Costumes and YOU! – Part 4

With competition season upon us, it is time to spruce up our tactics and make ourselves known and present on that dance floor. In Part 3, you’ve learned what you need to wear in competitions. Of course, it is important to dress age appropriate and according to your dance level. It is also about dancing to perfection with confidence, while looking AMAZ ING doing it. Well now it’s time to learn a few handy hints that just might put you and your costume over the top!

There are heavy dress code guides we learned, when it comes to what men and boys can wear in each dance category. However, some dances may allow a little leeway and that is where you can take advantage of the situation (always remembering, if rules allow). Let’s say all the men in the competition are going to be wearing white or black, to stand out from the crowd, why not wear a silver tie, vest, and pocket square. Or why not match your tie, vest and pocket square with the color of your partner’s dress. It’s also a good idea to keep color themes in balance with the style and feeling of the dance. Think about cool or warm shades to accent your dancing. A Rumba or Tango might look good in warm tones while cool tones might look better in a Swing dance.

Women’s costumes can vary drastically from one dance to another. Costumes can run from quite simple all the way up to being objects of art, like Japanese costumes. Let’s explore interesting possibilities that can play a huge part in making your costume the one “everybody is admiring.” A very elegant style that is so beautiful in motion on the Ballroom dance floor (as seen in the picture of the red costume here) is when the dancer wears the hems of her dress attached to her wrists. It creates a flowing and magnificent look as you glide on the dance floor. To make the dress fuller, the seamstress or designer inserts triangular godets throughout the skirt. A godet is a triangular piece of material inserted in a dress, shirt or glove to make it flared or for purposes of ornamentation. It originated in the late 19th century from the French. Because dresses are made from fabrics with stretch, the costume is form fitting without having a lot of additional seams.

Let’s face it ladies, bright colors attract attention. So, do not be afraid to wear a color you may ordinarily not wear. You are in a competition and you want both the judges and the audience to notice you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a competition and could not take my eyes off a particularly bright, stylish costume. It definitely makes you notice the dancer more. However, pastel colors have their place when you are trying to achieve a more softer or demure look. Remember it’s all in the dance; let the flow and feeling of the dance give you your sense of style.

Although we all love black because it is so slimming, it can be hard to see on floors with low light. It also tends to blend in too much with the other dancers. If you do decide to wear black, make it pop with rhinestones and lace to make it sparkle (if in accordance with the rules). There is a popular trend that is happening in Standard and Smooth dance, wearing the color nude. It is very provocative and can be seen at pro-am and amateur competitions of gold or open level. If you use colored lace, scarves and drapes on black and nude costumes, they brighten up. This way you can be noticed against dark backgrounds or light toned dance floors. Also, both men and women are now using nude stretch fabric matched to their skin tones and placed in areas to make the costumes look more revealing, as can be seen at Latin dance competitions for men and women. You can be sure we will be seeing more nude colored costumes going forward in these competitions.

Another great way to make a costume pop is to add feathers or to look stunning on the dance floor add rhinestones. Swarovski rhinestones are a staple when it comes to dance costumes. Rhinestones make you shine like stars under competition lights. Of course some competitions do not allow rhinestones for amateur syllabus levels. Even if you are not allowed to wear rhinestones now, you can still order a costume without rhinestones and add them when you reach open level.

Every girl and boy wants to look their best on the dance floor. We all know, that if you look good, you feel good and that makes you dance better. Because everyone has a different body type, you may question from time to time, how can I show off my best features and hide my flaws? I’m going to tell you girls and ladies about a few things to help you do just that. Let’s say you have shapely arms, you can showcase them simply by wearing a sleeveless gown. And of course to hide your arms, wear long sleeves. If you have a beautiful back, you can wear an open or revealing back design. A tummy can be hidden under a drape or a scarf. And a larger bottom can be balanced by having an elaborate design drawing the eye upward. To show off your legs, it’s not always a short skirt that will do it. You can add fringe or ruffles, adding movement without hiding your legs. To cover your legs, you can add a short skirt to the skirt base and then add fringe or ruffles on top of the short skirt. Also remember that tan or beige colored shoes elongated the line of the legs. If you want to accentuate your bottom, add a scarf that covers only your bottom. To hide it, you can choose a scarf that covers your back and your bottom. If you want to hide your belly, add a drape to the dress to cover the belly or choose a scarf to add detail and draw attention away from it. For a muffin top or love handles, choose a top in the back of the dress that is not too low and not too wide. Also a scarf or a drape effect can help make you look slimmer. If you have a large bust, it’s best not to wear skinny straps. Choose a top front that does not have a very low cut. Choose a top back that is not completely open. For a small bust, you can choose any design. You may also choose to use bra cups that add size to your dress.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and found a few useful hints when putting together your next costume. It takes every effort you’ve got to win competitions and we want you to be prepared in every way. I would like to give a special “thank you” to our founder, Marilyn Fordney, for her inspiration and expertise in helping me write this series on Costumes and the History of Ballroom Dance too.

I hope each and every one of you dazzle on the dance floor,

Thought Of The Week:

Dance is a conversation between body and soul



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