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Working With Appliques

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Wed, Jan 02, 2019 @ 13:01 PM


Using appliques for decorating ballroom dance costumes has always been a major design option. And currently, appliques are also being used on all other types of dance costumes and evening apparel. Appliques are very much on trend, and should be for years, as all trimming trends last until the next trimming trend comes along!

It’s been a couple of decades since we last saw so many appliques featured on dance costumes. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, at Satin Stitches, we created many costumes with appliqués for our High School dance teams, all around the country. Many suppliers carried a huge variety of designs. We even had the option to custom order appliques - which really increased our design options. Then the trend subsided and it became very difficult to find even a minimum of applique styles.

There are many different types of appliques – rhinestone, beaded, sequined, and embroidered (with and without added beads and/or sequins). Fortunately once again, appliques are much easier to source. And with our global economy, if they aren’t available domestically, wait a few weeks and you can import them.

There are many things to consider when you are deciding what appliques to use on your costumes.  Appliques DO NOT STRETCH…so you need to take this into account when placing and sewing the appliques into place. When deciding what appliques to use, you will also need to be able to visualize how a particular applique can be used – is it blocky or fluid? Can you put many appliques together to achieve the look you are going for?

Embroidered appliques can be machine sewn but most others need to be hand sewn. Embroidered appliques can be cut apart without worry of fraying. Beaded, sequined and rhinestone appliques MAY be cut apart, but you will need to use glue to keep them from fraying.

If you are going to decorate one costume – you can experiment with placing your appliques on your costume. Appliques do not come in a variety of sizes for each design. If you are going to use appliques on matching group costumes, because of this, you will need to figure out how to create your design to look proportional and ‘all the same’ even though you may be working with a wide variety of dancers’ sizes.

Appliques are not manufactured in the United States. They are manufactured overseas and you must take this into consideration, especially when you are using many appliques on a group. You may have a source that is in the US, but they purchase from elsewhere. Make sure you order all the appliques that you will need for your costumes at once, because if your supplier runs out, it could be a long wait to have more shipped in. And depending on quality control, they may or may not match what you have.

Other things to consider:

  • Are your appliques enhancing your dance costume design? (Or will they look ‘stuck on’, and not part of a cohesive design?)
  • Will the placement of your appliques hinder the stretch and movement needed for your dance performance? (Make sure there is enough area NOT covered by the appliques that WILL allow for stretch and movement.)
  • Realize if you will need pairs (mirror image) of appliques, or if you need all the same asymmetrical shape. (Can you purchase either of these options?)
  • Can you sew the appliques on, allowing for the stretch of the fabric under the appliques? (Place them either when the costume is on the dancer or on a dress form – and stretched, not flat and un-stretched.)
  • Some appliques can be very fragile. If your beaded or sequined applique is fragile, hand sew (‘tack’) them in place in a sturdy area of the applique, NOT the edge that might rip out, if there is any stress on it.
  • Develop a plan where you sew the appliques on well enough so that they won’t come un-stitched during your dance performance. (We use sturdy thread that is doubled and secured with very secure knots.
  • Consider if you are going to need to launder your costumes – and know ahead of time if the appliques will need to be removed, or if they will withstand the type of laundering you will wish to use.
  • Realize that beaded and/or sequined appliques could snag other fabrics – be able to deal with that. Wisely consider if dance movements will cause undue snagging.

Enjoy the option of using all different types of appliques while appliques are still ‘en vogue’, but as with anything, don’t over design or overuse this decoration. You want to maintain a classy look to your dance costume, not a cluttered look.

This article was submitted in the January 2019 issue of Minnesota Dancer

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

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Tags: Custom Performance Costumes, Minnesota Dancer Magazine


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