They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so I dress like a faerie whenever I can.
I think one of the hardest parts of transitioning from amateur to pro is investing in good, professional costuming. Although it's more important to be a highly skilled dancer with great performance skills, audiences and clients are still going to expect you to look the part as well, and that means retiring your student recital clothes and dressing up a bit more.
It's especially hard for a Tribal Fusion dancer to know what to buy. The internet has plenty of advice for Egyptian-style dancers looking to start restaurant gigs -- buy a silver or gold bedlah and a couple different colored skirts, then as you make more money buy a second bedlah, now you have tons of mix and match options -- but Tribal costuming is a little less straight-forward. You have to find something that fits your style of dance, your personality, and your budget.
This costume by Anaya Tribal is a pretty good example of a good investment for a pro just starting out. I can wear the bra/belt set and skirt together, or I can pair the set with a green skirt or pants, put them over a 25 yard skirt to go old school, wear them with a bustle for steampunk, or throw on those wings and be a faerie. Likewise, since the skirt is a nice neutral brown, I could wear it with various green tops, or something in ivory or turquoise.
So here's my hard-earned tips, from one budding pro to those who come after me:
1. Quality over quantity. I have piles and piles of cheap bangles and huge earrings. If I had saved that money instead, I could invest in some gorgeous Taureg jewelry. Once you decide to go pro, stop buying the cheap stuff and set your dollars aside to buy something nice at the next festival.
2. But you don't have to buy the most expensive thing. One of the things that I wanted when I went to Tribal Fest was a spiky bracelet that actually fit. There were gorgeous antique real-silver ones for hundreds and hundreds of dollars... and a cheap white metal one that fit perfectly and was only $30something. Guess what? Most people in the audience won't know the difference. Someday when I'm a big shot I'll invest in the real thing, but this one will serve me well for now.
3. Before you buy something, think of what it will go with. Do you already have something at home that it will match? Does it fit in with the mental image of the next costume you want to make? It doesn't matter how awesome a pair of dance pants is if you have nothing to wear them with (I'm hoping this one will sink in for me eventually).
4. Make whatever you can. I already know how to make bras and belts and I'm learning to sew with an actual machine now, too. Doing your own sewing will save you some money and also allow you to have more customization in your look.
5. Look for luxurious and awesome materials. Velvet and lace are elegant. Metallics are hot right now. Vintage pieces and things that look vintage automatically make you look fancier. Put out the word that you want peoples' old costume jewelry. You'll got a lot of junk but also a lot of nifty stuff that can be repurposed. Necklaces can easily become belly-drapes. Brooches can be pinned onto a bra or belt. Cut things up for their beads. Speaking of cutting things up, you can cut up tacky old dresses and use the beaded fabric for decorating your bras. Go forth and hit the thrift stores.
6. Buy versatile basics. While we may not be able to fall back on a metallic bedleh and colorful chiffon skirts, we can buy good basics that can be accessorized for different looks. For instance, I bought a pair of velvet and lace pants in teal and emerald. Depending on how I accessorize them, they can either be plain ol' Tribal Fusion-y, faeriesque or mermaidish. A basic black skirt could go vampy, Victorian Goth, elegant and modern, or serve as the base for bright colors.
7. Get a second opinion. Sometimes it's good to consult with your teacher/mentor, or a dance friend, or a random person who's in the booth with you. They can give you an idea of how flattering, practical, or awesome something is before you buy.
8. Watch out for dated looks. Fringe belts and yarn dreads are mostly out. Almost no one performs in Melos and a crop-top anymore. Like all fashion, bellydance styles come and go, and while an audience of the General Public might not know the difference, the audience at a bellydance festival will.
Do you have any other tips you'd like to share for building a good Tribal Fusion wardrobe? Share it in the comments!