I like to think that your “costume” should include more than just the clothing, but extend to make-up, hair and even footwear if you’re wearing any. But quite often, particularly with Cabaret/Egyptian dancers, they seem to have this idea that they should have their hair long and loose, or else wear a wig, regardless of whether it suits them or not. Granted, long hair does give an appearance of youth, but it’s not for everybody. Or maybe you prefer a soft textured and layered hair for every day, but find that for dancing, this doesn’t really work that well. Me, I find that while flowy hair works better for me with every day clothing, the clothes I favour for belly dancing work better with updos, and making updos with layered feathered hair is a nightmare.

Or maybe you’ve started doing ATS or Fusion and are wondering what you can use.

So what are your options?

Wigs and Extensions vs. Naturally Long
I am not a fan of full wigs or weaves, for the reason presented so clearly in the second season of Project Belly Dance, when one of the women auditioning had a wardrobe malfunction and her weave flew off. I know a few people that use a half-wig as they normally wear their hair short, and others that instead have gone for a more permanent route and have had extensions added to add volume and length. If you do want the lenght, or if you are doing a lot of Khaleegi or other styles that do much hair tossing, or if you feel you just *have* to have the long hair, going for the extensions is not a bad idea, but speak to a stylist first as they might remind you that, long term, extensions and weaves can damage the roots of your natural hair by pulling too much, so if you REALLY want your hair long? Best thing is to grow it, and keep a good care regime including diet, masks, and regular cutting.

Pony Falls and Braids
These are interesting options if you want to add colour to your hair, as you can add falls that mix with your natural colour, combine with your costume, or do other things that maybe you can’t do due to work requirements (like bright colours), and the falls can help with the feathered/layered issue. Or if you’re doing ATS and want hair that will balance out the voluminous skirts. The Falls and braids also allow you to mix yarns and other materials to create a very visually interesting piece of costuming in a way that standard hair would never do without getting very tangled and very messy.

My suggestion: if you’re not too sure about getting a professional set, order some Kanekalon hair, there are some “extra long braids” available for quite cheap that will allow you to braid a long one with a top hair elastic to attach to your own ponytail, or follow the same method and make smaller braids and add yarns and fabric scraps and other materials tied to the elastic, to make falls. Once you’ve wrapped them around your own ponytail, fix with a good amount of pins, I’ve found some hair sticks also help keep everything in place, and do a couple of test runs. The first time I wore the falls I made for dancing, I found they were suffocating in the heat. The second time, they kept getting stuck on everything around me, including other people’s costumes. But they make amazing and colourful buns for ATS.

If you are after braids or falls and don’t want to make your own, I’ve heard good things about Magic Tribal Hair, on Etsy, and a quick look into their shop should let you see a good mix of what is available. I’ve got one of her Peacock Tassels that I acquired pre-loved, it is well made and gorgeous.

Jewellery and Hair adornment
You can buy all sorts of interesting adornment to enhance your hair, and depending on the style, they would work regardless of whether you’ve got a flapper hairstyle or a braid down to your rear. You can buy or make multitude of items, although one of my favourites EVER is this beauty from PurplePeacockJewels. Natascha also makes amazing bindis, my first one came from her, and fabulous jewellery and the rest of her store is worth checking, but that headdress is, I think, one of my very favourite pieces of hers.

If you are wearing your hair up, you could easily create little drops that loop around standard pins, to add some sparkle to your hair… I did a full set of these with Czech beads and garnet for a friends’ wedding that went on her and the bridesmaids, and added some extra detail and texture to the updos. I don’t suggest some of the heavier hair slides as those don’t tend to stay put for too long, but African Butterflies are very reliable and keep the hair firmly under control. And if you can’t find one of them in colours you like, or to combine with your own costumes, you always have the masochistic option of re-threading one with your own choice of beads. See the photos below for an example of how one of them started and the end result when re-threaded with Czech beads. Although be aware that the process is tedious and the beads require a thinner elastic, meaning that the support might not last as long before needing rework.

Hair sticks are always a good option if your hair is up, they help fix the updo, and come in so many different styles that you can surely find something that works for you. If you want something with an ethnic feel, look for Miao Silver pins, these are usually Chinese but have lovely styles with animals and flowers that compliment the ATS palette quite well. There are also other things like Tikkas (jewels that are suspended by a chain from the hair) or Turkomen/Kuchi headdresses, but I would suggest you only use these if you are either doing appropriate Fusion, or as part of a bigger Fusion headdress.

Turbans, headbands and Oh My!
Turbans were popular in the early days of ATS and other Tribal styles, and although they are having a come-back, I think they are not used that often, and dancers seem to have flocked towards other styles. Beaded lycra headbands, however, are very common with Egyptian costumes. They can be rather pretty and give quite a “put together’ look, but personally I don’t think these headbands suit everybody, and you should be careful that you don’t appear to be attempting a facelift by headband, and sometimes it might make your face look a bit too round, so only use them if they suit your face.

Have a small garden on your head, via a few silk flowers. Buy them at accessories’ stores, or order the silk flowers directly from manufacturers and create your own arrangements, sew or glue to felt or crocodile clips. Go for bigger styles that will add volume if you think you need it, and colours that combine with your costumes. You can also find smaller ones to weave into your braids.

So, what should you go for?
The answer is, as usual, that it depends. If you only do Egyptian/Cabaret, and your face and hairstyle work with the headbands, by all means go for the headbands matching your costumes as the best options, as it’s a quick set up that will still give you a very “put together” look. Do a bit of everything? Flowers are always useful, but also go for jewelled accessories that can be used across the board, particularly if you prefer your hair up, but otherwise, maybe a side jewelled clip or even some glitter spray can add that extra sparkle. Only Fusion and ATS? If you want the extra length and colour, I’d go for a good set of falls that can be used down or up into a nice big bun, and some flowers, or if you’re happy with what you’ve got, splash on one or two accessories that go with most of your costumes. Egyptian and ATS? Flowers are a good idea but only if your Egyptian costume has a style that works with them, otherwise you might need to stick to separate hair adornment for each, in the same way that you would use separate jewellery.

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