There are lots of things to consider when choosing the right costume. It’s even more complicated when you have to come up with something that works for an entire group.
What is the style of dance?
How will the different styles/silhouettes look on the different body types within the troupe?
What is the budget of the troupe and each of the members?
Do you want eclectic or matchy-matchy?
These are just a few questions that will come up.
During my time performing with several student troupes, Bahar, and working on costume pieces with friends’ troupes I have had the opportunity to explore and experience several different options for troupe costumes, all of which vary in price and overall group look.
Here are some of my strategies to help you make beLLYDANCE TROUPE costumes that work BEAUTIFULLY for all bodies and budgets
It’s nice when the troupe has its own money to buy costumes for its members, but if it’s up to the individual members to pay for their own costumes the budget can be pretty tight. The most cost-effective option is to set up simple design parameters and let everyone choose their own costume/costume pieces.
Here are some examples:
SIMPLE AND BASIC BASE PIECES WITH ACCENTS OF COLOR
When I first started dancing with Mellilah and her students, we all wore black bottoms and tops with accents of our favorite colors. This gave us all the freedom to wear pieces we felt comfortable in while still looking like a cohesive group. Those of us who wanted to wear pants could and those of us who wanted to wear skirts could. This also gave the option to show or cover our bellies. I know when I was a baby dancer I was more conservative and never wanted to show my belly off in a million years! By adding color with our accessories we were able to add in our personality into the costume.
SAME COLORS FOR EVERYONE
Designate that all dancers wear the same color and then the dancers find their costumes on their own in that color. This isn’t quite as free form but looks very nice on stage. When I danced with Mirabai and her students we all wore gold bra and belts with black skirts or pants. This still gave us the opportunity to buy something that flattered our own bodies and kept within our own budget but we still looked like a cohesive group.
EVERYONE WEARS ONE SIMILAR SIGNATURE-STYLE PIECE
I have seen groups all buy the same style of same skirts or pants from places like L. Rose Designs and then all buy or make bra and belts in the same color. You can also do the reverse – purchase the same bra and belts and then all choose/make your own skirts or pants in matching colors.
MAKING COSTUMES USING SAME FABRICS AND COLORS
Bahar usually went the route of making costumes. The first troupe costume I made with Bahar was a costume we called Egyptian Fantasy. The premise for this costume was using the same fabric and colors and similar silhouettes for certain pieces and then filling in the gaps with our own personality. We were all given gold fabric, told to stick to neutral colors for the other fabrics and we were all to construct vests and some kind of belt but were given free range to do pretty much anything we wanted. This is not to say that we all went home and made our costumes individually, we all worked together on them. Those that weren’t as comfortable at sewing needed help from those who had more experience. I fell this building our costumes this way kept them similar enough to look great on stage but also let our individual personalities show through. It was also a great way to bond with members outside of the studio.
One of the biggest advantages to creating your own separates for costumes is that you can mix and match to create all new looks in the future. I stopped counting the amount of times we reused different parts of our Egyptian Fantasy costumes. We also invested in making (or purchasing) coin bras and belts that were super versatile and could be used for many different numbers.
Another easy, but usually more expensive option, is to purchase the same costume for all members.
This is usually done through an online vendor, the pricing for this depends on where you buy them from and the quality. Be sure to ask if the vendor offers a bulk or troupe discount! Purchasing costumes can get really expensive very quickly, but can look particularly professional on stage. During my time with Bahar we did this once. We found some really pretty costumes from an eBay store that were in our budget and they were able to make them in our different sizes. Though the costume elements were not the highest quality, they looked really nice. There were some minor fitting issues, but since we had lots of experience making our own costumes we were able to make them work.
Here are some more examples of Bahar’s costuming:
One last thought about troupe costumes is that you don’t have to match to look nice.
I know many troupes who get on stage and each individual is wearing something different. This can be tricky to create a cohesive mixture but I know it can be done. This option can also fit everyone’s budget as they get to choose exactly what they make or purchase. This can also ensure that everyone is comfortable in how they look and how they feel in their costume!
When Bahar had some professional shots taken a few years ago, we all brought several different options for matching costumes for our group shots. The photographer ended up suggesting us to each wear something different. She helped us pick out costumes that would look good together. I was a little hesitant about this but after seeing the results I thought it looked great! It let us show our individual personalities as well as showcase the dance style that inspired each of us.
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