Costumes and YOU! – Part 3

Now that you have a basic knowledge of dance costumes of years past, let’s focus on the modern day costumes preferably for competition and dancesport. After all, ballroom dancing has a lot to do with appearance and expectations regarding your performance. Something dancers don’t realize is that dance costumes have to look good from a distance. Often times, the audience and the judges can be quite far away. Here are some tips for you whether you are a new dancer or an advanced dancer. First and foremost the dance costume must be consistent with your dancing level. I’m positive, that if you ever had any questions about what to wear on the dance floor, you will find them addressed here. I am even going to break it down for you in terms of ‘Standard/Smooth Dances’ and ‘Latin/Rhythm Dances’.

Did you know that what a man/boy wears could possibly affect his score? If your clothes fit properly, you will probably feel more confident and dance better, thus come out with a higher score. Men must watch that they do not blend in with the crowd. There are minor tweaks you can do to stand out and get the attention of the judges, like adding a pocket square to your jacket that matches your partner’s dress.  Let’s check out what is expected of you in each category.

Standard/Smooth: Guys with long hair should be pulled back with hair gel. Hair should look slick, refined and always neat. A clean-shaven face is a STRONG must.  When it comes to shirts, white or black long-sleeved dress shirts and ties are good. A tuxedo shirt and black bowtie can also be worn. If you are advanced, you may wear tuxedo tails especially made for dancing. Pants should almost always be black dress slacks or tux pants. No baggy pants. When it comes to shoes, make sure that your dancing shoes fit well so you can move easily! As far as accessories go, black vests usually look very good, no watches or jewelry in general, and ties and bowties worn tastefully.

Latin/Rhythm: Again guys, a refined look is required. Long hair should be pulled back. Shorter hair should be kept down and if a spiky hairstyle then gel to hold it into place. You must always be clean shaven. You may wear black or white dress or club shirts. You must wear tight fitting clothes only; it is imperative to see your lines as you dance. A man may also consider wearing a very tight T-shirt. Advanced dancers can wear custom made, long sleeved shirts to get more attention. Pants should be black dress slacks. Men may wear belts with shiny accents to attract attention.

Ballroom competition costumes are designed to be beautiful and show off your movements. Women/girls have so many possibilities when it comes to designing a costume. However, just like with the men and boys, women and girls must adhere to the strict standards of both ‘Standard/Smooth Dances’ and ‘Latin/Rhythm Dances’. Let’s get into what is required of women to be able to compete.

Standard/Smooth: It is customary for women with long hair to wear it up. It can be a bun, French braid, a twist or any variation of these styles. It is alright to wear lots of hairspray or gel, hair clips and bobby pins where needed. If you have short hair, you should use gel to keep the loose strands down and do not wear an exotic style.

When it comes to make up, you should wear more than usual (stage makeup), especially on eyes and lips. You may also want to consider false eyelashes, as they really do make your eyes pop. Dresses should be more formal. The dress should be above the ankles. The judges must be allowed to see your feet. Girls tend to wear skirts that are knee-length, mid-calf or even longer and a blouse. If you are in competition it is probably better to wear a dress, as it is less casual. The main objective of all ballroom clothing is that you can move easily on the dance floor and that your partner steps between your feet. Advanced dancers can wear custom made gowns that may have wings, feathers, fringe and so much more.  Dance shoes should be comfortable, flexible, lightweight and give you enough support for ultimate balance and control of movement. Accessories adhered firmly can include elegant jewelry, pearls and shiny pieces like rhinestone, that attract attention.

Latin/Rhythm Dances: Your hair should be slicked back in a ponytail, braid or bun or other appropriate up dos. No loose hair. You will want to wear plenty of stage makeup. Latin dances require a dramatic look. Eyes should look bold, daring and alluring. False eyelashes work very well with these dances.  The more alluring the eyes and lips can be, the better the all around look. You can wear a cocktail dress, or party themed dress, as well as a two-piece outfit. These dresses can all be shorter, although too short, is not always appropriate. Skirts with flare and fringe are especially good for spinning. It is important to avoid restrictive clothing, so you can move easily. Also, watch out for black clothing, as it tends to drown you out on the floor with so many other people wearing black. The better choice is to consider color. The good news is you can sparkle on the dance floor all you want!   If appropriate, wear large glittery earrings, necklaces and bracelets to stand out. Nude, flesh-tone fishnet stockings can elongate your legs. Be creative, provocative and most of all comfortable.

Again, I would like to emphasize that in general, most dancesport competitions have very strict costume rules to be aware of. Certain materials like metallic, glitter, sequins, beads, etc., can be strictly forbidden. That being said, I would like to encourage you to read my final blog on Costumes and YOU! – Part 4. Now that you know the basics of what to wear, how about some fun and creative ways to enhance your look with some tips that will help you stand out from the crowd!

See you soon,

Thought Of The Week:

Dancing with the feet is one thing but dancing with the heart is another



Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website