Quick Change Tips for Bellydance Costumes

September 17, 2015 5 Comments
I love getting questions from DBQ subscribers – especially great ones like this!

Recently I was in a bellydance show and performed 2 numbers close together and was a lot slower than some of the other dancers changing. I was wondering if you could offer some tips in a Friday DBQ on quick costume changes.

Been there – done that. It’s stressful – and stress is the last thing you need when you want to take the stage with calm, cool and collected confidence.  A dancer can use all the help she can get, so for this very critical question, I asked an expert – Rukshana, lovingly known to the DBQ community as “The Costume Fairy”. Not only is Rukshana a genius bellydance costume designer and seamstress, she has had a long career in professional theater costuming. In short, she knows all the backstage secrets and she’s sharing them with us here!

The Costume Fairy says….

Fast changes can be done super fast if you take the time to prepare a proper set up.  It’s even faster if you have a helper. Here are some tips to prepare for a smooth quick change.

  •  “Rig” your jewelry.  Use magnets or Velcro closures on necklaces. If you aren’t fast with pierced earrings, find clip-ons or convert the pierced earrings to clips.  Check the jewelry findings area in your local craft store or shop on line.  If you add a piece of double stick toupee or Hollywood tape to the clips they have added security.
  • Preset your costume on a chair in the reverse order you would put it on.  For example– bra on the bottom, then belt, skirt.  Put any shoes under the chair. Jewelry can go under the bra or next to your shoes, depending on the space and size of the accessories. I like to have a clean sheet under the chair so I can drop the costume I’m wearing without worrying about it getting dirty.
  • Rig closures for speed where applicable. You are not going to Velcro a bra or belt, but you can use a skirt with elastic or use a zipper instead of a row of hook and bar closures. Big hooks and bars on a bra or belt are better that multiple small ones as a closure. Size matters!
  • If you can attach the skirt and belt this also may increase speed.
  • If you are wearing a belly cover have your bra attached at the front to it so you have fewer attachment points to secure it to the bra or use clear elastic straps to hold it up.
  •  It’s faster to have a designated belly cover for each costume than to change them.  Sometimes you can even rig your skirt to the cover and bra with some stitching or snaps.
  • Practice the change!  Do a couple dry runs where you figure out what placement works best for you.  Then run it for speed.  You need to know how much time you have between songs. A minute is a long time if you have everything prepped and ready.
  • See if you can arrange to have a dresser back stage. Their job is to facilitate the change.  This person needs to be calm and cool under pressure.  You don’t need someone high strung rushing you.  A good dresser will help as needed and keep you moving and out of panic mode if something is not going as planned.
  • Set up your change as close to the stage as possible. Garment racks with sheets thrown over them can form a small quick change booth in a pinch.  Walled pop up tents work great too.
As a professional costumer I can tell you nudity is an occupational hazard I face daily. We have all seen it so when speed is important modesty goes out the window. As a dancer I will try to be sensitive to my surroundings but I will make my change.  I have mastered the art of changing costumes with out excess nudity (dance panties cover as much as a bikini if not more and if you practice it’s amazing how you can undo the neck strap on bra 1 and slip bra 2 over the top before releasing the back band to drop bra 1 and then position and secure bra 2.
Remember the clock is ticking!

Have another quick-change trick you’ve used? Share it in the comments below…

Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Kelly
    September 18, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Wear the same jewellry for both performances. I noticed in the dress rehearsal that changing jewellry between numbers while sweaty was slippery and slow so I chose clear rhinestone jewellry to match both costumes and only swapped out a colored hair flower that matched each costume.

    1. Mahin
      September 19, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      Absolutely, when possible keeping the same jewelry means one less thing to do. Sometimes it’s just not possible though, for example if you are doing a folkloric piece with big coin necklace and earrings, then you have to do a cabaret piece that demands rhinestone bling. I was thinking, if you temporarily tack stitched a necklace to your bra neck straps and didn’t close the back, you could slip them both on at the same time. I wonder if that would work…

      1. Kalirah
        September 23, 2015 at 10:26 pm

        I have a gold necklace that didn’t spread like I wanted it to when worn around the neck, so it now has a semi-permanent location pinned to my gold bra! I never have to remember to pack it now either!

  2. Sasha
    September 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    A second set of hands is SUPER helpful! Helps with the removal of 1st and fastening of 2nd bra. Also, with the adrenaline rush of the first number, having a 2nd set of hands to help with belt fasteners helps too!
    If wearing a separate belt and skirt, pin it together. If you’re wearing matching dance briefs or boyshorts, pin that to the skirt as well. It’s a LOT easier to put everything on as 1 unit!
    Use one of those pop-up mesh hampers to toss all of your just-worn costume pieces into as you put on your 2nd (and 3rd, etc.). They fold up flat and are easy to pack if you’re flying. You’ll keep all of YOUR stuff separate from the rest of your troupe members’ (so no shouting “has anyone seen my bra?”).
    Remember that if you can see people in the audience, they can see you. Change as close as you can to your next entrance point without being visible to the audience (it’s not THAT kind of show!).
    One last reminder… sound travels. If you’re backstage, in the wings, SHHHHHH! The audience can hear you.

    1. Mahin
      September 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      The pop-up hamper is a great idea! And YES, be aware in the wings even if you are not changing. It is distracting for the audience and disrespectful to those on stage to be a visual or auditory distraction from their performance.


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