Gilded Serpent presents...

Belly Dance Costuming Evolves

Photos and Commentary from a Rising Star of Costume Design

Costume Sketch by Katalin

by Katalin Schafer of Hungary
video interview by Lynette Harris
posted October 18, 2011

Belly dancing is a beautiful art form that has a rich cultural history, but if I am brutally honest with myself, I must admit that my interest in Belly dancing started because of those beautiful, feminine and exciting costumes rather than the actual dance movements!  Sometimes, when a small girl sees her first Belly dancer, she believes that this amazing vision must be a princess!  Many women still hold that small girl inside her heart who dreams of becoming a princess–at least a dance princess. Naturally, she begins taking Belly dance lessons in order to wear those breath-taking dance costumes!

When I enjoyed my first Belly dance classes, we dancer students thought that the Turkish designs were the most fashionable. They consisted of four parts: the loose skirt, a fully decorated belt and bra, at least one matching arm decoration, and a veil.

The skirts were mostly made of synthetic chiffon fabric that was slightly transparent.
The costume fabrics were covered with cheap palettes, sequins and pearls and were excessively heavy. 

Nowadays, the Turkish designers still produce these secondary lines, but they have also started to use excellent silks and crystal decorations for the bedlah (bra, belt and skirt ensemble) and their designs reveal more of the dancer’s body.

One of the most famous Turkish designers today is Bella. Turkish designers prefer neon colors and other brilliantly hued fabrics.

While the definitive cradle of classic Belly dance is largely unknown, its central location today is, of course, Cairo. This wonderful, teeming capital of Egypt sets many of the current trends in both cabaret and country (Beledi) costumes. 

Egyptian costumes usually have 3 basic parts: the narrow skirt with its attached belt, a matching bra, as well as arm, head, and throat (choker) decorations.

The Egyptians tend to decorate the skirt heavily–not just the hip-line but the entire fabric!

They prefer to hand-apply motifs on fabrics such as sequined leopard-skin appliques, flowers, or any other recognizable pattern. For the most part, Egyptian designers and dancers prefer the classic and primary colors like red, blue, yellow, green, black, or white.

There are many creative and fantastic designers leading the fashion life in Cairo; among them today are: Sahar Okasha, Halah Mustafa, Hisham Osman or Eman Zaki.  These fantastic Arabic designers have renewed existing costume fashions with their modern ideas, and they have begun to use, in addition to the usual fabrics, lace and other textiles that feature special decorations such as pearls, wooden beads, shells, or anything that they can imagine to enhance their designs.  I am often inspired by the creativity of Egyptian designers!

When I created my Belly dance costume brand that I call "SCH-Fashion", I started to design my own costumes and those for my dancers who are in my dance theatre. I would like to find my own unique way of costuming because I work from my heart.  I like the shear, light and elegant 100% pure silk costume that feels as if I have nothing on my body and gives me a free-flowing energy, and I prefer the smokey, autumn colors.

For folkloric dance, there are different styles such as Saidi, Khaligy, Beledi, Fallahi, Melaya Leff, etc.  Of course, these costumes cannot have a very haute-couture appearance because they must adhere to their traditional origin, but nowadays, the creative designers show us also the opulent look in folkloric costuming as well. They are using more excellent fabrics and unusual decorations than they did a few years ago.

Because our colorful dance form is still living, changing, and evolving day-by-day, the costume designers will inspire us endlessly. This movement is a never-ending energy flow full of elegance and ferocity, sensuality and femininity. I hope that I will be  a part of this wonderful Oriental dance life for a long time.


Autumn colors by Katalin SchaferBarbie pink by Katalin Schafer

nude and black lace by Katalin Schafer

Calle Lillies by Katalin SchaferMermaid by Katalin Schafer

prism by Katalin Schafer

strawberries by Katalin Schaferwaves by Katalin Schafer




use the comment box

Have a comment? Use or comment section at the bottom of this page or Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?

  • Serpent Tour 2011 Journal- London, Madrid and Marrakech! NEW VIDEO UPDATE-7-8-11
    An experimental travel blog. Let see how it goes! The plan is to update this page frequently.
  • Becoming the Object of Your Own Fantasy, "Perfumes of Araby" in the 1970s, Part 1
    The Belly dance scene in 1970s Los Angeles: It is difficult to spotlight succinctly even one portion of a vibrant, vast and quickly growing community of Middle Eastern dancers, their enthusiasts, and the ethnic communities, musicians, festivals and supper clubs that supported the dance arts. The abundance of inspiration in that era was almost beyond understanding; yet once upon a time before the Internet, music, imagery and information was less readily available.
  • Sunday Photos from Rakkasah East- October 2010
    Barakat, Basema, Dena Shazadi, Fatima, Fire Blossoms, Ghada Girls, Habiba, Laura, Leila, Rega, Saiedah, Shadia, Tempest, Willow, Yuliya, Zenaiede

  • Amity, Anka Kusu, Belly Mystic, Bliss, Calixta, Desert Moon, Dorothea, Eddie Kochak, Scott Wilson, Serpent Secrets, Fantasha Dancers, Isis, Jamileh, Kelebek, Latifa, Lily…
  • Friday Night Photos from Rakkasah East- October 2010
    Desert Embers, Dharma, Fahtiem, Leila Haddad, Mystic Wiles, Nadia Layla, Najma, NightShade, Phoenis, Raks Shiva, Troupe Shahibat
  • Bellydancers "Gotta have a Gimmick!", Excessive Use of Props
    I get the impression from watching such performances that a prop wasn’t incorporated in the show because it helped the dancer express an emotion in the song, but the property was intended to be the focus of the performance.
  • Dreaming in Massachusetts, Photos from MassRaqs 2011
    The celebration of those traditions, along with the fervor of Boston’s intellectual culture, the talent of our local community of dancers and musicians, and a desire to connect that beautiful history to the global present and future of our dance drives the work we do in our event.
  • MaShuqa interviews Ali Hamidzadeh of Turquoise International,
    Ali tells us about how he came to produce his first cymbals. He is interviewed by MaShuqa. He also talks about Dahlena, Bobby Farah, his education, inferior copies of his zils, how to know that you have genuine Turquoise cymbals. Testimonials from Jillina, Princess Farhana, and Marta Schill.
  • Assiut / Assuit, Fascinating FAQs
    However, mosquito netting was invented by the Egyptians and dates back thousands of years.
  • Aubre Hill, New Fussion Energy in Taiwan
    As time has passed, the local community has found itself on a changing path. The heavily choreographed (written notation) dance trend remains the staple of the main stream while increasingly, local dancers (and instructors as well) have begun to realize that there is something else in addition to set notations of dance movements to learn.
  • Competition Strategies, A Judge’s Suggestions
    Choosing a costume that fits and flatters your choreography is equally important. If you want to highlight your amazing hip work, be sure to choose a costume with lots of fringe and tassels on the hips so the judges cannot fail to see that hip work.
  1. Mohammed khalid

    Jul 12, 2012 - 11:07:02

    The belly dancing of katalin Schafer is excellent.In every video of her she wears a new costume which fits her superbly.No doubt she is a fashion designer herself!Tell me how can I contact her?

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.