The Best Place for a Belly Dance Costume in Istanbul

My favourite shop was in The Grand Bazaar! It makes no sense to me. Usually the main tourist drag is exactly the wrong place to get something nice and affordable. I was so impressed that I felt Gulseren’s shop deserved an entire post on its own. 



Belly dance costume in turkey

The lovely Gulseren and her work

I went to the Grand Bazaar twice and it wasn’t until the second trip in the afternoon of my last day in Istanbul that I found it. Maybe I appreciated it all the more because I had given up on finding a costume in Turkey but I feel it was more than that.

It was in an alley way off a main street and not the easiest to find but well worth persisting in your hunt through the maze that is the grand bazaar. All I had to go on was again the very helpful meissoun’s description

Gülseren Giyim
Yaglikçilar Cad.
Cukur Han No: 63  /11

In a small side street. If in doubt, just ask in another shop. Good for skirts, accessories and costumes, moderate prices.”

Go to the approximate location (there are street signs in the bazaar overhead) and ask around. Gulseren is quite well known and someone is sure to point you in the right direction if you can’t find it.


Being off the main drag had extra advantages – you didn’t feel that you were the subject of speculation by bored nearby shop keepers and their mates. Also the shop was staffed by Gulseren and her lovely daughter. Women!! Yes Women!! Such a wonderful change from the men running all other belly dance stores I have ever been in. The men that gleefully tell you they can help adjust your costumes.

As someone that is not really busty and of quite a small frame, my tops always need adjusting, they don’t stay on at all without adjustment. They always say with ‘silicon’ and changing the clasps that they will make it fit. But that means strangers fiddling with your breasts and I don’t feel comfortable with that. I much preferred it to be women that matter of factly made the adjustments. The perv factor was eliminated.

Gulseren’s daughter (whose name I have forgotten, I am ashamed to say) came behind the curtain with me and made the adjustment’s as we went, with no need to awkwardly parade out into public view holding the costume with both your hands so it doesn’t fall off and you end up flashing everyone. The change room / curtained off area was also large, so you had plenty of room and if you were traveling with a friend or 2 you could change at the same time and help each other out too.


The  price these lovely ladies offered were more realistic and because of that they made 2 costume sales off me rather than one plus I bought a few other bits and pieces too.

I know you can bargain but I was being offered some quite old tired costumes for starting prices of 700€ in other shops! That translated to roughly $1400 AUD. That wasn’t even in top costumiers. Better places (better designs) started bargaining around 1200€ which is just way, way too high for this belly dancer from rural Australia. I was shocked, really lovely professional egyptian costumes seemed to go for around $300-$400US when I was there 3 years ago.

The Turkish sellers told me Egyptian quality was crap but frankly I couldn’t see the difference. Some of the dearer ones used some lovely silks and that justified a higher price but not 4 times the price. Prices did eventually drop but not by a lot and I was traveling with a pretty good bargainer. The one exception was Gulseren. She didn’t budge a lot on price but she also didn’t start ridiculously high. Plus she offered prices in Turkish lira which I appreciated.


I have only performed in these costumes a few times but they are holding up well, no damage as yet and no need to repair. They seem well made. The style is what I associate with a classic turkish look with lots of beaded fringing. I liked this though as I already had Egyptian costumes and wanted something different.


The service was fantastic, I had planned to come in early in the week, shop and pick up any purchases when they were adjusted, but things didn’t go to plan.  On my first trip to the grand bazaar I found the shop only 5mins before I had to leave. I didn’t get back until my last day and yet they did all the adjustments on the spot and stayed late so I could have a costume from Turkey.  I had given up on finding anything suitable by this stage but they were so welcoming that as I waited for the first to be adjusted, I found a second that I had to own.

Now please, if you can possibly avoid it don’t leave costumes to the last minute, I don’t want you to take advantage of this kindness extended to me but I think that it shows a dedication to the costumer that goes beyond the usual.

gulseren's daughter and jade

Good English and efficient sewing – thank you so much for making my trip to the market so much fun!

While I was waiting for the adjustments to be completed, I got a phone call from my travel companions. The little girl had bought a salt and pepper shaker set that she adored but had dropped it and broken it on her way back to the apartment. She was very distressed and asked me if I could buy another. The bazaar was very close to closing at this point with many shops already packed up. I described the piece and asked Gulseren and her daughter if they knew where I could find one. It took a bit of miming and drawing as their English was not perfect but they eventually understood what I was after and  Gulseren took me straight to a shop that sold them, saving me a lot of time. While her daughter was sewing frantically on my outfits.

We stayed so late that the bazaar was closed and locked and security escorted us from the building when we emerged. Gulseren paid for my tram back to Sultanahment too which was a lovely touch.

I just can’t imagine better people to do business with. They were likely to have been ravenously hungry by the time we finished too as it was Ramadan, instead of being grumpy they were lovely. Gulseren said she was the first designer in the grand bazaar and I can see why she has lasted. She also has another smaller shop in the bazaar too that has more of the kids folk costumes.


Right next to Gulseren’s shop in the alley way was a positively beguiling shop with Indian and folkloric costumes and all sorts of things that would make a belly dancer or tribal dancer or just anyone that loves ethnic fabrics, loose track of time. Sigh!! Yet another reason to find Gulseren and shop with her!!

Gülseren Giyim
Yaglikçilar Cad.
Cukur Han No: 63  /11
Tel. 212 512 97 51

If you shop there tell them Jade sent you!

Have you shopped in the Grand Bazaar? What was your experience? Please share below.

Adventures in Costume Dyeing | Belly Dancer Rachel – Sydney

I always wanted to know if it was possible to dye a belly dance costume but I have never been brave enough to try. Rachel is a very talented belly dancer from Sydney, Australia that takes you thorough the entire process. The finished product looks great but there were some challenges along the way. I am going to bookmark the page myself for future reference! This is a must read for any one considering altering the colour of their costume.

How to re colour a belly dance outfit

The before shot! Follow the link below to see the final result.

Adventures in Costume Dyeing | Belly Dancer Rachel – Sydney.

Have you ever dyed a belly dance costume? Do you have any tips to share? Please comment below…

Tips for buying Custom made Costumes online

This is the outfit I ordered in black. It is still being refashioned, years later!

This is the outfit I ordered from luxor_bazar in black. It is still being refashioned years later!

So many of us have no direct access to belly dance stores in our home towns and even those that do can still have trouble finding a costume that fits. Maybe you are super busty, or really tall or have some other dimensions that is well outside ‘average’, perhaps you just don’t like the styles in stock. Buying custom made online is one solution, you can get a costume in your size and preferred style but it is not without its drawbacks. I have had spectacular success and disappointment ordering costumes online so to help my fellow dancers avoid the pitfalls I thought I would share some of my experiences and while I am at it, give my top tips for successful custom made online costume shopping (p.s. summary at the end if you don’t have time to read the lot 😉 ).

Black skirt

Many years ago I started my online custom purchasing rather cautiously with a simple black skirt from an American seller on eBay. The skirt was advertised as seamless and I thought this sounded like a classy feature. The seller would also make it in any length for no extra cost. As a tall woman I was thrilled with the idea of a skirt that didn’t finish above my ankles. The reality was not nearly as thrilling unfortunately; while it was long enough, it was seamless because it had no shape. It was just a rectangle with a gathered waist. The waist was so large that all 3 members of my performance troupe could fit in it ……AT THE SAME TIME!!! This gives me tip one – Find out exactly what any unusual promised features actually mean! Sometimes it sounds too good to be true because it is too good to be true.

Green Egyptian Costume

Green Belly dance costume

This costume arrived in a much brighter green than I wanted. As a result this is one of the few pictures of me wearing it.

My first ever flashy professional looking costume came about because an Egyptian Vendor (luxor_bazar) was auctioning off custom made costumes on eBay to get known. The prices were very low on some of the items and the bargain proved too hard to resist. I won a bid on a cute little 2 piece with a saucy cut out in the side (also came with gauntlets and headband). I can’t remember the exact price as it was a long time ago but I paid less than $100 AUD including postage. The write up said any colour you want and to email your dimensions and cup size. I said ‘dark green’, envisaging a lovely emerald colour, sent my measurements off and waited excitedly for the post man. The outfit arrived and was technically what I asked for. I was disappointed though. The workmanship was fine and the skirt fitted beautifully but while darkish green, it was not the colour I had envisaged at all. The shade is one I can get away with but only just. It just isn’t wow on me. Lesson 2 – get colour swatches off your vendor – have them posted to you if you have plenty of time, if not, get an idea of the colour from photos of the fabric.

Jade belly dances in green urunga

It was such a windy day – the wings were so hard to control!! Wearing Green Egyptian Outfit.

This was not the only lesson from this outfit unfortunately. The bra top was a bit of a disaster too. It didn’t fit well at all, the halter straps were very stretchy providing little support but the biggest problem was the cup size. It was what I asked for so I couldn’t go mad at the seller–  it was my size but the way it sat wasn’t flattering and it looked way too small in context of the costume as a whole. Somehow it made me look less busty rather than more busty as a good costume usually does. Tip3 – unless you know for sure the bra in question will fit – then order a cup size up from what you would wear for everyday wear. I found out later that this is commonly done by dancers regardless of bust size as it leaves room for padding and adjusting, it’s much easier to deal with too much than not enough! I also highly recommend it for pear shaped women – you need the extra fabric in the top to visually balance out the hips.

I only have worn this costume once with a beaded Indian butterfly top underneath to help balance it. It was a bargain but because I wasn’t savvy, I haven’t got the value out of it.

Red Egyptian Outfit -Gift

Another Luxor bazar number that was super cheap. I ordered it as a gift for a voluptuous friend that was having trouble getting a costume. I thought I had trouble with fit because I wasn’t very busty but she had some trouble too. It is just reality that most of your costumes will need some adjusting no matter how careful you are with your measurements. Unless you buy the costume in Egypt (or Turkey or wherever) with the seller there to do a fitting and make the adjustments then an excellent fit will require some extra work.

Black Egyptian Dress

belly dance costume

Black dress still in the process off becoming a 2 piece.

I think you are getting the idea here with how much I love a bargain! Again a Luxor bazar item, this time a full dress was available for an insanely low price and I couldn’t resist. I figured that being a dress, I wouldn’t have the same fit issues with the top as it was more covering. Sadly no, in this case I don’t believe it was my fault. The bottom part of the dress – i.e. from the hip down fitted perfectly. The top half was shocking – the measurements were clearly misinterpreted. The mesh torso section was soooo long that only a giant could have fitted the dress and the width around was huge. I was very careful and specific with these measurements so I guess it was a matter of crossed wires. If I had sent it back however it would have cost more in shipping than the dress was worth so I have held on to it and have been slowly doing some adjustments over a number of years. I have made it into a 2 piece and have put so many hours into it. It is rather sad as the quality of this item is probably not worth the amount of effort I have put in but as a matter of principle I will try and finish it so I can wear it at least once.

Teal Scarlet’s Lounge Costume

Jade - mother and child bellydancers

I like the way the light washes this shot out. A candid moment while wearing the Scarlet’s lounge costume.

This was a costume I fell in love with from American vendor’ Scarlet’s Lounge’. I had it custom made in Teal with silver thread, a longer skirt and a Turkish vest instead of a bolero vest. It cost $350 US dollars, so not a cheap bargain purchase. The initial contact was fine, sending the measurements was a bit of a problem as I sent them in the much more accurate and universal form – centimetres. I knew the measurements were being sent to India which is metric but the seller insisted I convert them all to inches which was tedious and unnecessary but oh well. Things went downhill from there. It was supposed to take 6-8weeks for my costume to arrive.  2 months later I started emailing Gina to find out what had happened. Communication was shocking and 3 months later I still had no outfit, no answers to the majority of my emails and no details of who the costume had been supposedly sent with. I was so incensed about being ripped off, I actually made a warning flyer and gave it out at the next belly dance event I went to. Thankfully Gina did eventually honour the deal and I received my costume – many months late. The Turkish vest was not to measurement and needed adjustment but I was thoroughly sick of dealing with Scarlets lounge and dealt with it myself. I met another dancer that had similar troubles with this seller too. It was years ago and I hope Gina has improved her customer service but beware.sword floorwork When purchasing through eBay, the feedback system offers a measure off security. Sellers don’t want bad feedback BUT for items like custom made belly dance outfits being sent international – the reasonable time for arrival can be outside the time you can give poor feedback. This means a seller could be routinely ripping people off and getting away with it.

I did adjust this costume too and have had some good use out of it as it is beautiful.

Green and Black Egyptian Costume

My most recent purchase and my delight. All the lessons I have learnt from the above costume fails finally lead me to a good one. I purchased again from an eBay seller, this time alooegypt.

I had very few problems with this one. The top didn’t fit right but I now take that to be a given and was prepared to adjust it. I am quite pleased with the results and will do a future blog post on how I did it. The only real gripe I had was that I specified the measurements for my arms as I wanted the gauntlets to sit on the upper arm not the lower as it is more flattering for my shape. Unfortunately they seemed to ignore this and give me a standard size. Adjusting them has been a lot trickier as I didn’t have the fabric to do it. I have only finished adjusting one gauntlet but have worn the costume anyway.

Tall red head belly dancing

The successful green and black costume. Photo by Bruce Thomas


Top Tips for Online Custom Made Costume Shopping!

1)      Find out exactly what any unusual promised features actually mean!

2)      Get colour swatches off your vendor

3)      Order your cup size one size larger

4)      Your costume will likely require some adjustments, be prepared for it or budget in the cost of a seamstress to help you out.

5)      See if you can get a small amount of fabric and some beads sent with your outfit to help with future repairs and the above adjustments. It’s worth it even if it costs a little more.

6)      Be very clear about your measurements and make sure you and your vendor are on the same page – diagrams can help bridge language barriers

7)      Get someone to help you with your measurements

8)      State any changes you want made to the overall design .

9)      Ask other dancers about their experience with a seller or check online forums

Good Luck with your custom outfits! Have you had a spectacular success or fail with online costumes?? Please comment below and tell share what you have learnt from the experience.

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