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Frank Words about the Whimsy of Costume
A Review of The Costume Goddess’
Flattering Costume for Bellydancers

by Krista

Anyone who has wandered through the spectacle of a belly dance festival has felt it. That slight touch of vertigo that overwhelms you as you wade through table after table of gorgeous sparkles.  Those delusions of seeing yourself svelte and sequin-clad; being the dance visionaries we are, it is an inevitable side effect.  Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess, has written her Flattering Costume for Bellydancers to help us navigate this disorientation.  This book, the first in a series of seven, lays the framework for dancers who are seeking to develop their dance personae in a professional and tasteful manner.  The Costume Goddess draws upon her ample experience to lay out the criteria for selecting a costume that is proper for both the dancer’s personality and body.  Her candor, suggestions, and techniques are distinctive, making this book a valuable addition to the existing annals of belly dance costume advice.

The book begins with a thorough discussion of the many archetypes that the belly dance costume explores.   Each section is adorned with an expressive sketch of a dancer in costume. Once these are outlined, she launches into the controversial subject of combination or “fusion” styles. 

Purists may cringe, but The Goddess is frank about a costume’s priority being a theatrical more than an authentic representation. 

Personally, I find this discussion, which places good taste in the forefront, a welcome dispersion of the shadows.  We’ve all seen those costumes that make you think, “What is she/he going for here?” Dina helps us hone that vision before the costume is designed, much less on stage.  Once those stylistic preferences are set, the reader is given a good dose of reality. 

In her section on “Good Taste in Costume,” she bluntly discusses skin, preserving the dance mystique, and the point at which glamour becomes over-the-top. 

In Part Two, The Goddess focuses more on how to select costume color and design a costume that fits a specific body.  It is easy to slip into the delusion that you look good in any color that you like, but Dina outlines some of the hard and fast rules that you should follow given your skin tone, hair color, and the image you want to project.  Also in this section is a list of common costume design pitfalls to avoid.  Starting with general and moving to the specific, she helps walk a dancer through the do’s and don’ts of how to design a costume in which they will feel and look good. 

Most admirable about this section is that she does not avoid the dreaded “weight” issue.  Instead, she launches in forcing the reader to confront those parts of them they’d rather drape and forget.

The Designing on Paper section probably contains the most unique of the book’s many suggestions.  Making use of digital cameras and other elements of modern technology, the Goddess explains how to make a “Paper-doll Me.” Non-technophiles should not be discouraged, as she offers other options such as tracing the basic figures in the book, or using a picture from a performance that allow you to get started.   This “Paper-doll Me” is a figure that allows the dancer to see their personal shape and design a costume on paper that accents strengths and downplays the unsightly.  As is obvious from the many cute sketches throughout the book, The Costume Goddess is a talented artist.  Her explanations help those of us who are not artistically savvy to develop a realistic idea of what the costume will look like before a lot of time and effort is invested in the final product.

Now the reader has a good idea about how to outfit herself for the next performance and is ready to acquire the costume.  However, the final section, called “Shop Around,” might leave the dancer stranded.  It is only two brief pages about things to avoid in a readymade costume.  After all of the delectable advice in the previous pages, the reader is left a little hungry.  Perhaps that was The Costume Goddess’ intent—any discussion of sewing costumes is saved for later books in the series.  She is a dancer after all and wants to leave us wanting more.

Ready for more?

Krista reviews another book in the same series-
5-21-01 Learning from the Goddess, Book Review of Dina's #2 by Ignatia
No matter what your body type, there is a style in there for you. This is the first reference guide I have ever found of this sort.

12-19-01 MultiKulti, San Francisco's Marketplace of Treasures! by Princesse Meroe
True to his culture as one would see at Cairo's famous bazaar, the Khan el-Khalili...

10-25-01 Belly Laughs Gives Reviewer Terrific Case of Reader’s Indigestion, Reviewed by Sadira
“Belly Laughs: Adventures with Celebrities & Other Unusual Characters” book written by Rod Long.

 
 
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