After a career as a flamenco dancer, Marisa turned to belly dance in her retirement and loves sharing her knowledge of the art form.
The audience may like to think we're glamorous goddesses who glow rather than perspire, but unfortunately, that's not the reality—and that means sweat soaks into the fabric of costumes.
If you know a top-notch dry cleaner and can afford the cost, you may not need these tips. However, I've seen heavily embellished costumes ruined by dry cleaning, so many dancers try to avoid it.
How to Prevent Belly Dance Costume Smells
If you're not going to dry clean after every performance, what can you do? Firstly you can prevent unpleasant odors by taking a few simple precautions:
- Take your costumes out of their bag as soon as you get home and hang them up to air and dry fully.
- Buy a clothes steamer. Run the steamer over your costume the next day. The steam will kill the bacteria which cause the odour and make it less likely to return.
- Always pack your costumes with something to absorb any lingering moisture. You can save the silicon packets from products you buy, or make your own packets with a mixture of rice and baking soda.
Line Your Costume
If you know you perspire a lot, you may want to add a cotton lining inside your bra and belt. You can then replace it every few performances when you feel it's too grimy.
You don't have to be good at sewing to do this—just get some white cotton, cut it roughly to shape, then tack it into your bra cups and along the back of the belt with large stitches. It doesn't matter how amateur it looks—the audience can't see it, after all.
How to Wash a Belly Dance Costume
Some dancers do wash their costumes, but beware! Sequins, rhinestones and appliqués are not usually colorfast.
In the video below, Jillina gives instructions for washing a costume—but you'll notice it's all one color. I would never risk washing an outfit that featured more than one color because there's too much risk of color runs. And always, always, use cold water and a super-gentle detergent.
How to Repair a Belly Dance Costume
If the venue allows, it's always a good idea to check the stage for any dropped coins, sequins, rhinestones, etc. after your performance. Check the floor of the dressing area, too. No matter how well-made a costume is, embellishments will fall off. As the costume ages, it will get worse. In the early days, the little gaps may not be worth worrying about—but be careful.
Often, beads and sequins are sewn on one long thread. Once the first one falls off, the rest will follow, and what looked like a tiny hole will become a yawning gap, so it's worth finding and repairing the break before that happens.
Rhinestones are easy to deal with - see instructions below.
How to Store Your Belly Dance Costume
It's always best to hang costumes, to let the air circulate. Having said that, it's not always possible. If you must fold them away, save the silicon packets from vitamin tablets and throw them into the drawer with the costumes. Make sure your bras have no pressure on them.
How to Treat Belly Dance Costume Smells
What if your costume is already smelly? Perhaps you've left a costume packed away without airing—or maybe you've bought a costume from another dancer. How do you get rid of the odor?
A good first option is simply to hang the costume in strong sunlight for several hours. Sunlight will remove moisture AND disinfect. If that's not enough, try a supermarket odour-killing spray like Febreeze, (after checking to make sure it doesn't stain your material). Apply a generous spray, then leave the garment to air for a few hours before checking the result.
Still not quite gone? Some dancers swear by vodka—mix it half-and-half with water in a spray bottle, spray lightly and leave to evaporate. Vinegar (especially apple cider vinegar) is also popular. Be careful not to soak the costume or the colors may run.
Note: if the costume has been worn to dance in restaurants, then sweat may not be the only smell. Kitchen and food odours may be clinging to the fabric all over, so don't assume you only need to treat the inside.