The Dancing Ferret

The American Tribal Style Bellydance Costume

What is an ATS® costume?

“I can only speak for my troupe in terms of the evolution of costuming style. My teacher, Masha, encouraged us to wear a choli and pantaloons, a fringe shawl, lots of big chunky jewelry and a headdress or some sort of embellished hair worn up. The coin bra was optional. When FCBD first started we used that format, but the dancers started finding other pieces, like the full skirts and tassel belts. It was a bit of a mish-mash at first, but we eventually standardized our look to be choli, bra, pantaloons, skirt, shawl and/or tassel belt, headdress mandatory and of course lots of jewelry”.

“American Tribal Style Make Up And Costuming,” an interview with Carolena Nericcio by Sheri Waldrop

ATS head shot (1)

Well, in my experience – in ATS®, more… more! Here is my personal choices when it comes to ATS® costuming;




Hair Garden!
I love a good headdress, but a “hair garden” is a favourite of mine (basically…. See how many flowers and adornments you can fit in your hair without them falling out).


Headshot (1)



I love to include a BIG handmade bindi to my costume, I make these myself, however the one pictured here was custom made for me by the talented Headstrong Bindis.




ATS Love my Zills2Finger Cymbals / Zills.
Worn on the thumb and middle finger of each hand, zills are played whilst dancing fast ATS®. I have a few different zills depending on how loud / what sound I am after. I love to play zills, they are quite challenging to play at first but with practice you can do it!



Bangles! lots and lots! well…. a word of advice; try on your bangles when you practice to see which ones will behave and which ones will fling off your arm during a spin or basic Egyptian step…. don’t wait until you’re on stage to find out the hard way! Though it can be fun to really load up your arms!


The bigger the better! Pictured here I am wearing large heavy silver hoops which are designed for those with ‘flesh tunnel’ pierced ears (the piercing hole has been stretched to accept larger adornments). I also love to wear earrings with peacock feathers.


Tribal belts
Unlike the sparkly coin belts of oriental styles, Tribal belts are usually alot more earthy, with wool, fabric, yarn, pieces of silver, metal, shells, etc. I have different types of belts for different performances – all of which i have handmade – I particularly like to use wool and pictured here is a belt I made with many dancing purple jelly fish that bounce when I shimmy!

tribal belt ATS in the forest (1)

Choli top & Coin Bra
The basic / classic “uniform” of an ATS® costume is a choli top and a coin bra.

ATS (6) ATS (9)

Pictured above is a very basic coin bra with a cross – tied back. Underneath the coin bra is a sleeveless choli top which also ties at the back as a cross shape.

ATS in the forest (3)

Choli tops come sleeveless, short sleeves, three-quarter length sleeves and full sleeved. you can also get ‘open-shoulder’ choli tops which can look stunning.
Pictured below is the same choli top & coin bra, with another type of choli style top over them which i have crossed over the front and tied at the back.

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Worn underneath your huge skirt, pantaloons are wonderful items of clothing. In fact I think I have more pantaloons than normal clothes these days – they’re so comfy! and great for Tribal Fusion too. Traditionally, an ATS dancer would never allow their legs to be seen, when the huge skirt is swished and a big of leg is seen – that leg is covered in yet more fabric! and sometimes there is more than one skirt….

Skirts -Great Big Ones!!! often 25 yards worth of material for flinging around joyously when dancing the skirt variations of the moves (ATS® moves done whilst holding your skirt in your hands for a dramatic and powerful look). The skirt pictured below is actually more than 25 yards… very swishy!

25 yard skirtATS colour pop