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40 Years of Ballroom Dance Costuming

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Tue, Feb 05, 2019 @ 13:02 PM

Pam Lav DressOver the years, I have worked with many local Twin Cities ballroom dancers (both amateur and professional), including Pam and Joe Krzyzaniak, Bea and Bill Beddor, Amy and Scott Anderson and Jennifer and Robert Foster. I have worked with many more, but I admit to recalling more about their costumes and gowns, rather than recalling their names.

My very first ballroom dance costume client was Pam Krzyzaniak. Pam exposed me to the world of ballroom, back when I was just getting started in the custom costuming world in the Twin Cities, about 40 years ago.

After graduating with a BFA in Fashion Design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and learning ‘bridge apparel’ manufacturing procedures by working as a patternmaker/assistant designer/cutting department supervisor (and specifically working directly with our sample-maker and our designer at Daj, Inc.) on ‘Fashion Avenue’ in downtown Minneapolis for over 4 years, I ‘hung out my shingle’ in Anoka MN to create custom gowns and costumes.

After initially developing a custom line of square dance apparel for women and men that was sold at a shop in Richfield MN (in addition to various shops around the country), creating custom Polka dancing togs for that same shop, I created custom bridal gowns, evening gowns, pageant gowns and dance costumes. The focus of Satin Stitches then transformed to dance team costumes. Our dance team costumes have since been supplemented with show choir costumes and pro and semi-pro cheerleader/dance team costumes.

Pam and Joe took me under their wings and invited me to attend a ballroom dance or two, exposed me to ballroom competitions and even had me cheer them on, as they performed for a local spot on the national reality TV show: “Dance Fever” in the 1980’s! Over the years, I have attended many ballroom competitions (including setting up our Satin Stitches display at a few). I love to watch all types of dance performances, including ballroom!

I learned what ‘fish-lining’ was and then how to create it…finding out what the best ‘test weight’ was for the plastic filament (my secret!) and then where to buy this fishline, in a world before the Internet!

I learned that when the client requests snaps at the crotch of a costume, it is better to substitute heavy-duty hooks (to not ever hear the horror of ‘pop, pop, pop’ of disengaging snaps!)

Along with creating multiple styles of performance costuming, I learned that current street/runway styles influenced all performance costuming. I learned that as with all fashion, style trends come and go, and then come back again. My vast collection of costume history books shows the big fashion cycles and the smaller cycles.

I learned where to find various feather boas and how to sew them on. I learned about embellishments that became trendy and then went out of fashion, only to reappear a decade or so later.

I learned the best way to quickly and securely attach rhinestones to all types of costumes (and have several blogs to share my expertise). I learned about the failings of trying to launder costume fabrics and trims. I have spent much time sharing all that I have learned over the years, to hopefully help others who wear dance/performance costumes to take care of their costumes properly.

I learned how to manage my small, niche work force of talented individuals that design, sketch, make CAD patterns, cut, sew, embellish, ship and coordinate our custom costume production. I have learned how to share my expertise on costume design and to help all my employees to share their personal expertise with their coworkers.

I have learned that today’s shopper buys many items off the Internet, and have helped to create our own Satin Stitches store at shop.satinstitches.com where you can order customizable styles at a lower price than the higher price of full custom.

And I have learned that I have truly loved my Satin Stitches adventure, meeting all the thousands of custom clients – both in person, and through the Internet with social media. I have learned that I still cherish personal connections to all of our Satin Stitches clients, all over the country and Canada and still feel proud as any Mama, to see our Satin Stitches costumes in performance on stages, fields and Online! They are all my babies!

And I am excited to reconnect with Pam in order to adjust some of her old, dear social dancing costumes from decades past!

This article was submitted in the January 2019 issue of Minnesota Dancer

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

costume fresh ebook

Tags: Custom Performance Costumes, Ballroom Dancing, Minnesota Dancer Magazine

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