There are many make up and costuming tricks dancers use onstage to create a gorgeous, larger-then-life persona...and one of them is the discreet use of body stockings and hose to create the illusion of longer limbs and a toned torso.
For dancers who want to make their legs look sleek and toned onstage, but feel like body make-up just won’t cut the mustard, there’s always the option of using stockings.
Fishnets seem to work best for performance, because regular nylon stockings often create an undesirable sheen under stage lights.
It’s a good idea to invest in professional-weight fishnet hose. Danskin and Capezio both make them in a variety of styles, and even Leg Avenue now has a sturdy “Show Girl” hose. Professional weight stockings are more expensive than regular fishnet hose, but they will hold in any unwanted jiggle on your legs, and will last for ages, serving you well…I’ve had some pairs that lasted for years before losing their elasticity!
Of course it isn’t a faux pas to wear regular, inexpensive fishnets onstage, but you should know that these cheaper stockings lose their form-fitting properties quickly- sometimes within minutes of being put on! They also tend to lose their shape, appearing baggy and loose, and they snag quite easily. With a professional weight stocking, if you happen to get the material caught in a shoe buckle or on a piece of your costuming, pretty much the most damage that will occur will be that you lose the connecting threads of one or two squares. From the stage, this will not be noticeable at all. With cheaper hose, a long, unsightly run or ladder will most likely appear.
Professional weight fishnet stockings won’t run when you wear them, OR when you cut them, so you can adapt them to your own personal style quite easily.
Many gals cut the feet of the stockings off at the ankles if they are using them while going barefoot for belly dance. I personally also cut the elastic waistband off the stockings so it doesn’t create a bulge around my hips… and not just for purposes of costuming, but for every day use as well.
The hose will stay up just fine without it.
Many burlesque dancers cut off the legs of fishnet hose at the crotch- each leg will stay up by itself, or you can use the hose with garters for a sexy retro look. Plus, the longer length of hose cut like this is usually more flattering than commercially-made thigh-high stockings, which usually seem to hit most gals just above the knee, visually breaking up the line of the leg, and making even a tall, slender woman look like her legs are half as long as they actually are.
Fishnets come in many colors, but the best for stage use are nude (many shades are available to match different skin tones) and black.
Because of the open net pattern, black hose will create an optical illusion and make your legs look curvier; nude or flesh tones will make your legs appear longer. Though The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and Las Vegas showgirls are already long-stemmed, they almost always wear skin-toned fishnets with neutral, high-heeled shoes precisely because this combo makes the dancer’s legs look like they go on for miles.
When you choose fishnets for the stage, make sure to get a style that has smaller “windows” some of the fashionable styles have larger squares, and though that may look cute up close at a party, it isn’t that flattering to a dancers' legs when she is onstage.
When selecting fishnets stockings, decide what your costuming needs are and which illusion you are after.
Dancers with stretch marks, scars, or those with a few more curves often wear body stockings to smooth out the appearance of the torso. Body stockings serve to camouflage imperfections, and there are quite a lot of affordable, serviceable options available today. Specially made for dancers, these body stockings come in a large selection of colors, from skin tones to bright jewel shades.
Some body stockings are more heavy duty than others, and the material used range from light fishnet fabric (the same type of fishnet that the stockings are made of) to heavy power net, the type of fabric that is used in many foundation garments. Some of these body stockings hook in to the bra and belt, some attach by shoulder straps, others are constructed more like a long-line girdle.
The weight and stretch of the net will have different visual effects on your body as well. The light to medium weight nets will probably do the trick for covering up scars or stretch marks, as well as smoothing out the appearance of the flesh itself.
The heavier nets tend to look great when the dancer is standing still, but once she is in motion, because of the thicker material, the net can actually look odd, and though it holds in any jiggle or “reverb”, it can actually create bulges or rolls that wouldn’t have been there in the first place!
There are many Egyptian belly dance costumes available with the net already built in, often with beautiful bead, sequin and rhinestone embellishments curving across the torso in flattering lines. Some of these costumes are the standard two-piece bedlah, but with the netting already in place, connected to the bra and belt; others are constructed like dresses, but with many “open” panels of netting, to give the illusion of a bare midriff.
Most of the older Egyptian belly dance costumes came with the nets sewn in…but they also had really thick, ugly zippers up the back, along the spine. For years, I wondered about this…how could the Egyptian costumers do such amazing tailoring and hand beading, yet not know how to install an invisible zipper?
After asking around, I finally found an answer from an Egyptian costumer. Due to the strict laws governing licensed Oriental Dancers in Egypt, the midriff had to be covered. This is why dancers like Fifi Abdou and Soheir Zaki often appeared wearing colored bodystockings to match their costumes. And, apparently, the large zipper in the back of the flesh-colored nets wasn’t there because the costumers didn’t know how to sew… it was installed so that if the Vice Police happened to visit a club to check on the dancers for “decency”, they would merely have to stand at the entrance to clearly see the dancer on the stage- and the tell-tale zipper in the back of the costume- to know she was appropriately covered! I’m not sure if this is an urban legend, but it sure makes sense!
It is also fairly easy to make your own midriff body nets by altering a pair of professional weight hose. Purchase a pair of fishnet tights a size or two bigger than you would normally wear, and cut the legs of the stockings off a few inches below the crotch,
Leaving the elastic waistband on the hose, step through the legs of the hose and pull the waistband up to just under your bustline. Try on your costume bra, and mark the inside of the bra- and the waistband of the hose- where you want to affix them to each other. One body stocking can be interchanged with a number of costumes, so try on whichever costumes you would like to use the nets with, and make sure that the marks all correspond. To fasten them, use heavy-duty hooks and eyes, sewn in horizontally to the inside of the bra and the waist of the body stocking. Some gals use heavy-duty snaps, but depending on how athletic you get onstage, these can pop open pretty easily.
Some dancers get a separate set of hose, cut the legs off and then sew the entire waistband into the bra, then step into the legs of the body stocking before fastening the bra.
Professional Weight Fishnets by Danskin: Danskin Women's Professional Fishnet Tights, Suntan, C/D
Professional Weight Fishnets by Capezio; Capezio Women's Professional Fishnet Seamless Tight,Caramel,Small/Medium
Body stockings at Dahlal Internationale
Body stockings at The Belly Dance Shoppe:
Custom Belly Dance Bodystockings by Sugar Petals: http://www.sugarpetals.com/body_stockings.asp
Body stockings in different colors—power net midriff body stockings http://www.adiradance.com/dance_costume_cp/BL-001/D_BellyDance/i1/o/Midriff+Power+Net+Body+Stocking.html