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Costuming Tips: Flatter Your Women

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Mon, Jun 03, 2013 @ 00:06 AM

How do you create Show Choir Costumes that are flattering for all your female singers?

When choosing or designing a costume for a group of diverse body sizes and shapes, you must consider what the design will look like on a person with the least “perfect shape”. Most likely you will have all combinations of very tall or very short along with thin or Rubenesque shapes. You will have perfectly proportioned shapes and more top-heavy or bottom-heavy shapes.

Many directors choose designs for their show choir by imagining the costume (as seen on a perfect model on a catalog page) on perfectly shaped and proportioned singers. But you should be imagining how a costume looks on all your choir members, especially those with imperfect shapes.


The most flattering costume for ANYONE is a costume that fits. The best designs look bad, when they fit badly. The worst designs look better when they fit properly.  So make sure that you are able to order a variety of relevant sizes or have a booster parent or someone with your group that can successfully tailor your costumes to fit all choir members properly.

Focal Points

One of the giveaways that a non-professional designed a dress or costume is that there are too many ‘focal points’ or just too many things going on, in the costume. Have you heard of the saying ‘Everything but the kitchen sink’?

Design features on a flattering and fashionable costume should have visual flow across and down the garment. Your eye should start at a pleasing feature, then move down and across the body to secondary pleasing features. Your eye shouldn’t jump from one feature to the next, to the next, in a totally random fashion. You want some ‘pop’…but not pop, pop, pop everywhere!

Generally the main focal point on a costume should be somewhere near the upper bodice, to draw attention to the performer’s face. Where should this focal point NOT draw your eye? NOT to the waist and not to the crotch! No crotch emphasis for obvious modesty reasons. No waist emphasis, as generally, women are not totally thrilled about their waistlines, but mostly because you want people to see the singer – and that means her face.

Secondary focal points can draw your attention to parts of the costume that create movement, such as the hemline of a garment. Visually connect features of your costume with a diagonal pattern. Your eye will naturally drift from one feature to another, starting at the top and working down.

One of the biggest mistakes in amateur design, is to slap on a belt that stops the visual flow of a garment, and even worse, creates a large emphasis on large waists, tummies or hips. Belts call attention to the location where they are placed. For a secondary focal point, belts can work, but be careful not to block your visual flow by stopping it with a large or color-contrasting belt.

Color Coordination

Besides focal points, the colors of a costume are important for creating a flattering look for all. Choose colors that work with all skin tones and hair colors. A good rule of thumb would be to use black and white, and bright jewel tones (red, blue, green, purple).

The least successful colors on a stage would be pastels (baby blue, baby pink, and any color that is too close to a skin tone etc.), which generally wash out. Personally, my least favorite colors are yellow, gold, orange, and pea green because not everyone can wear these colors successfully. All of these colors can be used, but you need to be careful.

©Deborah J. Nelson/ Head Designer and President of Satin Stitches Ltd.

(As published in Summer 2013 Sing, Sing, Sing Magazine)

Tags: Costume Design Tips, Costume Budgeting Tips


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