Shroud yourself in the mysteries of the
A multitudes" " . Mlddle East. Words: Maureen Ellis
delights: scarves; r 3.
sarongs, stoles, full slgirts,
W" he belly: the adyersary of fashion designers
eyeiywhere. the nemesis ofslyle-eottseiolls women . . . and
yet the Very symbol of womanhood itself. (io figure.
Praise hallelujah that some cultures aren‘t quite as
intrinsically warped as our own. Look east to \‘istlalise a culture that celebrates the female form best.
\Vhile westerners pulled. yanked and poured themselyes into y'ai'ious forms of tortuous corsetry'. those in the east haye been letting it all hang out for centuries. and there is no better expression of this than bellydancing. liar from being the seedy mating ritual some quarters would haye you belieye. bellydancing has been practiced by women. and among women. for longer than any other form of dance.
Of course. the infiltration of bellydancing on western fashion is nothing new. from I Dream afﬂlt'tmnie to Princess Jasmine in .‘l/(H/(lfll or Basement .laxx's' ‘Romeo‘. the bellydancer is alluring. sensual and hence rich picking for designers. 'I'opshop had its Bolly'wood 'collectioir. Monsoon its ethnic jeweller but only now can Britain claim to haye its first lk‘llydancing shop proper. And it‘s in lidinburgh.
Hilary‘s Ba/aar opened two months ago and the (ieorge l\«' Bridge store has found a cosy niche among locals. ()wner Hilary 'l‘hacker reckons sey'eral thoUsand women in Scotland haye tried bellydancing at some point. The shop seryes the entlitisiast. noy‘elty gift buyer. clubber and exert would-be fetishist (more often than not. a husband buying a costume for his wife). ‘I think most women could find something in here that they could buy] says Hilary. 'whether it’s a bag or a top ot' a scarf or a bit ofjewellery.‘
The first thing that strikes ‘Most
you about the shop is the
colours. Vibrant reds. purples. women_ yellows and turquoises are flnd ey‘erywhere. (iold decorations th- drip from the different stands "19 and there‘s an esotic scent and I“ here atmosphere in the air. The range
of items is impressiye: the y scaryes. sarongs. stoles. full bUV’ skirts. hip scaryes. bandanas.
dresses. purses. earrings and
jewellery are all exotic. authentic and different to anything you'll find in the watered-dmyn high street collections.
The low prices of some of the items belie their intricate workmanship and rich materials. as some ctistomers haye pointed out. "fhere was someone from New York in this morning] says Hilary. ‘and she said the prices were about a third of what they are charged.' Although the shop does represent good Value for money. its prices are a telling indicator of the cheap labour found in countries of origin such 11* iii—2W1. Turkey and India. 'l‘ye been out to these countries and there‘s some places I don't buy from. liyentually I want to make it a green business. I want to make it ethically sound.‘
Once a self-confessed sceptic. Hilary took up bellydancing l—l years ago after being dragged along to a class by a friend. After studying the artforni for years. she began teaching and How leads classes at lidinhut‘gh‘s Dance Base. ‘lt's relatiyely easy compared to ballet or contemporary dance. [I suits women of any age or any si/e so women who don't want to squee/e into a leotard come along.‘
But all that could be set to change. The west is affecting styles in the east. as Ililary explains: "fhose cultures are more westernised they’re using lycra in their costumes and making them figure-hugging. .-\nd also now the dancers are trying to look thin. whereas before they liked big women. There isn‘t a huge difference now between the cultures.‘
Hilary’s Bazaar, 27 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, 0131 225 7103, www.hilarysbazaar.com
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