Rakkasah Trend Report 2002
by Dawn "Davina" Devine Brown

As one of the world's largest Middle Eastern belly dance festival, Rakkasah literally has something for everyone. From high-glam beaded bedlah sets and beladi dresses to authentic folkloric styles, dancers could find nearly anything to fit their style and budget. And this year, there were more vendors. An entire new wing was opened up down one side of the auditorium and smaller dealers with different and unusual products offered shoppers a tremendous variety to choose from.

After the tragic events of the fall of 2001, it was wonderfully soothing to slip into the swirl of dance and shopping at this year's show. Rakkasah is always a spectacular show with high quality bands and incredible performances by instructors. Selection of most performers is made via phone, so there is a great breadth and depth of dance styles and quality. For the costume designer, this offers a great opportunity to see a variety of different costume looks in motion and on many body types.

Rakkasah is the premier belly dance show where top vendors reveal the hottest and latest new styles from across the US, Turkey, Egypt and beyond.

With a growth in the number of dealers on the internet, dancers have more opportunities to shop outside of a festival environment. However, nothing beats going to an event where you can really shop, touch, and try on thousands of different costume styles. After visiting the vendor tables with my notebook in hand, I assembled a list of the hottest costuming trends today.

"Soft Costumes" - Perhaps one of the biggest trends of the past few years was the development of 'soft' costumes. These ensembles are composed of at least two pieces, usually a cropped top and skirt. Soft costumes are generally made from stretch fabric often with cutouts and embellishments that mimic the style and placement of decorations on traditional two-piece costumes. The chest of the blouse and the waistband of the skirt are decorated with sequins, beads, rhinestones and fringe, used as either appliques or directly on the cloth as surface embellishments. Straight stretch skirts are the look of the moment, often with a deep flounce, interesting slits and decorated hem treatment. Because the soft costume style is made to stretch, they fit a wide variety of body shapes with a minimum of alterations.

Stretch Fabrics - Everything stretch was hot at this year's show. Spandex has become one of the most important fibers used in dancewear today. From stretch velvets, nylon/lame' foils, swimsuit fabrics, lace and mesh, there was stretch fabric everywhere. From sleek body hugging beladi dresses to velvet cholis in solid colors and patterns, stretch fabrics have radically changed the face of dance costuming. From practice to performance, garments made from stretch fabrics move and flex with the body, making them comfortable and practical.

Velvet - Providing lots of rich texture, velvet fabric was one of the hottest fabrics on the tables at Rakkasah this year. From sexy burnout fabrics turned into flowing skirts and veils, to thick plush stretch velvet beledi dresses, these lush napped fabrics were everywhere. Colors ranged from classic black to rich jewel tones. The most popular shades were deep warm reddish hues such as wine, burgundy and plum. Velvet is available with many different surface treatments such as embossed prints, shinny panne and crushed treatments. Many styles of velvet fabrics were further studded with rhinestones or embellished with sequins, adding sparkle and shine to this rich textile.

Bright Colors - Since stretch is the hottest thing happening in dance costume design, many costume designers are using swimsuit fabrics to create their costumes. Hot tropical colors, cool ocean tones and bright clear primary hues have left the beach and are being integrated into incredible costumes. Since there is a strong retro '70's theme in fashion, many bright swirling or geometric patterns inspired by Pucci were made into skirts and dance gowns.

Cutouts - From openings in tight stretch skirts that reveal glimpses of thigh, to sleek slices and curving ovals artfully carved into beladi dresses to expose the midriff, cutouts were the most outstanding design feature of the season. For those not ready to reveal too much, panels of flesh colored mesh gave the illusion without the reality. Cutouts were often edged in rows of sequins that would at once accentuate the shape of the design while stabilizing the fabric.

Asymmetrical Features - One of the hottest looks for beladi dresses and bedlah sets incorporate asymmetric details. These features appear in lots of different locations on the costume such as single sleeved dance gowns, bras and belts connected by panels and straps that slice diagonally across the torso, or one single embellished sleeve. Beaded bra and belt sets integrate asymmetry with off center focal points, bra cups that are embellished with different patterns and beading designs.

Less Fringe - Bra and belt sets had less 'walls' of fringe instead, the fringe appeared in clusters and tassels. Fringe was also shorter on both the bra and belt. Perhaps the most popular bra embellishment style features one central cluster of fringe suspended from the center between the cups. On belts, the latest look is to drop beaded fringe from individual appliques rather than the entire edge of the costume. There was an emphasis on custom fringe with distinctive or contrasting beads on the tips to catch the eye and accentuate movement without added length.

Straps and Bands - Heavily embellished beaded bra and belts sets feature a lot of additional bands. Belts with extensions that reach up over the hips or around the waist. There were very exciting styles this year, designed with straps that connected the bra and belt together. Straight skirts with slits up the side were held together by decorated bands and straps.

Everything Gypsy - The hottest look of the moment is the bohemian Gypsy fusion look. With full fluffy skirts, ruffed blouses and a ton of attitude, a Gypsy look can be pulled together for a price to fit any budget. The bohemian look is very versatile and can incorporate coin and fringe bra and belt sets, or can borrow the choli and hip-wrap styles from tribal. Big earrings, black and red color schemes, full fluffy tiered or panel skirts, bangles for the wrist and rings for the toes, pulling together a Gypsy costume is as much about the accessories as it is the major costume pieces.

China Silk Veils - For those who haven't had a chance to try one of these veils, these were THE hottest veil style at the show both on the stage and at the vendor booths. Custom one-of-a-kind dye-jobs make each a unique work of art. From soft watercolor dappled patterns to bright tie-dyes and colorful bands, there was a silk veil to fit everyone's taste. Some costume makers will even custom dye veils to match a particular costume.

Shimmy Hip Wraps - All of the top vendors had a variety of shimmy wraps available. From basic colors to wild animal prints there was a color and pattern for every taste. There were upscale beaded versions or more folkloric/tribal looking versions with stamped coins. Triangular, rectangular and styles with long tabs, there was a shape to flatter every figure. These hip wraps are fun to wear for practice, at class or workshops. But many dancers at the show have integrated them into their performance attire. Some designers have begun using shimmy wraps as yardage, covering a bra to create a matching bra and belt set.

Tribal Variations - This year there seemed to be even more interest in tribal styles. However, each troupe seemed to be pushing the design envelope, adding new style elements and trying to really create either individual looks or a distinctive tribal identity. Tribal bras seem to be more popular than in past years, worn alone or with a choli. Long fringe over-skirts were all the rage among tribal performers.

Rakkasah West Festival 2002 Friday Night Photos
Rakkasah West Festival 2002 Saturday Photos

Rakkasah West Festival 2002 Sunday Photos

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