I have heard lots of discussions on whether to wear a bra or not to wear a bra, with all types of dance costumes. Support is needed for the bustline, so obviously a bra or bust cups/pads need to be incorporated into adult sized costumes, unless the garment is cut so that the dancer can wear their own undergarments without having the straps or any other part of their bra showing.
Some dancers who enjoy scanty costumes, literally use a real bra or bustier and just stone the heck out of it, and assume no one will notice that it is underwear. Can this work? Apparently in this day and age – yes. Do I personally think this is a wise/modest choice? –No. Thanks to Madonna in the 1980’s we have all become de-sensitized to underwear used as outer-wear. But that still doesn’t make it the ‘proper’ choice.
Other options? The best option is to cover your bra or bustier with fabric, and then decorate it. This will provide the best supportive costume and it will be ’proper’. I’m sure that some dancers may disagree, but this is my opinion.
If you are considering how to create support in a purchased costume or a costume that you are custom creating (doing it yourself or hiring a professional) then there are several options for you.
The best starting point is to have the bust area of a costume fit you properly, which means that it contours to your bustline shape and hugs your bosom. If this part of your costume has been, or is going to be created in a non-stretch fabric, then it should be supportive. An example of this, would be a prom-style dress that is manufactured in a woven satin or taffeta, with extra inner layers and/or boning to maintain the shape.
Sometimes these types of dresses do NOT fit your bustline correctly. If this is the case, then you can either have the bodice altered (which is difficult with boning) or you can fill in the space with premade ‘cups’ or pads. Adding ‘chicken cutlets’, ‘pierogies’ or ‘biscuits’ (all nicknames for polyester fiber-filled bust pads of varying sizes and shapes that serve the purpose of filling in the shaped bustline area to make it full, and also to help create cleavage, can be used. Of course you need to make sure that these ‘cups’ are sewn or pinned in so that they don’t pop out during a rigorous dance move!
There are many shapes and sizes of bust pads, and the only way to see what will work best for your specific garment, is to have a few different styles in hand, and experiment as to which feels and looks the best. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for these. We have several styles and sizes of these that we insert into the bustline area of a costume. They increase the support and can also help to create the bustline shaping and cleavage that you desire.
If your costume is made out of stretchy spandex of one type or another, then you will probably need something to create additional support. The most minimal of costume construction would be one thin layer of spandex. If tight enough, it could offer enough support for a smaller bustline, but probably not for an ‘adult’ medium-sized bustline, and of course not enough for a larger bustline (except of course if your bustline is perky because of implants). Even augmented bustlines need support, as it is not good for breasts to be bouncing around. Please take the time to read my December 12, 2008 titled: “To Wear a Bra or NOT to Wear a Bra” for more specific information.
Obviously, at least a double layer of spandex is much better, and a bustline in a costume that is has seaming or darts, so that it is shaped to form a cup that is tightly fitting, is your best option. Adding additional bust pads will also be a good plan.
But for the best, most natural and best re-creation of your preferred cleavage look, I have been recommending using your favorite bra with some creative adaptions, for years. Doesn’t it make sense to use something that you are already using and liking (hopefully) how you look? Bras can be altered and adjusted to fit inside all types of open back, or nearly open backed garments. It is difficult to cut through under wires, but other than this, bras and corsets can be trimmed down to fit a neckline and the backs and/or straps can be cut away.
The laws of physics will dictate what you can do, to substitute for cut away backs or straps. Generally areas can be filled in with stretch mesh or decorative (or my personal least favorite: utilitarian elastic straps) can be strategically placed, instead of the original bra straps.
We always have our clients bring along a favorite bra style of theirs, to incorporate into their costumes. This way the exact shaping of the bosom and exact cleavage created is not a surprise or a ‘make due’, but exactly the results that the dancer is hoping for and expecting. You can incorporate this tip into your costumes, as well!
So, always experiment with how to best create bustline support in your dance costume. You want to be comfortable with the feel and look of your results!
(Submitted for July 2016 issue of Minnesota Dancer)
© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.