It was really hard for me to find a photo of me in a cover-up! Everyone wants costume pictures.
Many better, more famous dancers have already written about the importance of wearing cover-ups, but I've been asked to do so as well, so here's my thoughts. Wear your cover-ups. Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way, time for tea and chocolate!
Ok, ok, I guess I can say a little more than that. Cover-ups are important for many reasons. They give you an aura of mystery. They keep you from drawing attention from the other acts on stage. If it's cold, they keep you warm. They help protect your costume from stains and other damage. They keep your back from sticking to the car seat on long, hot drives to gigs in Phoenix. They allow you to look a little less strange when you go grab a quick bite on the way home from your show.
With all those reasons to cover up your costume, it would be silly not to. But maybe you're new to dance and you have no idea what to wear, or your favorite cover-up just bit the dust and you're at a loss for what to replace it with. With that in mind, here's my handy list of tips for choosing a cover-up.
1. Whatever it is, make sure it either wraps or fastens in the front. Even if you don't wear a lot of ornaments in your hair like I do, you don't want to mess your hair up or get lipstick on your cover-up when changing. You also want it to be easy to get in and out of, because sure enough, you'll be chilling back-stage and the organizer will want a quick group shot of everyone in costume before they let the audience in, or you'll be relaxing after the show and your friends will want to take pictures with you in your costume. Make all those quick changes easy on yourself!
2. Try to get a fabric that breathes well and can be washed. You're going to wear this for every gig, so you want to be comfortable and you want to keep it nice and clean.
3. But with that in mind, make sure it's not too loosely woven, or else it will catch on chain, jewelry, beads, sequins, hang-nails, scenery, props...
4. You may want one light-weight cover for summer and a heavier one for winter, especially if you're doing a lot of outdoor gigs.
5. As you can see, it's pretty hard to cover up a huge 25 yard tribal skirt. Just make sure you've got your bra and belt areas covered and that will preserve most of your mystery. Of course, sometimes you can luck out and find an awesome long garment with slits that will mostly cover you while still having room for your skirt. Treasure that!
6. Check the swim section for awesome bathing suit cover-ups. You can even use a sarong, I often do and it's an especially great affordable, easy option for a newbie dancer.
7. A veil may seem like the obvious answer because it is a large piece of fabric. And you can use a veil that is dedicated to life as a cover-up, but please don't use a veil you plan to dance with. What if it gets damaged while you're wearing it?
8. Always have at least two cover-up options available, just in case when you're packing for your gig you realize that your usual cover-up has a tear or the top button came off last time and now it shows off your bra.
9. Try your cover-up on over your costume! Something that fits fine over your street clothes might not fasten across your heavily decorated and padded dance bra. Or it might snag constantly on everything. Or the sleeves might be too tight to go over your bracelets.
10. Choose something that still puts forth the image of a belly dancer. Kaftans and similar garments are popular because they are from that region. Even if you buy a sarong, choose one with a more Eastern pattern over something Hawaiian. Look for Indian-influenced paisley patterns on your scarves. Err on the side of exotic over mundane. Just be careful that you're not wearing something inappropriate -- for instance, some dancers don't like seeing a thobe (traditional Saudi garment) worn as a cover-up because it is also worn for performing kaleegi dances.
I hope this helps!