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Posted by Deborah Nelson on Wed, Jun 01, 2016 @ 16:06 PM

Let’s talk about TRENDS! According to online dictionaries, a trend is what’s popular at a certain point in time. It reflects whatever seems to be going on in the world at any given time with fashion. Fashion is meant to change. Trends may last a long time, or a very short time, but always, an old trend will be replaced with a new trend. Fads are generally considered to be trends that are very short-lived.

In the dance world, trends are great to follow (if you aren’t already leading them) and can keep your wardrobe looking fresh and can possibly keep you looking great for several seasons. If you succumb to fads, however, you may find that you will need to replace your dance wardrobe much quicker.

Everyone can watch and determine the trends in their competitive dance neighborhood by simply being observant at dance showcases and competitions. Be aware of the fact that, even with the fast paced photo sharing of today’s internet, trends in one geographic local could still be different in another. Just because everyone at your dance studio is wearing neon colored fringe, for example, doesn’t mean that ‘everyone’ across the country or the world is keen on neon colored fringe.

If you’re in need of stretching your dance costume wardrobe dollars as far as possible, you should consider the trends that you see at your studio, your competitive region and across the country. In the ballroom world, it also depends on your level of competitive dancing.  With ‘less is more’ being more appropriate for beginners and nearly ‘anything goes’ for the elite professional or amateur dancers.

In thinking about trends, I’m recalling some very unfortunate ones that have happened in the past. Remember that just because something is trendy, this doesn’t automatically confirm that this is the best choice for you. Didn’t our Moms always tell us “just because everyone is jumping off the bridge, doesn’t mean you should”, right?

I am a firm believer in observing the trends at any given season, but then considering your own persona, body shape, pocketbook, as well as your personal likes and dislikes of certain colors, textures and silhouettes. Unless you have unlimited funds, you should strive for buying or making costumes that will remain ‘in style’ for as long as possible, in order to get the most for your money. This is important even if you only plan to wear your costume for one season. If you plan to sell your costume to someone else, in order to fund new costumes for your closet, your costume will resell much easier and for more money, if it remains ‘in style’.

And, do consider a ‘classic’ look. Classics are given the name for a reason – clothing that is deemed ‘classic’ doesn’t generally follow trends, but rather, they transcend them to remain stylish for many years or seasons. And, with classics, you can update and follow trends minimally, with your accessories or the addition of embellishment.

Remember that a trend may not be universal – it may just be in your immediate circle of dancers. Keep up on what an expanded circle of dancers, choreographers and professional competitors wear. If you like a particular design feature, incorporate it into your newest look – without blatantly copying it. You want your influence to be flattered, not annoyed with you for ‘steeling’ their unique look.

Also, remember that nearly every fashion design element has been used or seen somewhere else. A truly ‘new’ design detail is very rare. All you need to do is look at the history of dance costumes (or even regular fashion, for that matter), to see the cycles of silhouettes, colors and textures resurface time and time again. Styles are influenced by historical costumes from centuries and decades ago. The ‘new’ may have been ‘new’ back in the 1920’s or 1970’s or maybe in the 1880’s! That is one of the things I find so fascinating with historical costuming. I love to see how particular ‘trends’ have come and gone, and come back again – generally with just a little twist.

Be aware that some trends may be trends, but are not good trends. One recent example: in my opinion is back a few years when EVERY ballroom costume had a drape or many drapes that attached to the dancer’s wrists or back or wherever. To me, you could no longer see the dancer’s silhouette – with so much excessive and redundant pieces of fabric tacked onto the dresses. I am so glad that this trend finally is over.

Another unfortunate trend has been for extremely low-cut skirts, shorts, pants, or briefs. When you are embarrassed to watch, the costumes are cut too low. Of course it goes without saying that only extremely well-toned bodies (no matter what size) could even think of wearing this style of costume. Moving forward, for those who love the low-rise, there are costumes with the same low-rise cut, but then paired with a belt at the wearer’s natural waistline. I’m seeing less of this design detail, and I’m happy with that. After many decades, the natural waistline has found a renewed home with dance costumes. Thank goodness!

Where should you look for finding possible trends (besides your own dance neighborhood)? Watch for trends in ready-to-wear and in with all the red carpet reporting at awards shows. Many red carpet looks are derived from the big name fashion designers’ most recent runway shows. Stars may see a particular look and they (or their stylist) request an exact gown, or they may have one made that is a takeoff of a runway garment. Reporters for these shows generally add ‘color’ commentary that include discussions on the latest trends in silhouettes, colors and fabrics.

Reading or looking at various online or printed magazines that feature celebrities, will showcase new trends and how they are being worn. These high fashion trends influence the dance costume world. Another area to look for inspiration for being ahead of or at least with the beginnings of fashion trends, would be to take note of ‘trend setting’ period movies and/or stage productions. I saw many articles about the new trend for 1970’s influenced styles because of the movie “American Hustle” a couple of years ago, which featured updated 1970’s styling.

Other examples of films influencing fashion would be “Barbarella” futuristic 1960’s fashions, “Saturday Night Fever” with disco outfits in 1977, and who can forget the 1977 “Annie Hall” menswear on women? “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961 gave us the little black dress for evening events, even now. “Desperately Seeking Susan” showcased very quirky 1980’s outfits, and more recently “The Great Gatsby” gave us another reason to love 1920’s silhouettes.

So, keeping your dance costumes ‘trendy’ is a good thing, but only if you can afford to buy new when you feel the need to keep very current on new trends. Otherwise, you will never go wrong with classic looks!

(Submitted for June 2014 issue of Minnesota Dancer)

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

Tags: Quality in Costumes, Costume Design Tips, Minnesota Dancer Magazine


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