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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why It's Important to Have a REAL Ballroom Costume

So my last couple of posts focused on how to get a ballroom dress on a budget, so I wanted to take some time to discuss why it’s important to purchase a dress made specifically for ballroom dancing, even if it’s for your very first performance.

Something I see frequently among beginners is a tendency to use cocktail and prom dresses instead of actual ballroom dresses for their earliest competitions and in-studio shows. I find this case to be especially common among entry-level collegiate dancers, though it’s a pretty frequently occurrence in studios as well. I think the reason for this is a combination of sticker shock when they see the prices of some ballroom dresses and the general lack of knowledge concerning why it’s important to have a real ballroom costume. Before I get any further, I want to go ahead and solve the price issue for those of you who have not read my last two posts; don’t settle for a prom dress or cocktail dress because you think that’s the best you can afford, order a dress from one of the sites I mentioned in my last two posts.

Now onto why it’s important to have a dress designed specifically for ballroom dancing:

Reason 1:
The material. This is probably the most important reason you need a dress designed specifically for ballroom dancing. Dance dresses are made of materials that you don’t frequently see in everyday consumer clothes, and this makes a big difference in how the dress fits and moves. Typically, ballroom costumes are constructed using lycra (or some other spandex-like stretch material) for the bodysuit and bodice, and then use a movement-accentuating material in the skirt. For those of you who don’t know, lycra is a spandex-type material made specifically to conform to your body and provide massive amounts of stretch, which means you can move more freely. Off-the-rack dresses (i.e. prom dresses) tend to be made of stiffer materials and/or materials that are prone to ripping when you stretch too far. Additionally, by having a dress made with a stretchy bodice the dress shouldn’t move out of place while you dance, meaning there’s a significantly lower risk of wardrobe malfunctions.

Reason 2:
Ballroom dresses are built over a bodysuit structure, which prevents various wardrobe malfunctions such as showing your skanky thong to everyone when you spin (though I hope if you don’t have a bodysuit you’d opt for granny panties under your dress, but I’ve seen plenty of people going commando and flashing the entire audience, so one can never assume). Aside from just preventing you from giving the audience a great money shot, the body suit also holds a built-in bra (or at least it should!) which helps keep the girls in place better than wearing a bra under your costume or forgoing a bra all together. When ordering your ballroom dress you want to confirm with the seller/dressmaker that the dress will have a bodysuit with built-in cups and lined panties. Also, I would personally forgo the snaps in the crotch of the bodysuit, because while they make it easier to use the restroom, they also frequently come unsnapped while you’re dancing.

Reason 3:
The skirts are, or should be, designed to accentuate the movement of the dance. Ballroom dresses tend to be cut differently than off-the-rack dresses, typically tight through the bodice and hip then becoming looser at the upper-to-mid-thigh. The reason for this is to accentuate the movements of the dance. To be honest, every person I’ve seen dance in prom/cocktail dresses loses a lot of their dance because of the way the dress moves; prom/cocktail/evening dresses are meant to look decent standing still or doing very small, simple dance moves. Also, the skirts on ballroom dresses, like the bodice, tend to be made of different materials than consumer clothing; popular fabrics include georgette, fringe, and netting and tulle to create volume, among a variety of others.

Reason 4:
Decoration. The decoration on ballroom dresses is drastically different from average consumer dresses. First of all, the quality of the stones should be much higher; most prom and cocktail dresses use plastic rhinestones while ballroom dresses should be made using either Czech Preciosa or Swarovski crystal (Korean stones are OK if you’re a very beginner and can’t afford to upgrade, but I really recommend trying to stretch your budget to get Preciosa). Aside from having overall better quality decoration, the patterns of decoration are vastly different. Prom and cocktail dresses are made to look good up close, so their decorations tend to be smaller and more sparse, whereas ballroom dresses need to look good from a distance, therefore having larger and more widespread decoration. If you spend sometime comparing consumer prom, cocktail, and evening dresses to ballroom dresses you’ll start to see the extreme differences in the adornment styles.

Reason 5:
If all of the above reasons aren’t enough to convince you to purchase a real ballroom gown, keep in mind that everyone is going to know if you’re wearing an off-the-rack department store dress instead of a real ballroom costume, even if you’ve spent time and money doing alterations. In my opinion, even if you purchase one of the least expensive ballroom dresses made with Korean stones, you’re going to look leaps and bounds better than if you’re wearing an off-the-rack consumer dress. Prom/cocktail/evening dresses just look strange on the dance floor, and the movement restrictions are obvious, even in dresses which have been altered to increase mobility. Plus, you'll probably spend more on a prom/cocktail/evening dress than you would on a budget-friendly ballroom dress, especially once you include the price of alterations. 

These reasons above, as well as many reasons not mentioned in this post, should be enough to convince you to go ahead and buy a real ballroom costume instead of settling for a dress made for normal wear. Again, don’t let price deter you from purchasing a real ballroom costume – you can pick up Latin dresses for as little as $145 (sometimes less), if you know where to purchase. Like I said, even if you’re wearing one of the most budget-friendly ballroom dresses you’re going to look better than if you’re wearing a dress that wasn’t designed for dancing. If you need help, check out this post and this post for guidance on buying budget ballroom dresses. Once you’ve read these posts spend some time researching on your own, so that you can make an educated decision on what you feel is the best decision for you. And if you need any additional advice, shoot me an email and I'll try to help you out! 


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