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What Writers Read: On Constructing a “Reading List”

“Costuming from the Hip: 30th Anniversary Edition” By Dawn Devine

True Confession: I am a reader, writer, and collector of books. If we met up at a dance event and you were to ask me what my top ten belly dance books were, I would fail. I simply wouldn’t be able to come up with such a tightly curated list of favorites off the top of my head. Instead, I would ask you several leading questions. Including the two most obvious: “In what style?” and “In what category?”

In this article, I’m going to explore the question of “What Category.” I’m going to share with you the various disciplines, research modalities, and a few publishing styles that you will find as you explore the world of belly dance publications.

“Suggested Readings” vs. “Bibliography”

During June 2023, I’m working on updating the “Suggested Reading List” for a revised and expanded edition of “Costuming from the Hip: 30th Anniversary Edition.”

In the past 30 years, I’ve read countless books, articles, theses, magazines, blog posts, and pamphlets on the subject of belly dance. It’s my mission to provide a reading list of value to future readers of this book.

When I first began dancing back before the turn of the century way back in 1984, if you wanted to learn more about belly dancing you had to hunt the used bookstores, subscribe to a magazine, and if you were lucky, attend events where master instructors would teach culture and history directly.

Today, there’s a vast wealth of information available beyond the printed word. Blog posts, videos, newsletters, and digital magazines like this one, offer up tons of information. This leads one to ask, “Are bibliographies even of value anymore?”

The answer, of course, is yes. For academics and scholars, professional researchers and historians, hobbyists, and amateur history buffs alike, published books serve a key role in capturing and preserving information.

Books allow us to share our research and knowledge in a tangible permanent manner.

Digital media comes and goes. Thousands of great articles have been written and vanished as websites and social media platforms rise and fall. You might remember,, or even things posted to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Vimeo, have disappeared.

Currently, in 2023, published books are still being acquired and stored at the Library of Congress to preserve the knowledge for future generations.

So In this final revision of “Costuming from the Hip,” I’m including the best 500 or so inspirational and informative books I’ve sourced during my 30+ year career as an archival researcher. I’m including publications that have inspired and informed my view of costume design and dance history.

No scholar works in a vacuum.

Bibliographies serve as an avenue for discovery

and a springboard for future research.

Belly Dance as Subject

Conceptually, as an archivist, researcher, and scholar, “Belly Dance” is a subject for study. You will find researchers in numerous disciplines tackling the topic of belly dance using their own methodology and set of intellectual tools to explore this ephemeral art form.

Because of the nature of belly dance as a subject matter, a researcher of dance will find themselves hopping all over the library looking for source material.

You will find belly dance appearing in books in a variety of disciplines throughout the humanities. Anthropology and Sociology, Cultural Studies, Dance and Dance History, and even my own specialties of Art History and Costume Design.

But casting our net wider, researchers will also find memoirs, poetry, DIY, and instructional materials. Travel documentation that provides eyewitness accounts. You will find belly dancers popping up in Fiction from romance to who-done-it, and in Filmographies where they have danced across screens big and small.

A well-rounded study of belly dance is an interdisciplinary pursuit.

Building a Bibliography

For the 30th Anniversary Edition of “Costuming from the Hip,” I’m expanding both the contents of the book and the bibliography.

This reading list will contain much more than just sewing information. I’m expanding this curated bibliography.

The expanded “Costuming From the Hip” reading list includes informative books I’ve read over the past 30 years.

Divided by Topic

To make this interdisciplinary reading list easier to use, we’ve chosen to divide it into topical groups. But rather than tell you what I’ve done, here’s a sample to give you a sense of the breadth of this new reading list.

Happy research, dance, and costuming! Dawn Devine ~ Davina

Selections from the Reading List of “Costuming from the Hip: 30th Anniversary Edition.”

Below is a tiny selection of books pulled from the updated and expanded reading list from the next release of Costuming from the Hip by Dawn Devine - Davina. Sign up for Dawn’s email newsletter on her website to learn more about the book in the coming months.

Six Essential Readings About Belly Dance of 2023

Cormack, Raphael. Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ‘20s. W. W. Norton & Company, 2021.

Fraser, Kathleen W. Before They Were Belly Dancers: European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760-1870. McFarland, 2014.

Frishkopf, Michael Aaron. Music and Media in the Arab World. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2010.

Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu) You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi. Morocco, 2019.

Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman) The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For the Serious Dancer. Princess Productions, 2014.

Shrapnell, Sara. et al. Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage. Hoffman Gifford Publishing, 2016.

Ward, Heather D. Egyptian Belly Dance in Transition: The Raqs Sharqi Revolution 1890 - 1930. McFarland, 2018.

Costume & Textile History

Askari, Nasreen. Uncut Cloth. Merrell Holberton Publishers, 1999.

Baker, Patricia. Islamic Textiles. British Museum Press, 1995.

Clothing and Difference: Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa. Hildi Hendrickson, edt. Duke University Press,1996.

Cumming, Valerie. Understanding Fashion History. Bastford, 2004.

The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Edited by Esther Juhasz. The Israel Museum, 2012.

Rivers, Victoria Z. The Shining Cloth. Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Stillman, Yedida Kalfon. Arab Dress From The Dawn of Islam to Modern Times: A Short History. Koninkijke Brill, 2003.


Butor, Michel. Ethnic Jewelry: Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Rizzoli, 1994.

Fisher, Angela. Africa Adorned. Harry N. Abrams, 1984.

Gonzalez, Valerie. Emaux d’al Andalus et du Maghreb, Edisud. La Calade, 1994.

Harrell, James. “Gemstones” UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2012.

Nicholas, Paul T. and Ian Shaw, eds. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Nigam, M. L. Indian Jewellery. Tiger Books International, 1999.

Tait, Hugh. Jewelry, 7,000 Years. Abradale Press, 1991.

Belly Dance & Music

Al-Rawi, Rosina-Fawzia, B. and Monique Arav. Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dance. Interlink Publishing, 1999.

Bentley, Toni. Sisters of Salome. Yale University Press, 2002.

Buonaventura, Wendy. Serpent Of The Nile: Women and Dance in the Arab World. Interlink Books, 1989.

Donald, Mary Ellen. Mastering Finger Cymbals: Popular Belly Dance Rhythms with Suggested Dance Steps: Exercises to Strengthen Cymbal Technique and Basic Music Theory. San Francisco: Mary Ellen Books, 1979.

Harris, Lynette. The Belly Dance Reader I. San Francisco: Gilded Serpent, 2012.

Sharif, Keti. Bellydance: A Guide to Middle Eastern Dance; It’s Music, It’s Culture and Costume. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004.

Sewing and Design

Covey, Liz, and Rosemary Ingham. The Costume Designer’s Handbook. Heinemann Educational Books, 1992.

Eichorn, Rosemary. The Art of Fabric Collage. Taunton Press, 2000.

El-Khalidi, Laila. The Art of Palestinian Embroidery. Al Saqi, 1999.

Kling, Candice. The Artful Ribbon. C&T Publishing, 1997.

Readers Digest. Complete Guide to Sewing. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 2010.

Morrell, Anne. Techniques of Indian Embroidery. B.T. Batsford,


Wilson, Ruth. Beautiful Beading. Sally Milner Publishing, 1999.

Wolff, Colette. The Art of Manipulating Fabric. Krause Publications, 1996

Art, Culture, & History

Blackman, Winifred. The Fellahin of Upper Egypt. G. G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1927.

Brend, Barbara. Islamic Art. Harvard University Press, 1991.

Hammond, Andrew. Pop Culture Arab World!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Humphreys, Andrew. Grand Hotels of Egypt: In the Golden Age of Travel. The American University in Cairo Press, 2011.

Luckhurst, Roger. The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of A Dark Fantasy. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Peltre, Christine. Orientalism in Art. Abbeville Press,Inc,1998.

Roberts, Mary. Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature. Duke University Press, 2007.

Hattstein, Markus. Islam Art & Architecture. Konemann, 2000.

Makeup, Image & Presentation

Adler, Lindsay. Posing: The Photographers Guide. Rocky Nook, 2017.

Aucoin, Kevyn. Making Faces. Little, Brown and Company, 1999.

Eldridge, Lisa. Face Paint: The Story of Makeup. Harry N. Abrams, 2015.

Ribeiro, Aileen. Facing Beauty, Painted Women & Cosmetic Art. Yale University Press, 2011

Roome, Loretta. Mehndi: The Timeless Art of Henna Painting. Griffin Trade Paperback 1998.

Teese, Dita Von. Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour. Dey St., 2015.

Robinson, Julian. The Quest For Human Beauty: An Illustrated History. W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Dawn Devine aka Davina is the author of the best-selling belly dance costuming book "Embellished Bras." As an archival researcher, she's written articles for blogs and magazines around the web. She's passionate about costuming, cats, and coffee, but maybe not in that order. Want to read more? Find her on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube all accessible from her blog

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