Shimmy in the City: Fashion review

Khaled at Shimmy in the City

Khaled at Shimmy in the City

It’s been nearly a month with a lot happening, so I haven’t had much of a chance to write the Shimmy in the City posts aside from the review of Khaled’s Workshop, which I wanted to do as soon as possible while everything was still fresh.

There were two primary sources of belly dance wear eyecandy during the show: one was from the people at the souk, and the other from the performers. The souk comprised Farida Dance (also hosting Eman Zaki), Maayam’s Brighton Orient, and Aladdin’s Cave. There was, supposedly, another stall selling costumes, but I couldn’t find it at all.

Aladdin’s Cave appeared to sell mostly class wear and practice; Farida and Brighton had lots of items both suitable for performance and troupes. Sadly, although not coming as a surprise, there was little available for plus sizes. For plus sizes, Farida had Hanan’s galabayas and Samia sets, and Maayam had the troupe sets and skirts. I saw beautiful pieces on both stalls, though, and my favourite costume of the whole evening was a black lace and power mesh raqs fustan by Eman Zaki, quite similar in style to the white one I posted as inspiration some time ago. It was rather restrained, the beading was done discretely in black over the lace design, with some crystals here and there, and it was extremely pretty. It could have easily passed for a standard evening gown, which is what caught my eye most, I guess. It had ruched cups, skimmed the body with a tulip skirt that opened at the knee, had asymmetrical flowers embroidered along the bodice, with some lace draped almost in waterfall fashion around this decoration, transparent halter neck, and detachable sleeves. And you have no idea of how many times I stopped myself from walking to Eman Zaki and asking her to make myself something as lovely and elegant.

My second favourite costume was another raqs fustan, this time from Brighton Orient, done almost entirely in power mesh, alternating hot pink and black, with, again, asymmetrical decoration that was also present in the fabric. The embroidery work on this one was far closer to the standard beading that we see more often, but it was a very striking costume nonetheless, where the impact was created by the cut of the fabrics instead of relying on an extra sparkly base material. I was also quite intrigued by seeing that a material that was so far mostly used for cut-outs was suddenly used as a main material.

Poking around, I also noticed that quite a few of Eman Zaki’s own designs were using simpler fabrics, with less shine, and at least a couple of hers were also using powermesh instead of the lycra or foiled jerseys that are so common. I have to say I sort of welcome this. Powermesh stretches, holds you in, it is quite breathable, and allows that peek-a-boo look -or showing off that difficult tummy flutter- without exposing your flesh. It also doesn’t pile like some lycras can do, or crack and peel like foils do sooner or later. I also saw a costume on sale at a later event with a similar approach: stretch lace over power mesh. I am now intrigued and very willing to give the combination a try, as the lace does work well with my goth sensibility.

As for the performances costumes, it’s easier to go and take a look at the DVD advertisement on YouTube, as it will show nearly every single one of them. I’m including the trailer below, so you can all watch without leaving the comfort of my website (teehee!).

I think the one that wowed everybody, including every fashion/costume buff that I’ve shown the trailer to, was Dina’s white costume, another good example of powermesh put through its paces. But reviewing the previous ones, Aziza’s looked very much classic cabaret style; they were nice and worked well for her style and body type, but didn’t provoke the “wow, I need to see how that was made!” or “I need to make myself one of those” reaction. Elena’s costume during the sha’abi was cute. The Anhar Troupe costumes with the little pants and the skirts draped over worked for them (and Dina too, she had something similar as her second costume change) but I think it’s a kind of look that any plus size should avoid, mainly because the drapey front draws attention to the stomach and would even look a bit like the stomach is causing the drape, and we all know that’s a part we’re rather minimise and a “hanging over” look doesn’t suit us. Charlotte’s and Orit’s second costumes were wonderful, and this comes from someone that usually despises animal print! The cut-outs on the sides in Charlotte’s costume emphasised her hourglass figure, And the same should be said for Orit’s, the 6-piece cut with princess seams is ideal to help streamline the figure. Katharina’s black costume I thought was fantastic, matching the tone of the piece. Orit’s first orange costume was another lovely one that would work brilliantly for a plus size, and I particularly like the skirt with the high waist with the front dip, and the flounces around the inserts that drew the eye down.

Which leads us to Dina. As I said above, her white costume was my favourite of the whole evening. It was a full nude body stocking, with support cups and a deep neckline along the front, with crystal patterns attached all over the legs and bodice, and the 2 pieces white skirt attached at the hips. It almost gave the impression that she only had the white skirt and that the crystals were glued to her skin, and in that respect it was very effective and sensual. Her second costume had the drapey back and little pants that I’ve mentioned above; it appears that drapes are “in” replacing tassels, beads and other flouncy items, and while I can see where that could work, again I’ll have to suggest care for any plus size wanting to attempt this. Dina’s third costume was orange and gold, again with no tassels or bead drops, and to be honest I didn’t care too much for it. Her fourth costume was nearly all powermesh and stretch lace, but unlike the examples I’d seen at the souk, this had no lining. The decoration was created mostly through clever cutting of different pieces and fabrics to create “seam lines” draping around her figure, but if I have to be honest, while she can pull it off, I don’t think many other people could, and I would strongly advice against using this style of costume within a more “normal” environment of, say, dancing at a restaurant (a hafla, for other dancers, would be a different story). We could clearly see her little pants and the outline of the flesh-toned extremely short modesty skirt underneath it, and I think it comes a bit too close to wearing the equivalent of a negligee, which might make non-dancers get entirely the wrong ideas, and we all know we get those often enough as it is anyway; this was, for me, just the wrong side of being too skimpy. Again, this was Dina, dancing for other dancers, so she could get away with wearing it, but if anybody has any ideas about getting this done for typical events, I would suggest they think twice before doing so.

I have avoided talking about the mens’ outfits mostly because I am looking at the costumes as source of inspiration for my own and others’, and I’m expecting -rightly or wrongly- most of the readers to be female, as the typical search engine incoming links tend to be for the making of the red dress and covering up the bra, neither of which suggests male costumes. I will say, however, that I found I am not terribly keen on the cropped-top styles for the boys. I understand the idea behind its adoption, but I don’t like what it does for the male silhouette. I am not sure what the best solution for this would be, though, but I do understand this is a personal preference, so I’d rather avoid commenting.

In any case, you have the trailer below: watch it, and make up your own mind! And if you like it, order the DVD from the Shimmy in the City website, it was a wonderful show and you won’t be disappointed!

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