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Avoiding cringe-worthy costumes!

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Wed, Nov 01, 2017 @ 15:11 PM

What is a cringe-worthy dance costume? It’s a dance costume that makes the viewer or audience wince and think to themselves “oh my, that doesn’t flatter the dancer” or “ooh, I wouldn’t have worn that” or your eyebrows raise dramatically and you think “really?”

As a professional fashion/costume designer (for my company, Satin Stitches Ltd) I am ALWAYS critiquing costumes and even street apparel.  It just goes with the profession that I ‘size up’ what everyone wears, all the time! “Once a fashion designer, always a fashion designer!”

With my “Dancing with the Stars: Costume Critique” I’m able to share my dance costume thoughts. Of course I understand that we all have our personal preferences for colors, fabrics and looks. I’ll be the first to uphold everyone’s right to love or hate certain styles. And if you follow my blogs, you should already know many of my likes and dislikes.

Minnesota-Dancer-Blog-Satin-Stitches.jpgSome of the specific dance costume details that I really dislike and yes, cringe at, when I view them include:

  1. Color combinations: I personally adhere to color principles that I describe in my ‘Wild World of Color’ Blog. Most upsetting is when pastels are combined with jewel tones, causing the pastel colors to just fade away, leaving the jewel tones visible. This combination becomes totally unbalanced.
  2. Fabric combinations: Dance costumes often need to combine woven/non-stretch fabrics with knitted/stretch fabrics. If the stretch/non-stretch factors aren’t taken into account, the result can be badly fitting costumes or puckering seams – neither a welcome sight.
  3. Unsuitable styles for body shapes and for age groups: Refer to my blog titled “Age Appropriate Costumes”. Children should NOT be wearing adult themed or sophisticated or sensual costumes. Adults should not be wearing juvenile costumes. A ‘woman of age’ should not be reliving her Shirley Temple days, nor wear child pageant style costumes that she never had the opportunity to wear when she was young. Teen or 20-something clubbing dresses should not be worn by great-grandmas (…maybe very young grandmas?).
  4. Bad design – especially ‘over design’: Dancers should resist the urge to design their own costumes without the input of a professional designer or at least someone with the restraint to not include ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ in a design. Yes, less CAN be more, creating sophisticated costumes, not amateur-hour costumes.
  5. Bad design – incorporating drapes that camouflages the body and too-long fringe that when dancing – it camouflages the body, making the wearer look very wide.
  6. Bad fit: I continue to preach this concept – even the most unattractive or boring costume will look so much better if it fits properly. Conversely, the most spectacular costume can look really bad if it is ill fitting. All your audience will be looking at, is how badly you look when your costume is too tight, too short, too loose or too big. Invest in proper tailoring or order a size that fits you.
  7. Unsuitable costume styles for a particular style of dance: Of course there are always exceptions to the ‘rules’, but certain silhouettes and fabrics lend themselves to certain styles of dance. When a heavy, boxy costume is worn by someone doing a light, floaty routine, there is a disconnect. And vice versa. Dancers need to be aware of the style generally required for a particular dance presentation.
  8. Inappropriate use of nude fabrics on a costume: This is one of the most annoying (and cringe-worthy) categories. I have written several articles and blogs on this. NEVER have a nude fabric located in an area on the body where if it REALLY WAS NUDE – it would be totally scandalous and the dancer would be hauled off to jail. Do NOT put nude fabric over the woman’s ‘naughty bits’ as one of my favorite DWTS Pro Dancers would say!
  9. The lazy use of elastic banding on costumes that could have been a decorative detail: Plain or nude-toned elastic IS UGLY. Avoid it at all costs. If you need a utilitarian strap to help a costume not fall off, OK, use it, but first consider incorporating the strap into the design – not just a ‘stuck on’ strap. You can cover it with matching fabric and of course you can add a few rhinestones (or many) to accent this strap that is now a featured part of your dance costume.
  10. Adding a strap to anchor a front bust coverage piece that just ‘ends’ at the side of the body in a point. Ugh!

These are all my personal dislikes and cringe-worthy costume details that should be avoided to create more flattering dance costumes for all.

(Submitted for November 2017 issue of Minnesota Dancer)

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

Tags: Costume Design Tips, Costume Budgeting Tips, Minnesota Dancer Magazine


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