Thursday, August 4, 2011
COSTUME PORN...THE LATEST TRENDS IN EGYPTIAN BELLY DANCE WEAR
CAIRO BELLY DANCE FASHION TRENDS REPORT
Though certain looks are classic for belly dance costumes and never seem to go out of style, like voluminous chiffon skirts worn with a beautiful bedlah, many belly dance costume designs are downright trendy, and appear, peak and vanish just the way trends in street clothes do. Many costume designers have a signature look, and these designs get copied and knocked off just as quickly as Forever 21 churns out affordable designs replicated from the world of high fashion.
Back when the legendary Egyptian designer Madam Abla was alive, I remember seeing her costume collections when I first started dancing, and each year she had a specific look. One season she would feature rhinestone bows on every costume she made, another season it was seashells. Fringed shoulder epaulettes were standard one year, and the next it was skirts cut on the bias with sequin-trimmed shredded hems. It got to the point that I could spot a Madame Abla from a mile away…and also be able to tell which year the specific costume came from!
Below are some of the costuming trends I noticed in Cairo, this past July 2011:
Everything from color-blocked abstract prints to faux animal prints in Lycra as well as a lot of chiffon and silk floral prints were big this year, and used across the board.
JEWELTONES & CHUNKY CHINESE RHINESTONE BROOCHES
Though it’s not entirely clear who originated this trend, I myself think that Crazy Move (known in the USA as “Rising Stars”) can take the credit… if not for starting the trend, then at least for perpetrating it!
This year many designers featured sleek, jewel-toned Lycra costumes with no fringe whatsoever, but loaded down with Chinese rhinestone brooches in the shape of stars, flowers, hearts, and geometric designs. The use of these broaches was everywhere, to the point where there were costumes that were knockoffs of knock-offs!
Like the Chinese broaches, clear vinyl straps were seen on costumes made by…everyone! When they initially appeared a few years ago, many dancers seemed on the fence about this trend, but it’s become a standard and is still growing.
Bras featuring asymmetrical cups- such as one plain, and one scalloped or with cutouts, have been around for a while, and are still very, very popular. Many new costumes shown had one cup done plain, or embellished with rhinestone chain or beads just along the edge, while the other cup was fully covered with work, or draped with fabric. This trend shows no sign of going away; it’s only getting bigger.
Many Cairo designers are embracing a trend towards using burlesque and showgirl influenced elements on their designs, and I even saw some costumes that were seriously lingerie-like. Popular themes included sheer netting with overlays of lace, feathers splashed across bra cups and as hip accents, feather boas on hems and and tiny satin bows that would normally be seen on “intimate apparel”.
In the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Opening Gala, Dina wore a Sahar Okasha that was a bright tomato red, with huge red lace roses overlaid on the bra cups. The top of the skirt was a V-shaped ( panty shaped!) patch of black lace over the red lycra, complete with four garters dangling as though from a vintage garter belt!
But Sahar wasn’t alone in this trend: Hallah Moustapha made a custom costume that looked like a 1950’s merry widow, complete with strategically placed working zippers, and Eman Zaki showed a stunning dress with a lace-up front that looked very saloon-girlish.
GIANT PAILLETTE SEQUIN DISCS
These were spotted in 2010 being worn by Soraya Zaed, Egyptian Aziza and Dina, but this year, they are everywhere! Big, over-sized paillette sequin accents are ubiquitous on everything from hip scarves to Saidi dresses and full Oriental costumes. You can see Leila Farid raqqin’ the giant paillettes on the cover of her new CD, “Tarab” (great music, by the way!) or watch her in action here, looking like a gorgeous human disco ball:
A lot of lesser-known Cairo designers were doing knock-offs of Turkish designer Bella. Her signature elements such as princess sleeves, sequin-bordered chiffon leaves trailing down circle skirts and bra cups with racy cut-outs backed by mesh almost-but not quite- are being successfully translated onto Egyptian costumes. While Bella’s designs are light and airy, the Egyptian knock-offs are clunky and not quite there yet- for example, one designer tried to do Bella’s leaves, but instead of constructing them out of chiffon, so they floated, the leaves were made like heavy, dangling appliqués, and just dragged the costume down.
CHUNKY PLASTIC BEADED NECKLACES USED AS ACCENTS
Obviously inspired by Sahar Okasha’s chunky bead draping on her costumes for Dina, I saw a lot of costumes with big dangly geometric plastic beads being used as accents.
Theoretically, this might sound scary, but when you see it in real life, it’s actually very cute. A costume made entirely with chunky plastic beads would probably appear cheap, but when they are used judiciously, combined with higher-end embellishments like rhinestones, lots of beading and sequins, it’s fresh and pretty- see the above picture of Argentine dancer Magda Monti, now living and working in Cairo, wearing a bronze costume with over-sized white plastic bead accents. The beads move well in performance and add a touch of whimsy.
Though many minimalist designs with little or no fringe were still plentiful on off-the-rack costumes, quite a few pro dancers in Cairo were wearing costumes with fringe, in everything from small accents to lush amounts trimming their bedlah. Leila Farid appeared at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan closing gala in a dazzling costume made of material that resembled a Navajo blanket print in shades of vibrant navy and royal blue, white, orange and yellow, with pointed geometric fringe to match! I believe Hallah Moustapha made this, but I’m not 100% sure. It was stunning!
NEW WORK FROM OLD FAVORITES:
Hannan’s costumes are well constructed, fit beautifully, and covered with intricate bead and sequin work. Her new baby son Ahmed apparently didn’t stop her from bringing out a new collection! This year she unleashed her wild side, showing costumes featuring metallic Lycra in two or more colors mixed with animal print or snakeskin lycra. Always up on worldwide dance community trends, Hannan also offered many tribal-inspired practice skirts, and tiny metallic mini-skirts meant to be worn over class-wear.
Always elegant and cut beautifully, Eman’s 2011 offerings include a line of dreamy romantic costumes done in floral prints made of real silk with Spanish-inspired ruffles around the hem & large fabric faux- flowers as accents on the hip and bust, armbands & wristbands.
Like her sister Eman, Hoda’s costumes are classic and gorgeous. She also showed many floral prints. My favorite of this year’s “crop” was a cute yet soignée handkerchief-hem costumes featuring yellow and black daisies, with jeweled daisies and minimal black fringe decorating the bra and belt-line.
An American designer, my friend Hallah is a former dancer who has been living and working in Cairo for years. She not only makes belly dance costumes, but also has a roaring business in the Middle East doing couture gowns that have been featured on television and in movies.
Hallah’s intricate and beautifully draped dance costumes have been seen on many Bellydance Superstars past and present, including Jillina, Sabah, Sonia, and Cairo-based dancers Leila Farid and Liza La Ziza. She used to only do custom work, but this year, Hallah has expanded into an affordable ready-to-wear line, featuring her trademark use of exotic Sari fabrics and her incredible draping and shaping. See-and order- her new work here: http://www.hallahmoustafa.com/#!readymade
The atelier of Madame Raqia Hassan makes bright, affordable costumes that range from extremely pretty to…so quirky and crazy that you’d have to live in Cairo for wearing it to make any sense! This year, her costumes featured a lot of mirrors, metal chains, and the afore-mentioned plastic beads.
One innovation she introduced this year ( which, for once, nobody else was doing! ) was in her accessories, which come with every costume. She featured large, blinged out wrist, arm and leg pieces in terrific geometric shapes, and dotted with crystals, not unlike those worn by Samba dancers. They were truly amazing and very unique.
Aziz is one of the few costumers that still uses a lot of "old-school" beading, which encrusts the bras, belts and skirts of his costumes. This year, he showed a lot of animal print, including some cat-print costumes that had pom-poms of real mink hanging as embellishments. Not PETA friendly, but they were pretty cute!
In my opinion, Mamdouh is hands-down the designer whose work is most original. He always thinks outside the box: his costumes are cute, playful, and very sexy... and even from far away, can be readily identified. He seems to take his cues from pop culture; a lot of his designs incorporate elements that look like American or European rock and roll club-wear, without losing their Oriental essence.
Some of his fashion foreword innovations- that are now being widely copied - are the use of handbag hardware (like metal snap-clasp hooks and D-rings for fasteners) over-sized prints, raw, un-hemmed metallic lace, scatter-work rhinestones, and extensive use of criss-crossed straps. This year, he featured detachable straps that wrapped up and down either or both leg- see photo- or dangling, embellished straps that started at the hip and attached at the ankle, like a glamorous, embellished leash! Aziza of Cairo wore two of his costumes in her Ahlan WA Salan Opening Gala show.
My only complaint about his work is that he uses acrylic rhinestones… which is ok for his smaller scatter-work, but just looks cheap on the bigger stones. My friend Aleya, an American dancer working in Cairo, assured me she’d already mentioned that to him. His costumes are already amazing, but if he used real stones as opposed to plastic, the worldwide dance community would be fighting each other for a chance to wear his stuff!
KING OF THE NILE
The Giza-based King Of The Nile has long been known for their intricate bead and sequin work, custom costumes and pretty hip scarves, as well as the fact that they actually ship their orders out on "Western Time"! This year, the King Of The Nile atelier has been hard at work on some new designs...stay tuned to find out more about them!
Dina At Ahlan Wa Sahlan Opening Gala on Nile Maxim, photo by Andre Elbing
Magda Monti of Cairo at The Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2011 Closing Gala, photo by Andre Elbing
An example of Mamdouh's crazy criss-cross leg straps
Aleya of Cairo in one of Mamdouh's fanciful designs, photo courtesy of aleyabellydance.com