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Coin bra


The coin bra as worn by FatChanceBellyDance® was originally introduced by Masha Archer (Carolena's teacher) who couldn’t afford the expensive bras and belts sold by her teacher Jamila Salimpour.

It was proving difficult to drill holes into coins without the right equipment so she hit on the idea of scavenging all the San Francisco charity shops and buying up loads of saint medallions, which were easier and prettier than fake coins. These she sewed onto a bikini top creating a beautiful and flattering bustline by graduating the medallions in layers. Carolena borrowed one of these bras when she danced with the San Francisco Classic Dance Company and later, she and her FCBD® dancers, continued the theme adding their own personality with a variety of charms, coins and odds and ends.


My own bra is personalized with some special charm adornments, each meaning something to me, a little silver goddess, some scissors, a snake, a Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skull and a lucky hare.




Hollywood has certainly played its part in the development of the coin bra as part of belly dance costuming both in the USA and Egypt but it started to evolve during the "Orientalist Age" (late 19th century) with dancers like Ruth St Denis, so it is not an authentic tribal garment.


However many women in the nomadic tribes had to carry their valuables with them as they travelled and the safest way to do this was to wear them either as jewellery or sewn onto garments or even into the hems of their clothing. A few years ago I visited the Laya tribe in Bhutan’s Himalaya where the women stitch their little silver spoons onto their jackets.



Making your own coin bra


You can buy ready made or make your own to save money. If you are using a bra as a base make sure to change the straps so that it does look like a piece of costume rather than a piece of lingerie

Our cholis have open backs and there is nothing worse than seeing lingerie straps criss crossing what should be a beautiful bare back. So a halter neck works well but can be a little uncomfortable - adding a small length of elastic to the strap eases things so there is not so much pressure. Or you can move the shoulder straps so they sit over the choli but you may need to pin them so they don't fall off your shoulders. Another trick is to thread a thin cord or shoelace under the bra straps and tie it so it sits along the same line as the choli neck tie.


Coins are heavy so you’ll need a strong base to withstand the weight and its best to secure each coin before adding the next so that should a thread break you only lose one coin.

You can personalise your bra with little charms, bits of jewellery, dangle chains and of course loads of coins but go easy on sparkle and cowrie shells. There are plenty of online sources for coins, pressed metal stamps, bits of dangle chain and kuchi pendants.


If you're worried about the weight then using layers of dangle chain is much lighter than a full coin bra and can be more flattering on a bigger bosom


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