For people starting out in belly dance, you might not be required to wear anything fancy to your classes. My teacher allowed us to wear yoga/excercise clothes until we were comfortable wearing a skirt and choli. However as you dance longer, you want to wear the beautiful costumes! The question is, what to get?
Here are the facets of the basic ATS costume:
~ The Skirt ~
These full skirts range from 10-16 yards for practice, and 25 yards for performances. They are commonly made from cotton, rayon, silk, and other fabrics. They are sewn in tiers, usually between 3 and 5, and the yardage is increased in each tier. They come in a range of colours, patterns and types (padma, jaipur,etc).
Popular vendors* include: Flying Skirts, Wendy Balisle, and Tribe Nawaar
You can also make your own skirt, which I have not yet attempted, but you can find tutorials online.
~ The Pantaloons ~
*Striped pantaloons in the middle by Painted Lady Clothiers*
Pantaloons are a very full, loose pant, gathered at the top and at the ankles. They often have slits down the outside of the leg, however in ATS these slits normally aren't very long. Tribal Bazaar* sells a great range of pantaloons, and they are also quite easy to make yourself - so I am told. I'll link a tutorial here when I make my own!
~ The Choli ~
Choli's are a backless cropped top, usually with a deep 'V-neck'. They can be various sleeve lengths, and other details such as a sweetheart neckline (middle photo above), no sleeves, or cut out shoulders.
~ Hip Scarves/Tassel Belts/Fringe ~
Oh, the fun to be had! These are not required for practice but how pretty are they! There is such a variety of colour, texture, pattern and length that you can really begin to find your personal style with these items.
~ The Coin Bra ~
Coin bras are not needed for practice either, but are a must have when you perform in ATS. They can be purchased or made, but if you have even an ounce of crafty-ness in you (and maybe a helpful friend) I think it makes much more sense to make these yourself. Not only will you save money, but you can ensure the bra fits you perfectly and you can tailor the bra to your exact tastes.
One warning though is that it should be covered enough that it is obviously a costume and no longer an 'intimate' item.
~ Hair ~
Turbans or headscarves used to be standard in ATS, (Headwrap tutorial here) however most dancers now wear what is called a Hair Garden, where silk flowers are fixed into the hair. Hair falls and sticks with feather or jewel adornment are also popular.
To give you an idea of what the progression might be, my very first item was a long purple fringe that i wore over my yoga pants. Then I got a skirt, and more scarves. I didn't start wearing a choli until level two. Now I have skirts, choli's, scarves, one tassel belt and one in the works. I still actually don't have any pantaloons so that will definetly be my next purchase! I hope this post helps you get an idea of what items you might need - and with all these links i'm sure you have some shopping to do!* Enjoy :)
You can also buy the pattern for the skirt, choli, pantaloons, and advice on the other facets as well, from Fat Chance Belly Dance and Folkwear* >HERE<
* I am not affiliated with or paid by any of the above linked companies, they are just places I like to shop. :)