One good way to start a lively debate in a roomful of belly dancers is to ask whether it’s more flattering to cover upper arms or leave them bare. Then stand back, because there may be fireworks! You’d be surprise at how many women are very self-conscious about their upper arms.
It takes a very fit well-toned woman to not have triceps that wobble a bit when her arms are outstretched. Most normal adults have some flapping going in this area and most don’t find it particularly attractive. This results in a strong opinion on the costuming choice of wearing arm coverings or not, creating two distinct schools of thought. One says to cover what you don’t want seen. The other says not to draw attention to a flaw by decorating it. Which is right?
The ‘Don’t Call Attention To A Problem Area’ gang says “No upper arm bracelets, no bands of elastic, no horizontal stripes. Just let the upper arms alone and hope people are concentrating where the action is elsewhere on the body.” However, you can end up looking more bare than you’d like when wearing a bra top with a bare midriff, decolatage, and bare arms. But gauntlets or bracelets on the lower arms can refocus the attention away from the upper arm while providing a break to all that bare skin.
On the other hand, the ‘Cover ‘Em Up!’ group thinks that you don’t show what you don’t want to be seen. Smooth (but not too tight!) spandex arm bands, especially with veil drapes, are costume accessories that cover the area and are easy to make cheaply. I’ve made several pairs for friends who both hold this opinion and like a well-coordinated outfit with lots of accessories. They can even act like mini-“control-tops” for the flapping flesh, if you do it right! Off-the-shoulder sleeves can work too, either chiffon or beaded drapes.
Which is the right answer? Both sides have good points. I don’t think we’re going to settle this debate any time soon, but to settle it for yourself, try your costumes both with and without arm decorations. Take pictures from a little ways back so you can see the effect you’ll have on stage, and make up your mind on a costume by costume basis. In the picture accompanying this article, you see a bare arm with a large bracelet for an Egyptian-style cabaret costume. The strings of beads dangling from bra break the bareness of the midriff but there’s alot of skin showing down the length of the arm. Good or bad? (But how does it look on stage?)
Whichever school you’re in, it never hurts to do toning exercises for upper arms and get health benefits as well as a beauty boost. I do push-ups against the kitchen or bathroom counter while I’m waiting for the water to get hot. I have a chinning bar in my closet door. I just try to hold myself in chinned position for a second or two- that’s enough! And it doubles as a clothes hanger, too! Happy costuming, happy dancing.