Tribal belly dance pants have gone beyond ATS and Tribal fusion, and are worn in class - and occasionally in performance - by belly dancers of all styles. They are figure-hugging around the thighs, opening to a wide flare around the ankles. They will often incorporate a mini-skirt or fake hip scarf (check the washing instructions if that includes beading or fringe!).
Because of the tight bottom fit, some plus-size dancers are more comfortable making their own (see video below).
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How to Make Your Own Tribal Pants
Melodia Pants - Where It All Started?
I'm not 100% positive, but many people attribute the original design for tribal style belly dance pants to Melodia Designs, a small designer in Southern California.
Why did they become such an industry standard? First and foremost, Melodia pants looked surprisingly good on so many shapes and sizes, in spite of the close fit around the booty. It's the combination of the material - which has enough lycra to hold you in but doesn't squeeze you into lumps and bumps - and the wide flare from the knee, which balances the shape above. It makes sense: after all, we all know that bootcut jeans are best for curvy girls - these are the bootcut shape taken to the extreme!
Pants are ideal for classwear because they let the teacher see your legs, and they're not restricting. But let's face it, who really feels like a belly dancer in trackpants or leggings? Tribal pants combine the coolness of cotton or bamboo (my personal fave) with lycra's ease of movement, yet they don't look boring. The wide flares can be tied up, tied together or left alone, and even though they're designed to skim the floor, you won't trip. Melodia's skirted version even has a pocket!
The other advantage is that they work for both classwear and performing, because they're one of the few costumes that feel comfortable and look good at the same time.
Tip - if you're buying them for performing, do a "sweat test" first! Any costume that fits around the crotch can develop ugly sweat patches in inappropriate places. It's more likely to show on light colors, so if you have that problem, stick to darker colors, wear something underneath, or add a hip scarf strategically placed to hide that area.
If you're buying them for classwear, check the material - a cotton blend is always healthier and more comfortable.
Overall, Melodia-style belly dance pants are a sassy mix of the exotic and the practical - just like most belly dancers, actually...
Photo thanks to Pink Kitty on Flickr.