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Keeping Your Costumes Fresh

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Thu, Feb 02, 2017 @ 14:02 PM

Deborah Nelson Owner and Head Designed at Satin Stitches

Dance costumes ARE NOT street clothes, and should not be laundered after every performance. Many stage costumes are NEVER laundered, but they are simply aired out and perfumed! Here are some tips:

Many glitzy fabrics used today in performance costumes, in fact – ARE NOT launderable. “Magic Dot” or “Night Reflections” can easily lose their dots during cleaning. Hologram and foil surface-prints on spandex (such as ‘Mystique’®) cannot be dry-cleaned. Water washing can also diminish the integrity of these fabrics. These fabrics were not meant to last for many years. They were meant to look good for a short time. Perspiration and deodorants also affect these fabrics, by loosening the dots, discoloring the prints, or by eliminating the holographic effects. Hair spray and body oils can ruin these fabrics (if they directly get onto the sequins), as well as any sequins on your costume – so beware of these products when using them when you are wearing your costume. Feathers cannot be dry cleaned. They would need to be removed from your costume.

NEVER store your costumes when they are dirty. Any stains or spotting will clean much easier when done immediately, rather than six months later. Blood and other stains may NOT come out if they sit in the garment for any length of time. Check your costume for any stains before you store it.

Body fluids and sweat that accumulate in the crotch area of the costume should be hand rinsed out, after every performance and be allowed to dry thoroughly before storing.

Always wear panties with a dance costume – even with tights. Just choose a style with no visible panty line.

Never store your costumes when they are damp with perspiration. Let them air dry before closing up any storage bag. You may hang the bag around the costume, but don’t zip it up, if you think your costume is still damp.

Body odor will remain in performance costumes. Air out your costumes after every use, before putting them away.

One idea is to store your costumes with a dryer sheet to mask the odors. But be aware that the dryer sheet will add a fragrance. If you are sensitive to fragrances, do not do this.

Always try spot cleaning before trying to clean your performance costumes. To avoid the “ring” around a spot that you have tried to spot clean – “feather” around the spot with a dry towel to draw out the water (or dry cleaning fluid) so that a distinct line will not form.

If your costume manufacturer provides a test swatch, test your laundering procedure first, on this swatch. Satin Stitches always provides this test “care” swatch. If this is not an option, test a section of a costume that will not show.

NEVER soak a costume. If you determine that hand washing will work – dip the costume, use a mild detergent (dish soap or hand soap will work) and gently rinse. The longer something is immersed in water, the greater the risk for problems.

Dry cleaning will not take out body odors. Deodorizing will – but it is simply masking the body odor with a fragrance. Dry cleaners will now only add this if asked, as many customers have allergic reactions to the fragrance. Only consider using a professional dry cleaner if you are sure that they can handle specialty performance costumes. (Maybe only 5% of all dry cleaning establishments CAN.)

Any spot cleaning or deodorizing may now be an extra cost at dry cleaners, and must be asked for ahead of time. Spots must be pointed out when you bring in the garments.

I highly recommend a product named Fresh Again® - it is a spray product that states that it “safely eliminates odor on fabrics”. I have personally tested it on ALL types of performance fabrics and trims, with great results. If you are interested in this product, we sell it in our Web Store and I have an article that tells how to use it. 

Wear underarm dress shields or absorbent pads that will be removed. Do not sew dress shields into costumes – the odor stays in the dress shields, and therefore in the costume. Whenever possible, wear a tight cotton T-shirt under your performance costume to soak up perspiration. We suggest a product called Hollywood Garment Shields(“pretty underarm protection”), which we sell in our Online Store and can also be found in notions departments of fabric stores.

We always want to keep our clothing fresh, and dance/performance costumes are no exception, even though they are generally much harder to take care of. Common sense and pro-active care will keep your costumes much fresher and help them last much longer

(Submitted for February 2017 issue of Minnesota Dancer)

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

Tags: Costume Care Tips, Costume Fabric Tips

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