Dressing the Dancer: Identity and Belly Dance Students
Dress is a primary tool in the public presentation of the self (Stone,
1962). Clothing, grooming, and the physical appearance of the dressed body
contribute to self image in both professional and recreational settings.
Attending belly dance classes is a popular leisure activity among American
women, and for many, dress accouterments are a significant part of the class
experience. Dressing of the self for recreational events gives individuals the
opportunity to express alternate aspects of the self not typically evident in
other social settings and provides an opportunity for female socialization.
The appearance of vendors selling specialized dancewear for classes,
seminars, and workshops suggests that dress plays a significant role for
students at all levels of belly dance activity, not just among those who
This study examines the types of dress worn for belly dance classes
and the motivations for dress choices made by students learning to belly
dance from professional instructors in dance classes, seminars, and
workshops. The study will further investigate how dress contributes to the
expression of identity in the belly dance class context.
The methods used for this study are participant observation at
locations and events where belly dance classes, workshops, and seminars are
held as well as half-hour interviews with students attending those events.
The procedure and interview schedule have been approved by the
Institutional Review Board, study #0804P29690