I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but I take bellydance classes. This has led to any number of awkward and cringe-inducing conversations with men on dates, but despite their belief that the only reason for a woman to take bellydance lessons is to learn to seduce men with all that sexxxy jiggling, actually it’s because:
1. It’s really really hard. It’s a completely different, fundamentally different kind of dancing than western styles I know. All of the ones I’ve ever learned–jazz, tap, ballet, salsa, bachata, merengue, waltz, your standard dance club freestyle–are 95% about where you put your feet and 5% about style, or how you put your feet there. Bellydance is about 2% where you put your feet. The rest of it is how you move the rest of you.
2. It’s also really hard not just because it’s so different, but because the way you’re using your muscles is just … challenging. I felt like my hips were on the verge of dislocation when I learned to do a hip shimmy. And after months and months of practice and repetition I’m still trying to get the backward arabesque. Challenge is good; I like it.
3. There are no men.* I mean that. There’s no sticky hands, no gross comments, no weird vibes, no jerks who won’t take no for an answer. You don’t need a partner to dance–you just dance. There’s no anachronistic and ridiculous gendered expectations like “men have to ask and men get to lead, regardless of whether they’re competent or considerate.” You just show up and dance and no one asks or expects you to be smaller, lesser, or other than you are.
It’s endlessly aggravating that something I do in part because of the absence of men and gender dynamics is taken to be, not only at first but often on an ongoing basis, something I must be doing for men; that because men like it and find it appealing, that must be the point.
4. It’s also, from what I’ve seen, extremely accepting. There’s no fat shaming and no pressure to lose weight, at least in my experience. The bellydance performances I’ve seen have spanned the age and size range, styles from classic to folkloric to fusion and modern, and include people of many different gender identities. This is not the case in social dancing, where you have a Man dancing with a Woman and they adhere pretty closely to traditional gender roles, and you have an easier time finding a dance partner if you’re conventionally attractive.
That little bitch session out of the way, another big difference between bellydance lessons and classes in social dancing is that social dancing women largely do in heels (!!!!!), whereas bellydancing is done in bare feet. Your feet need to be flat on the floor and you need to have grip (socks are ok for warm-up but if you keep them on for the actual dancing, you’ll likely slip).
So when I saw this leggings pattern in the January Burda issue:
My immediate thought was that these would be perfect for belly dance class.
They’re cute, they’re full length, and they cover the feet partially while still allowing full contact with the floor. Which you know, in summer when it’s hot bare feet are fine, but in winter in a chilly studio you want every bit of extra coverage you can get.
There was a sale at Fabricland and this polyester spandex jersey was $8/m. I mean, you know I’m not going to make something plain. And fortunately I already had a coordinating workout t-shirt or two.
I love them.
I raised the back rise by 2″, tapering to 0″ at the front, and added 1″ to the back crotch curve–personal fit adjustments I make to all Burda pants patterns. The inseam was 30″, which was plenty long enough for me at 5’8″. I did have to shorten the pieces that go over the feet, but I wear a size 6 shoe, so your mileage may vary. I traced a 38 everywhere except for a 40 at the hips, and this is the fit.
It’s really perfect. Just what I wanted. The waistband (which overlaps at the front, a detail I really like) is snugger than the pants and keeps it from slipping down. It was a super fast sew. I put most of it together in a weekday evening after dinner, with just hemming to do the next day.
Can’t speak to the instructions as I didn’t look at them. It’s leggings with a waistband. The only tricky part is the foot covering. (What I did: hem the back leg before attached it to the front; hem the underfoot piece at the heel before attaching it to the front; then hem the front around-the-foot part to fit.) I can say that the outside notches on the legs did not match. It’s possible that I traced incorrectly, but they were way off for me–2-3″. The actual lengths of the pieces matched up fine, so I ignored the notches and it all worked out.
It’s comfortable and pretty and I’ve worn it to class and it was just perfect. I may make a second pair out of something with a bit more heft, if I can find a good fabric, for the really cold days. In the meantime, this is a huge step up from bike shorts.
By body measurements I should be a size 40/42, and this is a 38/40, so one size down all around.
*In the classes I take. In the larger community and as participants in performances and such, there’s a bunch of men. But it’s still a very different vibe.