Created By: Nemmington on March 17, 2013 Last Edited By: Megaptera on April 1, 2013
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Bedlah Babe

A character who wears an Arabian belly-dancing outfit - despite not actually being a belly dancer.

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The bedlah is an Arabian-influenced belly dancing costume which was actually invented by Western artists in the nineteenth century, but became so closely associated with belly dancing that it was adopted by real-life dancers.

Bedlah costumes will vary depending on the work, but there is a general emphasis on showing skin. A bare midriff is more or less essential; a low neckline (sometimes impossibly so) is optional. Many variations include large amounts of sheer material, generally to display the legs as well.

Today, the bedlah has become the standard costume for female characters in Arabian Nights Days, from princesses to female genies (witness how many fancy dress companies manufacture costumes of this type with names like "Arabian Nights Woman", or see the results that come up if you do an image search on "Arabian princess"). This is an example of Artistic License – History in the name of Fanservice: even leaving aside the fact that the costume is a Western invention, it would logically only be worn by belly dancers and perhaps harem girls. Dressing an Arabian princess like this is rather like dressing a European princess as a go-go dancer.

Please note that, if they belly dancing outfit is being worn by a character who is actually a belly dancer, then it's an example of the Belly Dancer trope. this trope is primarily for works which portray the bedlah as everyday dress for Arabian women.

Examples:

Film
  • This has appeared in several James Bond movies.
    • The Spy Who Loved Me. The harem girls who work for Bond's friend Hosein wear this garb.
    • Octopussy. Some of Octopussy's female minions dress like this during the infiltration/attack against an enemy stronghold.
  • Caroline Munro's character in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a justified example, as she is a slave girl.
  • Maria Montez's outfit in the 1942 film Arabian Nights is a relatively tame example.
  • The 1938 short "Wee Wee Monsieur" starring The Three Stooges has the stooges infiltrating an Arabian/Berber palace to rescue an officer, Captain Gorgonzola. Once inside, they encounter several harem girls dressed in belly dance outfits.

Live Action TV
  • The title character in I Dream of Jeannie may have played a major role in cementing this trope in popular culture.

Video Games
  • The lead character in Shantae is a female genie who dresses like this.

Western animation
  • Princess Jasmine in Aladdin is possibly the single most famous bedlah-wearer, in the harem pants and the little off-the-shoulder belly top.
  • Princess Yum-Yum from The Thief and the Cobbler manages to make the look even more Stripperiffic with a sheer veil over her mouth.
  • The princess in the feature-length Mr. Magoo cartoon 1001 Arabian Nights (despite its title, actually a retelling of Aladdin) wears much the same top as her Disney counterpart from a few decades later, although her dress is longer and closer to the traditional European-style fairy tale princess.

Comics
  • The outfit worn by Princess Orinjade in Astérix and the Magic Carpet is probably meant to invoke this trope, as the comic is based heavily around Arabian Nights Days inconography. However, the story takes place in India, so there is more justification than usual as Indian women do have a history of wearing midriff-baring saris.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • March 17, 2013
    XFllo
    A good costume trope methinks. I would suggest a more transparent name, e.g. Bedlah Costume or Arabian Belly Dancer Costume (this one is too chunky, I guesss).

    You should add context to your examples to avoid the dreaded Zero Context Example.

    One addition to Live Action TV. (I think it fits though you might want to check it.)

    • Firefly: In the Flashback episode "Out of Gas", Inara Serra, a high class companion (a mix between a courtesan and a geisha), is shown to be wearing a Middle East style Bare Your Midriff outfit. She mostly wore clothes reminiscent of the Far East on the show.

  • March 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    I don't get the Kate Middleton / Ginger Spice metaphor..
  • March 17, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Ooh, I get the comparison, but it should be re-written. Not everybody was growing up in The Nineties.

    I hope this will appear tropeworthy. It will have a lots of common ground with Bare Your Midriff.
  • March 17, 2013
    lexicon
    The examples should say who the character is and why she's dressing this way.

    I think the Kate Middleton / Ginger Spice metaphor should just go. I'm guessing that it's because Kate Middleton is British and the Union Jack dress is the British flag but it sounds confusing.

    The name and laconic should make it clear that this is being used to show something. It could be Sexy Arabian Costume, an Arabian costume used for fanservice.
  • March 18, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Wild Wild West. Jim West wears one of these while he's masquerading as a belly dancer in order to get close to Loveless.
    • This has appeared in several James Bond movies.
      • The Spy Who Loved Me. The harem girls who work for Bond's friend Hosein wear this garb.
      • Octopussy. Some of Octopussy's female minions dress like this during the infiltration/attack against an enemy stronghold.
  • March 18, 2013
    Nemmington
    Okay, I've rewritten the Kate Middleton reference; hopefully it makes more sense now, but I'd be fine with removing it. Basically, the point is that that a member of a royal family wouldn't dress like a stripper 24/7.

    I'm up for renaming this trope as well, but I'm not sure what'd work. I think "bedlah" should be in there somewhere, since that is what the garment is called. "Bedlah Babe", maybe?

    I'm also not 100% sure if we should be listing examples of actual belly dancers or harem girls (or people disguised as belly dancers or harem girls) dressing like this. I was thinking more of works which imply that this was the standard costume for Arab women during the period. Any thoughts?
  • March 18, 2013
    TheHandle
    Bellydancer Un-Dress?
  • March 18, 2013
    Nemmington
    Okay, I've given it a bit of an overhaul. The trope is now "Bedlah Babe" (or would Bedlah Belle be better?) and focuses on characters who have this costume as their everyday outfit - so instances where somebody dresses up as a belly dancer for one episode are out.
  • March 18, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I don't see the logic for making it only for characters who wear it only as their default outfit. I think even the instances when the character wears it just for one episode are noteworthy. Compare it with say Lady In Red -- we want all examples that fit the definition, not just when it was the only outfit the character ever wore.

    I like both Bedlah Babe and Bedlah Belle, but the former indicates more that it's a Fanservice Trope.

  • March 18, 2013
    Nemmington
    I think restricting it to default outfits reinforces what I meant as the focus of the trope: that is, works which portray this as standard female dress in Arabian Nights Days.

    Otherwise it risks becoming a list of bellydancers in fiction, which'd be redundant as we already have a Belly Dancer trope.
  • March 18, 2013
    lexicon
    Saying that a member of a royal family wouldn't dress like a stripper 24/7 is clear. I don't know why a member of the royal family would dress like a stripper at all (trying to fit in at the club scene?) but at least I don't have to already know who Kate Middleton is and what a go-go dancer is.

    Shouldn't the examples describe how the costume looks and say what the character has to do with Arabian culture? All I'm really getting from the examples is slave girl, Jeannie, genie, princess, but none of those people have to even wear this costume. There are slaves and princesses from everywhere and modern genies who don't wear it.

    Belly Dancer should be linked to in the description. I don't think we need to list every Belly Dancer either.
  • March 18, 2013
    XFllo
    I don't think that we need to list belly dancers either, but some characters do dress like that once and are not belly dancers, nor is it their default outfit.
  • March 26, 2013
    XFllo
  • April 1, 2013
    Nemmington
    Okay, I've tweaked it again - now it covers any non-belly-dancer who has worn a bedlah. Beyond that, I'm not sure if there's much more I can do with this. Any takers if I put it up for grabs?
  • April 1, 2013
    Megaptera
    I think the description is great and it just needs more examples. I'll claim it if you're done with it.
  • April 1, 2013
    Megaptera
    For what it's worth, the thing about this being the character's everyday outfit only works if we're confining the trope to examples where this is portrayed as the real everyday dress of Arabian women. That's the root of it, but since we're keeping it open to examples of other uses -- anything where the character in question wears the costume and is not a dancer or harem girl -- incidental uses still fit.
  • April 1, 2013
    lexicon
    There's still a Zero Context Example issue. Aladdin should probably say that she's an Arabian fairy-tale princess who wears a little off the shoulder top and loose pants.
  • April 1, 2013
    MaxWest
    The 1938 short "Wee Wee Monsieur" starring The Three Stooges has the stooges infiltrating an Arabian/Berber palace to rescue an officer, Captain Gorgonzola. Once inside, they encounter several harem girls dressed in belly dance outfits.
  • April 1, 2013
    Nemmington
    Megaptera - sure, go ahead and take it.
  • April 1, 2013
    Megaptera
    Fixed the Aladdin example, added the Stooges. Looking for a good image.
  • April 1, 2013
    Megaptera
    Does the code for image captioning work in YKKTW? For the life of me I can't get it to show up right.
  • April 1, 2013
    Quag15
    Try putting a smaller image. Also, it works better in the article itself rather than the YKTTW.

    I gave the 5th hat. Go ahead.(thumbs up)
  • April 1, 2013
    Megaptera
    Right-o. I'll reupload the pic smaller and try the caption again when I get there. Thanks all.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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