Thoughts on Today’s Paper Doll
When I was a kid the mother of a good friend’s cousin (talk about strange connections, huh?) was a belly dancer. When I was eight or nine, we had a sleep over at their house and tried on a bunch of her mom’s belly dancing stuff.
I was a chubby kid and I remember being so surprised that this older woman (who was not skinny by any means) would be willing to put on a bra and skirt and dance at all.
It was a strange idea- that there was a sort of dancing that didn’t have to be done only by skinny people. At the time it felt empowering, though as an adult, I realize that empowerment is complicated by institutionalized racism, sexualization of Middle Eastern women, and a whole lot of Victorian orientalist baggage.
Inspiration for Today’s Paper Doll
I don’t know much about actual belly dancing costumes and I’m not an expert on their history. I looked up belly dancing costume sites like Belly Dance.com and Belly Dance Digs. I did want to include finger cymbals which are also called “zill”.
On the Blog: This is my first ever belly dance costume! But here’s More Jewels & Gemstones Paper Dolls
Around the Internet: Wikipedia on Zill, a fascinating history of belly dance, an article on appropriation in belly dance and an equally interesting response to said article
I don’t know a lot about belly dance, but I know enough to know that there’s serious issues around appropriation, sexualization, racism, orientalist fantasy and such in the whole thing. I went back and forth about posting this outfit, but in the end, I chose to share it.
Why? Because my rule has always been not to post anything with sacred religious meaning. None of my research suggested that there was religious meaning in belly dance costumes, unlike, for example, Native American regalia (which often includes holy symbols) or Catholic nun habits.
In case you’ve ever wondered why I don’t have any nun paper dolls, now you know.
I want to do more dance costumes. Any suggestions? I’m thinking maybe Irish step or a classic tutu.