I made a bedlah, YYYAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!
When will I wear it, where, where, where?
I’m really proud of my latest project, “Ode to Jillina.” It was a year in the making, longer in the conceptualizing, and a long road of learnin’ to walk to bring this bedlah to life.
But, sadly, you probably won’t see me wearing it at any of my professional gigs any time soon. At least until I’ve taken it on a couple maiden voyages, seen it in action in video and photograph before I’ll add it to the “pro” side of the closet.
Why? Because it just doesn’t measure up to all my standards of bedlah quality.
Gasp! Right now you must be thinking, “But Romana, you spent over a year making it, why waste your time on something you can’t use?”
I mean, did you SEE the pictures? O2J is AWESOME. And I’m LEARNING a skilled trade. It’s not easy making bedlah BY HAND sequin by sequin. You have to have more than a DIY manual, time and a $%*($%&*$%&^$ of sequins. You have to build your skill through targeted practice. I firmly believe skill only comes with experience.
I guess in that way, making bedlah is exactly like dance.
So let’s talk about bedlah.
What is it?
Bedlah is costuming. It’s meant to be tough, shiny, mind blowing and pragmatically practical all at once.
“Bedlah” is, according to my Goddess Wikipedia, the arabic word for “suit” and it should be thought of as such.
While many people refer to the bra and belt of a costume as the bedlah, I generally tend to think of it as the whole picture. You don’t call the shirt and slacks the “suit,” no, but rather when you think “suit” you probably picture a man in shoes, slacks, shirt, tie and coat (maybe hat, or for us “headband”!)
When I think of bedlah, I picture the finished product- including the jewelry, headband, armbands (I made some for this bedlah, not pictured below), skirt and/or pants.
This may seem a little heavy handed, but in belly dance you gotta be a little heavy handed- and hipped- to be taken seriously.
Now let’s do something that is a literary pet peeve of mine. Let’s define bedlah by talking about what it is NOT.
A Vickey’s Secret bra with some pearls or prestrung beads tacked to it a bedlah DOES NOT MAKE.
Your lingerie. It’s cute. You’ll probably need it to function about five minutes. Then it’s outta the game. My bedlah is a piece of heavy machinery that needs to function in place for hours.
Your lingerie. Models looks good in it, even while holding a gun..
My bedlah: While I’ve not tested this hypothesis I’m fairly certain my bedlah could stop- or at least deflect- a bullet. Yeah. A bullet.
… Guns? Don’t believe in ’em…
But let’s be serious for a minute. There’s a big DIY trend out there- I’m an infamous perpetrator of it.
Listen to me for this one paragraph.
Beware the teacher who reserves the right to inform you when you’re bedlah ready. Been dancing eight weeks and go “uuuhhhh” when I say “ummi” and “interior hip circle?” OK, not ready for bedlah. Been dancing for years and still in a pair of stretch pants and one of those tie-in-the-front shirts?
We need to talk. And don’t even TELL me you’ve done a GIG and don’t have a bedlah. Don’t even go there.
If this is you, this is what you need to do. Pull up the most recent video of yourself. Don’t have one? MAKE ONE. Compare it to some of the pros you’ve been watching on youtube. You know, the ones in the bedlah. Compare, be honest. Are you ready? Odds are, you already know.
Because your teacher can lend advice as to whether or not your ready to purchase a bedlah (a semi-pro at around 165- 250 is plenty to spend starting out)…
But only you know.
Beware teachers, mothers, troupe mates, sisters and friends who will want to DIY up and sell you- or get you to make- your own “belly dance bra.” In fact, strike that phrase from your brain right now.
Because there’s no such thing as a “belly dance bra.”
Let me be clear: it is NOT OK to let your students traipse around in glorified lingerie. EVER. And never, never, never at a professional gig.
And not a hafla, not at a studio party, not at restaurants, not at charity shows, not at free gigs. It’s embarrassing at best and at worst it veers our dance closer to that S-word.
Now, I love Burlesque dance (and I have a GREAT fusion concept I want to tell you about SO MUCH!), but it’s not Belly Dance, and there should never be an opportunity to confuse the two because you glued some buttons or gears or whatever onto a bra and danced in public in it.
If it looks like a bra, it’s a damned bra. Don’t lend more confusion to your American audience by telling them a woman dancing in her underwear in public is Belly Dance. I don’t care how good she is- if she’s that good PUT HER IN A REAL COSTUME.
In short, I urge you to bedlah, not “badlah.”
::takes a deep breath::
O2J does look pretty good, doesn’t she?
See below for pics of my first REAL bedlah journey!
I made the bra first, then I went on to the belt. During the course of which time the design of the bedlah changed constantly, and got more involved. Interestingly, lower right bauble above was one of the belt concepts that didn’t pan out. I was going to bead over those white flerp things, using them as my pattern.
Inevitably, cats got involved. They love that ruffle fabric. ???
It all started with the belt buckle in the middle and my pondering how it could be used…
turns out it’s decorative. =P
And then there was…
Featuring my signature move “Trogdor arm.”