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What makes an UGLY costume?

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 @ 16:06 PM

Main photoI am generally a very positive person, and I grew up with “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. I was shy as a child and therefore never had a problem with this!

I have posted many hundreds of blogs where I have critiqued costumes. Costumes from the TV show “Dancing with the Stars”, costumes from many a Red Carpet and costumes from various dance team competitions. I have always tried to stay positive, but sometimes it would be very educational for EVERYONE, if I called attention to an ugly detail on a costume or if an entire costume had no redeeming qualities. I am always striving for more beautiful costumes in the world. The world would be a better place if no one had to wear ugly costumes!

What makes a beautiful costume? As I have previously mentioned, sometimes it is simply seeing a costume that correctly fits the wearer. A not-so-attractive costume will look ‘not so bad’ if it fits well, and vice versa, a beautiful costume can look not-so-great, if it fits poorly.

So yes, I’m always checking the fit of costumes when I see them. That is part of my process of critiquing a costume design. Then I move on to other details.

After fit, some very important attributions of a beautiful costume include:

  • Suitability (age and style) of the costume to the wearer and the performance.
  • Pleasing color palette (this can be different for different sensibilities). My favorite color combinations will not match everyone else.
  • Intense-matching color combinations (pastel with pastel and jewel tones with jewel tones for example).
  • Interesting combination of textures used in the fabrics and trim design.
  • ‘Just the right amount’ of embellishment. (Again, this is very subjective.)
  • Fabulous visual flow of the details of a costume – accenting all the ‘right’ parts of the wearer.
  • A costume that looks great from every angle – not just the front.
  • All the ‘correct’ styling that suits the performance and the dancer properly.
  • Well-constructed, not limp looking details.
  • For groups, a costume that is flattering for ALL bodies, no matter their size or proportion.

These are all positive attributes. For this blog, I’m going to pick on costumes and uniforms worn by the dance teams and cheer squads from the NFL, NBA and similar professional sports teams for my examples.

PLEASE NOTE: there are many design companies that create beautiful costumes (besides Satin Stitches) for these teams. For the most part, they fit well, are designed to be flattering and pleasing to the eye. But sometimes we ALL FAIL, and the results are less than satisfactory. And the result is UGLY costumes!

Well, as I mentioned, I usually don’t like to dwell on the negative, but here goes….

Here are some photos with details that I consider UGLY for one reason or another. Do you agree?

  • Anything that looks like it was designed by an amateur
  • Pastels teamed with bright colors so that the pastel sections wash out
  • Badly placed and over abundant rhinestoning
  • Badly proportioned details and color blocking
  • Everything but the kitchen sink in a design
  • Overdone sublimation
  • Things that gap and move, and not in a nice way
  • Undue attention to the crotch area
  • Ill-fitting costumes
  • Costumes that have ‘nude’ areas that embarrass the viewer

Here is what I find ugly on these costumes:

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1. Not a pretty look coordinated with the choreography used

2. Amateur-looking horizontal designs – ‘everything but the kitchen sink’

3. Excessive use of sublimation to cause distraction of the design lines of the costume
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4. Bending the color blocking around the bosom in order to incorporate the team name is unattractive and unflattering 5. Ill-fitting in the skirt/tummy/hip area 6. The top is loose and causes unattractive gapping
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7. Wide horizontal lines create a wide waist look 8. The skirt is open to the waistband and is revealing an unattractive look – is it another skirt over a short? Plus the skirt doesn’t lay nice and flat 9. The teaming of a pastel sublimation over one breast that will not look attractive from a distance
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10. Wide stripes of colors create a very unflattering look, making the tummy area look really wide 12. Too many rhinestone bands – it would be more flattering simplified 13. This ripped jersey look fits too snugly and allows for a sequined crotch shot
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14. The gapping at the neckline could be avoided with better construction and incorporating elastic 15. Way too many design details with color blocking 16. Sublimation that is dusty/pastel paired with a bright jewel tone – the look isn’t cohesive

**See many of my previously posted blogs for specifics and tips on avoiding UGLY costume details:

Avoiding Cringe-Worthy Costumes! Good and Bad of 2017 Dancing with the Stars Costumes
Best and Worst DWTS Costumes How to Make a Perfectly Good Dance Costume Design Go Bad!
Ten ‘Secret’ Undergarment/Foundation Alterations To Make Your Costumes And Gowns Fit Better!


The Scoop on NUDE: How to be TASTEFULLY Nude

Have YOU Ever Created an UGLY Costume? We have!

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Costume Critiques from the MSHSL

Professional vs. Amateur Costume Design


© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

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Tags: Costume Design Tips, Costume Fit & Size Tips


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