Kate Swanson is an Australian writer and dancer with nearly 40 years' experience in ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom, Latin and bellydance.
Belly dancing is a wonderful exercise for mature women. It's gentle on the body and doesn't require the flexibility of youth!
Belly dance class is a non-judgmental, supportive environment where dancing ability is more important than size, shape or age. Within the belly dancing community, you have as much right to wear hip-hugging, belly-baring costumes as your younger, skinnier classmates. Other belly dancers don't give a little extra weight or a few wrinkles a second thought - but when we're performing in public, it's wise to think about how others see us.
Dressing for Your Shape
The reality is that as we get older, bits of us get flabby and unattractive. Look critically at yourself and identify your best (or least worst) points, and choose your outfit accordingly.
For instance, no one minds if your stomach hangs over your hip belt in class - but your audience really doesn't want to see it. If the tummy flab isn't too bad, you may find a good body stocking is enough to hold everything in. Lace will disguise scars better than a plain sheer.
If your mid-section has definitely seen better days, then the current revival of folkoric styles of belly dance is a Godsend, because it means you can wear a beledi or saiidi style dress. These long, figure-hugging variations on the traditional galabeyah are good for most figure flaws, especially if they've got plenty of Lycra content. You can even wear shapewear underneath for a smooth silhouette (make sure you can dance in it, though!).
Due to the modesty requirements in Egypt, dresses are also becoming popular for classical belly dance. Those dresses usually have cut-outs at strategic places, which can either show bare skin, or be filled in with sheer fabric (either flesh-coloured or toning with the main colour). The ideal is to get the costume custom-made for you, so you can choose to have the cut-outs in places that highlight your best features. If that's outside your budget and you can sew, you might consider buying an ordinary evening dress and making the cut-outs yourself.
Ranya Renee shows how it's done!
Costume photos thanks to Toast to Life.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on April 24, 2012:
That's sad. There is one teacher in my hometown who gives preference to the young ones - but luckily, there are plenty of other belly dance schools who aren't so discriminatory.
Ladyfyre67 on April 24, 2012:
Well where I live it seems like the bellydance instructors only want young women in their troupes.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on March 25, 2010:
Hi CM, glad you liked the article! Yes, bare midriffs aren't allowed in Egypt, which I think is where the current fashion for cut-outs came from.
celticmelody from Chicago IL on March 25, 2010:
Great article, Marisa! I do Egyptian style belly dance. One thing your article reminded me of is that, in Egypt, you must cover your stomach when you dance. (Unless you are a Dina or Randa Kamel of course.)
I perform mostly Khaleegy or saidi stick in either a khaleegy dress or Baladi dress (which I love to wear.) I love what they do for "bat wings" LOL.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on December 02, 2009:
Thanks Elizabeth, glad it was helpful. I wrote this after suffering similar anxieties myself - I've been a dancer all my life but when I was performing regularly, I was in much better shape than I am now. When I was asked to perform at a community fair and had to wear a midriff-revealing costume to match the other dancers, it prompted me to do a bit of research!
Elizabeth on December 02, 2009:
This site was very helpful to me. My dance class is planning a hafla in January, and even though I fancy myself a pretty good novice bellydancer, a full figure with additional post-pregnancy weight has me terrified of the costumes! *Zaghareet* to you for the tips!
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on October 27, 2009:
Hendrika, you don't have to dance in public if you don't want to - and you'll find that in most belly dance classes, the atmosphere is so supportive you'll stop worrying about those "little imperfections"!
Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on October 27, 2009:
I would love to do belly dancing, I'm afraid though, it will be hard to find anything to wear that will hide my "little imperfections!"
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on August 01, 2009:
Thanks! You have a point about Tribal - the costumes are kinder to older women.
Linda Joslin from UNIVERSE on August 01, 2009:
I agree with you that you do need to discriminate over how much "bling" you use for belly dancing and how much of you is good to show. At the public events connected to the class I attend I have seen really exquisite graceful costumes that shimmer and cover the figure but enhance the dance, one in particular was in shades of silver and grey with no gariishness at all. Quality and not quantity is also good. I favour Tribal with individuality which is also a good way of covering your body with different layers.
Such a good workout too.
Research Analyst on July 30, 2009:
Belly dancing seems like such a great way to get into shape and have fun at the same time, it really does take skill to move those hips and roll those abs. I admire the woman who have made it such an entertaining craft.
amii...xx on July 23, 2009:
I can't belly dance I've tried an come very close but I just can't get it right. I think people are very lucky if they can do it because it is incredibly hard.
(that didn@t make much sense)
Triplet Mom from West Coast on July 21, 2009:
I am so intrigued by Belly Dancers maybe some day I will get the courage to take a class.
RVDaniels from Athens, GA on July 21, 2009:
I like belly dancers. Real women with real curves, not twiggy teens.