The ancient Middle East was an advanced culture with breathtaking architecture and intriguing customs and traditions. The ancient collection of tales "One Thousand and One Arabian Nights" depicts an exciting world with sultans, sheiks, combat warriors, genies, harem girls and alluring belly dancers. Impacted by tall tales and a fascinating past, Arabian costume ideas reflect how Western culture has long been fascinated with the ancient Arabian world.
A sultan is a ruler or powerful person in a Muslim country, whereas a sheik is a religious official or an Arab family or village leader. In slang, sheik is also used to describe a romantic or alluring man. There are several ways to wear a male Arabian costume, but the components are as follows: a headpiece, sash, top, and pantaloons, which are loose-fitting pants that are tight around the ankles. The headpiece can be the traditional Arab headpiece, which is a scarf with a band to secure it, or a turban, which is a scarf that wraps around the head. A feather or jewel are some decorative options for a turban. The top can be either a vest or a loose fitting top. A dagger or sword complete an outfit. General costumes are rarely meant for historical accuracy; therefore, the differences between a common sultan and sheik costume are few and far between. A sultan costume may have more deep royal colors, such as purple or gold. Sultan costumes also can have one to two robes.
A harem princess costume can be an exotic and alluring one. Women wear mostly sheer pantaloons--loose-fitting pants that are snug at the waist and tight at the ankles. They wear a midriff top that may or may not have sheer sleeves. Harem princesses can wear knit shoes that end at a rounded point. Though historically inaccurate, they can also wear clear heels in order to not distract from the outfit, but still remain sexy. A crown or headpiece is optional.
A belly dancer costume can be similar to that of a harem princess, except for the accessories. Belly dancers may have more ornate, decorative costumes that include sewn-in coins or bells. They wear long, flowing, light skirts or harem pants with solid hip scarves or belts decorated with coins. Highly ornate jewelry, like bracelets, anklets and necklaces, may also have coins and bells on them. Belly dancing tops are either a midriff wrap top that ties at the center or a bra top that is highly decorated with beads, sequins, jewels or fringe. They may also wear a mysterious veil on their faces to only show theoulders; however, these are often used as an accessory of enticement during the dances. A silk or chiffon veil can also be used as an accessory to cover the eyes. Finger cymbals are also a nice accessory. Though you can buy a complete costume online, you can also visit a belly dancing shop for authentic costume pieces.
A genie's costume can share various elements of the previous costumes. However, the main distinction for a genie costume is that it features a genie's bottle as a major accessory. Men can take cues from the genie in the Disney movie "Aladdin" and paint themselves a different color, such as blue or gold. A male genie may wear a vest, turban with jewel and plume, pantaloons, knit shoes with pointed ends, and large gold cuffs for the wrists. Female genies may look at the most famous female genie of all time for inspiration: Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie." Her costume also included the basics of a female Arabian costume, such as a midriff top and pantaloons, and she wore a veiled headpiece connected to a fez.
Couples or Groups
Arabian costume ideas also look great on couples or groups of people. If you're a part of a couple, you can go as a sultan and harem princess, sultan/sheik and belly dancer, genie and master, or Aladdin and Jasmine. If you are a male and happen to be going to a party with more than one woman, you can go as a sultan with a harem entourage. Groups of women can go to a party as belly dancers and maybe even learn some authentic moves together. Groups of men can go as sheik warriors.
Kat Consador is a freelance writer and professional competitive Latin dancer. Her work has appeared in eHow and various online publications. She also writes for clients in small businesses, primarily specializing in SEO. She earned a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University.