Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making Beledi Dresses from Thrift Store Finds

When you put on a belly dancing event, you'll want to be sure that there are enough different kinds of music being played and, to keep people from being bored, you'll want to make sure there are lots of different costume changes.

One of the costumes that can be a big change of pace are beledi dresses. There are many different kinds, in fact, has an interesting page devoted to the different kinds of belly dance dresses available in this article.

I don't have to remind anybody how bad our economy is. There just simply aren't jobs out there for those of you who are looking. I happen to be one of them so I know what I'm talking about. The ones that are advertised usually aren't filled. Again, no secret there. Most of the time you can interview for the job but in the end the company won't end up filling that position. It's very frustrating. Some people get hired only to get laid off within a few days.

Any way, enough venting. My point is that most people nowadays don't have the funds to buy a new costume. So I'd like to tell you how you can come up with some really great ways to get attractive costumes on the cheap. I've already written an article on how to get unique harem pants and I've written an article on how you can turn a slinky evening dress into a really nice mermaid costume.

Now I'd like to let you in on a secret of how you can come up with a really different beledi dress right from the thrift store. First, let's talk about what a beledi dress is. It's a costume that goes on top of your costume. In other words, it's a long semi-transparent covering you put on over a sparkly bra and harem pants. For those of you who are a little curvalicious, a beledi dress can hide imperfections in the belly area. That's why lots of us like them :-)

They can be expensive, but I've got a sure-fire way you can take a thrift store find and make it into very unique costume. If you go to your local thrift store, you'll probably find a few two-layer sheath dress like these dresses:

These four dresses are all good candidates for beledi dresses because each of these:

  • Has a straight cut, with no waist.
  • Has an outer layer and an inner layer.
  • Has an outer layer that is see-through.
These kinds of dresses can be found at thrift stores. I've found quite a few of them. Some of them have a chiffon see-through outer layer and some of them are made of crochet or lace. Any of these types are fine. Don't worry about the fact that the dress is plain. You'll fix all that and you'll have fun doing it.

When you pick the dress, my advice is to pick a size that's larger than what you wear. Sheath dresses tend not to be stretchy, so I like picking one that's at least one size larger than what I normally wear, however, I'd go for a dress that was two sizes larger also. Remember after you finish doing everything with it, a large size will not be a problem. Usually wearers

After you've picked out a dress you like, the first thing you're going to do is to cut out the underneath layer. Just cut it away from the see-through layer the best you can. Be careful because usually the precious outside layer is delicate. Don't worry about the seams on the shoulder line. You'll decorate those before you've finished.

Before decorating your dress, there are two things you'll need to do:

  1. Neckline - Decide what kind of neckline you'd like to have in your beledi dress. There are two options:
    • Leave the neckline the way it is and add jewels or whatever to the neckline to make it look nice.
    • Cut the neckline into a deep V so that your bra will show through.

    Before you make the decision, go out on Google and do searches on beledi and saidi dresses and see which one appeals to you more.

    Personal opinion: I like cutting them in a deep V because the dress will end up hiding most of the midriff, but it still looks daring and it gives you a chance to show off your nice bra.

    If you want a nice V, I suggest that you put it on, and then stand in front of a mirror with a piece of chalk and mark exactly where you should cut.

  2. Sides - On the sides, slit the dress (usually up the seams) to where you think it's appropriate. For me, I prefer to wear harem pants underneath so I tend to like to cut them very high up. The higher you cut them, the more comfortable the dress will be. (This is my personal opinion.)

    After you've cut the dress up the sides, reinforce the top of the slit by taking a few stitches across the seam. This will keep it from ripping.

Once you've gotten the dress cut the way you want, you need to do something very important to the dress, since most likely you're not going to hem the edges. (You can, but I don't. You'll see why later on.) you need to apply FrayCheck to the parts you've trimmed. This wonderful little tool will keep your dress intact.

You can purchase FrayCheck at your local fabric store. It's cheap and you'll end up using it quite a bit.

Fun part: Now you're ready to start decorating!

This is where you can get creative. I use gemstones and glitter paint, but you can use a multitude of things. In addition, you can hang things on them. You could use ribbon or strings of beads that would move when you dance. You can get very creative with these.

I decorated this one with emerald gemstones and silver and green glitter paint. I used the keyhole design in the front which leaves the bra area exposed:

This one is made of a maroon crochet material. I cut it low in the front and then I used gold glitter paint to outline the figures in the crochet:

This is a black one I worked on. I outlined this one in gold:

This is one I'm still working on. I'm using topaz gemstones and silver on the zebra stripes and gold and bronze on the other parts:

As you can see, I like to use the existing design in the fabric and simply embellish what's there.

For the sides, I like to cut a wide area all the way to the thigh area. These are two examples of how I highlighted the edges of the fabric with fabric glitter paint:

If you make any beledi dresses and want to sell them, put them on Here are the instructions.


  1. Great ideas. We have made Beledi Dresses many times. It does not even take a pattern. One time I even made dresses for all of the waitresses where we were doing a special night. It added to the event and made them feel special. Minimal sewing and cutting. Various sleeves and with or without darts. So easy. Something to suit every body and style.