Costuming for any type of group: you want everyone proportionally looking the same. Group costuming is easy when all your dancers are very similar in size and shape. It can get trickier when you have a wide range of sizes and shapes. Specific design details, such as an appliqué, or even the lengths of a skirt can be problematic, if you get these details wrong. If all performers have been successfully dressed in correctly proportioned costumes, you will not zero in on any one person, but you will see the group as a whole, no matter the diversity of their sizes or shapes. This is the look you are striving for!
When working with your desired costume professional, an important question to ask: Is this professional proficient with a wide range of sizes? If you have a diverse size range, you need to consider the answer to this question.
At Satin Stitches, we always strive for seeing the group, not the individuals. And I’ve always stated that no matter your costume (inexpensive or expensive), if your costume FITS well, you will look great. Working with junior high groups is probably the most problematic, as the sizes of these kids can vary from child sizes to very large adult sizes. Another group that includes a wide array of sizes, is adult women’s singing groups, such as Sweet Adelines. We have had the opportunity to costume both junior high kids, and adult groups. Adult formation ballroom dance groups can also include a diverse range of sizes and body shapes.
We have developed our CAD patterns to proportionally fit our Adult Sizes to extend to our Adult Size 6X. We have also developed our Child Sizes that start on the largest end, with sizing that is similar to our Adult Sizes, but with a less hour-glass figure, down to a toddler size. An understanding of how the body changes as a child grows and when an adult gets older is important to consider with sizing. Working with ALL sizes and shapes for four decades, we have more expertise in this area than most other custom professionals.
Additionally, when we are contracted to create a group costume, we create a prototype that is critiqued by our client and we also provide generic sizing samples to help the group order sizes that fit well. At this time, we assess the fit so that the group will get a really good, proportional fit. Group members’ shapes, as well as sizes are considered, sometimes with altering the pattern sizing to accommodate a wider range of shapes, in addition to sizes. For adult women, the bust size and the hour-glass versus top or bottom heavy or lack of waistline definition is very important to getting correct fit on a costume.
Lengths of skirts need to be proportional with the locations on the leg. If it is a really short skirt – then consider how the skirt covers the butt and where it hits on the thighs. If the skirt should finish, ideally around the knees – either slightly above or below, then the length from the waist to the knee is really important. If a skirt is ‘tea length’ then everyone’s skirt should be hitting the same location on their lower calves and above the ankle (we generally reference the ankle, or specific distance from the floor). And of course if skirts are to finish ‘floor length’ or similar, the measurements should reference the heights of each dancer, down to the floor, with the dancer in their heeled dance shoes that they will be wearing.
Location of an empire seamline also needs to be placed correctly. There is nothing as distracting as seeing an empire seamline hit way too high on ample-bosomed ladies. I personally haven’t had that problem, but I have a sister, a cousin and a daughter that struggle with getting a good fit in this area. At Satin Stitches, we alter our CAD patterns to accommodate D, DD and even larger bustlines, when needed. We also have the expertise for working with all different types of shapes that may not fit into the ‘norm’.
So in summary, ‘does one size does fit all?’ A resounding NO!!! One of the keys for fabulous group costuming is to pay attention to the details and make sure the details of your costumes expand or contract for fitting larger and smaller, plus shorter and taller dancers. And additionally, achieving great fit, is very important. Any costume looks much better, if it fits right, than any expensive costume that fits poorly
This article was submitted in the October 2018 issue of Minnesota Dancer
© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.