterwards


The best belly dance skirts for conservative situations

  • Full flare spinning skirts
    • Best for indoor stages
    •  Types
      • circular hem
      • tiered (ATS or gypsy)
      • layered (less common)
      • super wide A-line circle skirt without bottom ruffle (Am Cab)
      • circle skirt with bottom ruffle (Sevillanas)
      • “gypsy” 25 yard, 10 yard, 5 yard, 2 yard
  • Bottom flare spinning skirts
    • Better for outdoors and potentially wet floors
    • Take up less space in a bag
    • Types
      • A line
      • mermaid
      • “hippie”
  • Stretchy straighter
    • Best as danceable street clothes
    • Types
      • broomstick
      • straight
      • peasant
  • Ruffled full
    • not sure what these are good for, but I saw one with LEDs in it so it lights up!


Fun sexy reveal belly dance skirts for audiences that can handle skin

  • Cutout
    • over side upper side thigh or hips
  • Full flare double or single front thigh slit
    • separated 3 panel circle skirt or just light-weight fabric gathered
    • slits can be as high as the waist band or farther down on the thigh
      • high slits make underwear choice or wearing harem pants very important, especially when on a stage with strong light
    • If you are wearing opaque harem pants under your skirt, slits work for a conservative audience
  • Bottom flare double or single front thigh slit
    • wrap skirt
  • Straight double or single front thigh slit
  • Side slits

    cotton skirt with side slits

    • full, bottom flare and straight
  • Fringe or translucent fabric
  • High low maxi circle skirt
    • flamenco with ruffles, etc

Note about wearing skirts with slit and other leg-revealing features: Be aware of what your knees and feet do when you turn. I have older photos where my knees look like they are pointing at each other while I turn. Not pretty.


The award for the Most Practical Skirt goes to:

Machine washable black skirt that doesn’t show wrinkles, has a nice flat waistband with no safety pins needed. In colder climates, no slits.


The award for the Most Photogenic Skirt goes to:

10-25 yard full skirts with contrast or weight on the bottom for those of us who love to spin

Front thigh single slit skirt on the side of the body you favor for those who like beautiful leg poses


The award for the Biggest Pain-in-the-butt Skirt goes to:

10-25 yard full circle skirts, skirts that are too tight, skirts that need safety pins to create the effect you want

Costume tip: I like to make drawstring bags for my costumes out of tshirts or scarves I love but never wear. Then it’s easy to bring the skirt to gigs in that bag and protect it from getting snagged by other things in my costume trunk. It’s easier to find, too.

Make a drawstring bag out of a tshirt you love but don’t wear

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