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Tips for Great Colors & Textures for your Ballroom Costumes & Gowns

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Tue, May 01, 2012 @ 16:05 PM


What makes a ballroom costume or gown ‘visually appropriate’?

Are there ‘perfect’ colors for your ballroom costumes and gowns? And what is a ‘texture’?

There is a philosophy of color, there are color wheels, and over the years, there have been companies based on working with your ‘color palette’. What does this all mean, and how should it affect what color you choose for your next ballroom costume?

Color is an incredible thing. Color can create a mood for your dance performance. Colors have meanings. There is a psychology to color. Did you know that years ago, red was a much stronger color and was assigned to boys, while blue was considered a more feminine color? This has reversed in today’s color world. This is just one example of how colors take on meaning.

I learned a tremendous amount about the history of our relationship to color, how color influenced our moods and how we feel in the presence of various colors, when I researched and wrote a paper on this subject. I wrote my paper for my senior year at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where I graduated with a BFA degree in Fashion Design, years ago!

Of course there are fashionable colors every season. But where do these colors come from? In design class, we learn that there are Pantone colors, the official colors for everything. Pantone is a company that works with documenting colors. All companies working with colors refer to these Pantone colors, and ‘new’ colors are featured every year or season.

Colors for performance. Colors evoke feelings. There are sad colors. There are happy colors. There are soothing colors. There are bright colors and subtle colors. How do you pick what colors you should use on a costume? If you’re serious about learning more about colors, pick up an artist’s color wheel from an art supplies store. These wheels can really come in handy with learning more about color.

Your colors should reflect the mood of your performance. Most importantly, colors should not ‘fight’ your mood. An example would be if you were trying to evoke a happy, light and airy feel to your dance routine, heavy dark colors should not be used. If you were presenting an edgy, sharp performance, pastels such as pink and aqua would be your last choices.

After eliminating the definitely wrong colors, then consider other issues such as your coloring. This is where your color ‘palette’ comes in. Certain colors flatter different skin tones and hair colors. If you are considering dying your hair, keep this in mind. What generally looks good on a brunette

may not look as good on a blonde or redhead. Are you a ‘summer’ or a ‘winter’? Hopefully, in your street apparel, you’ve become aware of what colors flatter your coloring the best. Keep these colors in mind, when choosing your next dance costume color.

What makes a flattering color? Here are some basic color concepts: Dark colors make you look smaller, light colors make you look bigger. Shiny colors make you look bigger, while matte colors make you look smaller. Bright colors, also referred to as jewel tones, are known as ‘stage colors’.

The reason? They always look great on stage! Jewel colors include the colors of rubies, sapphires and emeralds! Pastel colors tend to wash out, while colors with some intensity to them, do not. BUT, a good rule to follow is to NOT ALWAYS FOLLOW THE RULES! The style and fit of a costume can counteract any perception that the colors may make you look bigger. So, don’t rule out colors because you think they will make you look big.

Using different shades of the same color is referred to a monochromatic color scheme. If you’re looking to coordinate two colors, remember to refer to your color wheel. Then the trick is to find fabrics that match the color combinations that you see (and like) on your wheel.

A very important rule to follow, is to keep all your colors at the same INTENSITY. Hue is another name for color. A tint is a lighter shade of a color, or the color plus white.A color tone is the color plus gray. A shade is the color plus black. Be very careful in mixing a tint with a tone or a shade.

Not to say that it can’t be done well, but generally the results don’t work.

Besides color, texture is important in choosing your fabrics. Textures include the shiny and matte, along with prints and various finishes such as holograms, glitters, velvets and so on. Adding embellishments, such as rhinestones, also creates a texture. You also need to be careful with

mixing your textures. There are no particular rules here. It has a lot to do with your artistic sensibilities. When it looks right, it probably is right.

Colors are incredible and never dull, (pardon the pun). Experiment with unique combinations, but take a discerning look, with good lighting to see if you are really getting the look you are going for! And always be aware of how different colors may look, from ‘performance distance’ versus up close.

One last issue with colors: If you’re part of a group, where everyone is in matching costumes, someone is tasked with the color decision. Even if the color isn’t your favorite, or you perceive it to not be your best color, smile and put on your best face (with make-up, hair and jewelry, of course) and realize you are part of a whole.

If you’re costuming yourself for a solo, your instructor can provide suggestions, but don’t invest in a costume with a color that you truly dislike. It’s just not fair to yourself. Yes, keep an open mind, and consider colors that you may not gravitate to, but if there’s a particular color you really don’t like - for whatever reason, avoid it. Spend your money on costumes that you will love!

If you would like to read more about color, please check out my blog titled: The Wonderful Wide World of Color –Design Tips from Satin Stitches! posted in my Archived Blogs.

 ©Deborah J. Nelson/ Head Designer and President of Satin Stitches Ltd.
(as published in Minnesota Dancing Times May 2012)

Tags: Minnesota Dancer Magazine


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