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Fashion Trend Report 2011

Feathered costume from Turquoise International
Feathered Costume from Turquoise International

What’s New This Year at Rakkasah?

by Dawn Davina Devine
photos by Alisha “Zemira” Westerfeld
posted April 18, 2011

For the first time in more than a decade, I didn’t have a booth of my own at Rakkasah West 2011. Instead, I was able to wander freely, enjoying the event fully, socializing, watching performers and leisurely exploring the costumes and accessories on the dealer’s tables. What I noticed, first and foremost, was not the costuming, but rather, a change in the sellers themselves. The seller demographic has radically altered, creating a new vendor landscape. Without a doubt, this is a response to the on-going sluggish economy and the need for companies to reduce expenses. The reduction in costumes and products coming out of Egypt also affected the merchandise. Many small factories had a gap in production, and shipping has become even more problematic. So dealers who had placed large orders of Egyptian items have not been receiving shipments. Consequently, there were few fewer bra and belt sets available than expected.

Smaller Booths Equal Less Product

Since 2005, there has been a move to downsize the booths. In the not-so-distant past, there were dozens of "double wide" booths filled to capacity. Now, vendors seem to be economizing, shrinking not only their space, but their stock offerings as well. The abundance of mega-booths, popular at beginning of the last decade, has given way to a proliferation of more hand-made offerings by small-scale designers. The rising cost of transportation has made vendors from further afield think twice about attending. While there were still a few large vendors, such as Turquoise International, Fatima’s Bazaar, and Gaylene’s Boutique, I found myself missing some of my favorite dealers of past years like Scheherazade Imports, Audrena’s, and Simply Stylish.  

New Generation of West Coast Designers

The latest trend in vendors is the rise of the independent designer. There have always been professional costume designers and dressmakers at Rakkasah, such as Gaylene’s Boutique, L. Rose Designs and SJE Creations. The mission of these craftswomen is to create garments, costume pieces and full ensembles primarily geared for stage wear. However, the new breed of designer has a different agenda. They strive to create signature head-to-toe looks that are designed to be part of a daily alternative urban lifestyle, but can be used as components for stage ensembles. This look varies from designer to designer, but they all seem to be rooted in the fusion aesthetic with hints of Burning Man, Hip-hop, Steampunk and Gothic styles. Some of the most intriguing of these designers at Rakkasah this year included Dreaming Amelia, Geisha Moth, and Flippin Tribal.

What was hot? Trend Spotting 2011


It doesn’t matter what style of costume you prefer, high glam or tribal fusion, the fiber of the year is spandex. For high glam dancers, spandex, nylon and polyester swimsuit style fabrics were the order of the day featured in fancy upscale beledi dresses and tight form-fitting two-piece ensembles. Spandex two-piece outfits feature skirts that are narrower and less embellished at the top than in past years. To conserve costs, designers are using less applique and surface beading, fringes, and rhinestones. It seems that designs are becoming more sparse, with fewer extra features such as cut-outs and attached waist or hip straps. This style of costume isn’t as versatile as the more traditional bedlah, with bra, belt and interchangeable skirt. For glamorous dancers who like to have easy on-and-off costumes, these spandex two-piece ensembles are a great option. The big caveat is that these styles simply don’t hold up to rigorous wear and tear. So, though they cost the same or slightly less, performers may find they get fewer wearings before they experience bead loss.


In the tribal fusion styles, spandex is paired with cotton fibers for comfortable yoga-inspired pants, cropped tops and accessories. Many of these multi-purpose garments are perfect for all sorts of fitness activities such as dance practice, and can even be layered into complex performance ensembles. These clothes appear in dark rich colors, autumn hues, and especially black from a variety of independent designers.

Bathing Suit Colors

The colors of the moment in the glam vendors at Rakkasah include a few striking pallets. In the world of spandex, the colors are all derived from what’s hot in swimwear. All the shades of delicious fruit salad were available from watermelon pink to kiwi green, lemon yellow and tangerine, strawberry pink and cherry red. Other popular color schemes included what I call “ocean and sky,” with various shades of blues, purples, greens, aqua and turquoise with accents of black and white. Another big trend includes retro ‘80s neon colors: electric blue, shocking pink, and eye-searing yellow. Pale sepia-toned colors (reminiscent of vintage advertising from the ‘20s and ‘30s) appeared on retro-themed neo-burlesque fusion costumes. Autumn colors were all over the tribal-fusion racks, with rich rusts, burnt oranges and warm browns being most popular.

Clear Straps

This style of strap has been popular for several years in general fashion. Now appropriated by designers for dance costumes, invisible straps are being used at the shoulders, around the neck or even to hold the bra cups together. These clear straps create the illusion of a strapless Bellydance bra. When used instead of the bra band or center front, they create the illusion that the bra is miraculously supportive or about to completely burst loose and fall from the body of the dancer in the next big shimmy sequence.

Rhinestones for Everyone

When tribal was a fresh style composed of ethnographic elements from India to Morocco, the use of rhinestones was shunned. Now that tribal has evolved into numerous fusions, the use of rhinestones, especially in complicated hair ornamentation and jewelry, is reappearing. Various styles of fusion are once again embracing a more sparkly mode, a retro and faded shimmer.

Wicked Smiley feathered hairclip
Feathers and Flowers

Featured on tribal fusion headdresses, on all sorts of jewelry from tribal to glam and even stitched to cabaret style costumes, feathers are hot for 2011! Feather and flower headdresses ran the gamut and ranged from tiny little versatile clips that could be used as individual accents or in large abundant clusters, to giant over-the-top artistic edifices that reached for the sky. The strong influence of Burning Man lent a raw and rugged look to many of these art pieces by using natural materials such as bones, horns, shells and dangling bits of leather. Feathers aren’t just for the tribal girls either: many glamorous goddesses were wearing coordinating feathers and flowers on their costumes or in their hair. This is a growing trend that I expect will be around for quite some time.

Tribal Fusion

The new tribal is stylistically stretching to encompass a variety of different vibes. The three most dominate looks both in the booths, and on the stage, include variations on vintage styles viewed through a dark glass. Steampunk, early burlesque/circus and even retro ‘50s pin-up were all themes being explored by designers and the dancers who wear them. Many of the booths also offered a lot of stylistic trends pulled from the world of Burning Man, including the use of faux fur, spats, spandex sleeves and hoodies.

Imports from India

While walking around Rakkasah, it seemed to me that the market has been flooded with cheap goods from India.  Inexpensive hip wraps, fluffy tiered and broomstick skirts and cropped tops. There was an abundance of this genre, however, and it all looked so similar, like variations on the same theme. Big, fluffy cotton skirts were on racks everywhere! However, it appeared that few dancers were choosing to buy these old classic ATS styles so many of these Indian import vendors still had jammed-packed booths when the show ended. With so many vendors selling the same style, I wonder if any vendor in that genre sold well?

What was out?

What I didn’t see anywhere were animal prints! There was little variation in the crochet and coin hip wraps, but I think that this might be a reflection of the state of exports from Egypt rather than a loss of interest. I spoke to many dancers looking for really unique hip sashes, and we were all in the same boat, wondering what happened to variety.

Ethnic costumes seemed to be harder to come by as well. With the economy still placing a squeeze on dancers and vendors alike, people were buying more versatile pieces, rather than costumes for specialty dances. People were not splurging, but shopping from lists, buying essentials, and continuing to scale back their dance lifestyles.

Author’s biopage

-Photos of white feathered hair clip is by Wicked Smileys
Photo of black and white outfit is by Geisha Moth

More photos

Main Hall of Richmond Auditorium
Click pic above for enlargement. Main room of Richmon Auditorium.
Front Lobby
Dahlal’s Booth
Dreaming Amelia’s booth
Ruffles show at Firebird Designs
India Arts Imports
L Rose Designs
Sparkly Things
Belly Dance Shoppe
Turquoise International

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  1. Linnea von Wissmann

    May 19, 2011 - 11:05:10

    Hello!  Where or how can I get in touch with Flippin Tribal? 

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