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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Price of Ballroom Dresses and What You Get for the Money

If you’re in the market for your first ballroom or latin dress, chances are you’re experiencing a bit confusing and/or sticker shock. Depending on how you searched, you're either seeing underwhelming and surprisingly cheap dresses, super expensive dresses, or a mix of both. The first time I looked at dresses I used whatever magical search terms resulted in seeing dresses costing upwards of $4000. As you might expect, my reaction was something along the lines of "how the fuck am I supposed to afford that?!?" However, I soon learned that other options are available, and since that time even more options have come onto the market. 

Once you start searching, you'll find that ballroom costumes range anywhere from $150USD to over $7000USD. This can be confusing if you're new to the sport, and you're probably wondering "why that dress costs $7500, but this dress only costs $150?" or even more simply "how much should a ballroom/latin dress cost?" When you first get started, finding answers to those questions can be damn difficult! I'm here to walk you though the basics of what you get for your money in ballroomland. 

So what can you expect at each price range?

Dresses in this price range are low quality and there isn't a great deal of variance between a $150 dress and a $500 dress; the price primarily depends on where you buy the dress. Dresses in this price range are mass-produced, which means both the design quality and the craftsmanship are poor. Although vendors in this price range advertise custom-made dresses, the reality is that you select a pre-designed dress, which is then tailored to your color and size specifications. It is custom in that they’re making a dress to your exact measurements and your color choices, however the dress is not designed just for you. Despite color differences, most of these dresses look exactly the same on the dance floor, which you'll likely see YOUR dress on someone else at the competition.

Further, there are issues with fabric and stone quality. To keep costs down, sellers in this price range use the lowest-quality fabric available. I have a couple dresses from this price range (they were gifted to me, I did not buy them) and the fabric is a different weight than what you get with higher-end dresses. Sometimes the fabric is thin and more prone to ripping; other times it's thick and hot AF. More importantly, the lyrcra/spandex is often a looser weave, making makes it more prone to pilling and shortening the life of your dress. Similarly, the elastics that keep the dress attached to your body are weak and start to denigrate after a couple of wears. 

Decorations in this price range are similarly low quality. Fringe is typically thin and already fraying upon arrival. Likewise, feather decorations are made from low-cost chicken feathers rather than ostrich, and they typically aren’t attached well. All of this means more shedding, detaching, and shorter life.

Finally, the stones on these dresses aren’t crystal rhinestones at all! They’re usually plastic! Depending on the seller, the stones will be either poured glass or plastic. They're often not uniform and they don't give the same sparkle that you get from Swarovski, Preciosa, etc.

This price range is tougher to describe, because there are only 1-2 dressmakers that fit this category. There is also a lot of variance between what you get for $500 and what you get for $900+. However, you can generally expect better craftsmanship across the board.

Dresses between $500-800USD are typically still pre-designed, but you can usually make more customizations and the designs are more thoughtful. These still typically use cheaper fabrics throughout, but you'll see a marked improvement in the quality of sheer fabrics and feathers. 

As you get over the $800 point, you'll start seeing higher-end fabrics like those produced by Chrisanne-Clover and DSI. However, even at this price point, ask rather than assuming they used a name-brand fabric. The benefits to these fabrics are breathability, weight, and durability. Similarly, the fabrics hang and move better that lower-cost alternatives. 

Unfortunately, dressmakers in this price bracket still tend to use Korean stones as their go-to for decorating. However, you can pay to up grade to Preciosa, which will push you into the $900-$1100 range. 

Although I have had great luck with one seller in this price range (who has sadly disappeared), I recommend staying away from these dresses. In this price range, it is too easy to overpay for low quality. 

In general, once you cross over the $1100-ish threshold, you start getting into the top-quality designer dresses. While it is a lot of money, these dresses are well worth your investment! You'll be able to feel the quality in every part of the dress and during the process of ordering it. Plus, every dress in this price point is a one-of-a-kind design, which means you'll never bump into another woman in your dress. For me, that alone is worth the price.

Dresses from the top designers (Doré, Elle, Designs to Shine, Chrisanne-Clover, DSI, MALY, VESA, etc.) are always made with high-end fabrics from the likes of Chrisanne-Clover and DSI. Likewise, top-end dresses are decorated exclusively with Swarovski crystals, which are considered the industry standard. Further, they'll only use top-of-the-line decorations, which increases the longevity of your dress. Additionally, you won't have to worry about paying for extra alternations, as they'll ensure the dress fits you perfectly. 

In this category, the driving factors that determine price are the designer and the decorations. Dresses with pricing and/or labor intensive decorations, such as feathers or dense stoning, are priced higher. Finally, the demand for the designer and his/her geographic location influence the price of dresses. In general, US-based designers tend to be pricer than European designers, despite having comparable quality. 

My Thoughts:
In my opinion, it’s worth saving up for a high-end dress, because the more budget-friendly options don’t tend to hold up and you’re likely to be disappointed by the quality and fit. That being said, you don’t have to pay top dollar for a high-end dress, as there are numerous ways to get a great dress while working with a budget. You can check out my post on getting a spectacular dress at a wallet-friendly price here.

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