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We’ve done a post on how to choose the right dance costume for your body shape, but today it’s time to find out whether the right dress can also make your dancing look better.

Whatever your body shape, there are lots of options out there for you to choose from but it’s important to choose a style of dress that helps you disguise any mistakes/distortions in your dancing. And if there’s something you do exceptionally well, shouldn’t your dance dress highlight it?

Here’s how.

foot & Leg actions

Nobody can say they had perfect foot& leg actions from the word go and mistakes are completely normal. Some dancers might have difficulties in using the right foot actions or their actions are correct but the coordination is lacking. If you’re a Standard dancer STAY AWAY from short skirts! Apart from highlighting every single mistake you make, a skirt that has your feet and half your shins sticking out is just ugly, yuck! Your skirt should end just above your ankle. 

In Latin, avoid colourful & decorated shoes- adjudicators’ eyes will be drawn to your feet and we’ll see the mistakes even clearer. Opt for neutral skin coloured shoes instead.

Leg actions in Latin are quite difficult to master- extensions of knees& ankles, usage of the right length of stride, etc. Avoid tight mini skirts even though you may look great in them when standing still, any mistakes will be even more visible! Opt instead for a skirt that moves, has an asymetrical hem and is made from materials that create movement such as floaty mesh or fringe. The movement of your dress will help disguise any faults in your coordination.

Asymetrical long skirt will help disguise mistakes
Standard skirt should end at the ankle

Frame

Standard dancers are known for their perfect frames and shoulder lines, but not everyone is born with the perfectly proportioned shoulders and arms. Male dancers have their tailsuits that, when executed correctly, can help their frame look cleaner- make sure that you invest in a properly tailored one. They’re pricey, but it’s way better to buy one great tailsuit than having to spend the money after for additional adjustement.

As far as Ladies go- if your shoulder line is not the best, try disguising it by wearing darker colour on shoulders and arms- avoid sleaveless dresses or opt for decorations that are carefully placed to disguise the distortion. 

Volume is an important part of a Standard dancing performance and your dress can really do wonders here. Voluminous decorations placed from the elbow down on your dress will make the frame look huge. Think crynoline fans, cock feathers or boas. Additional floaty materials like georgette, satin chiffon or satin sashes will flow behind you and increase the impact on the floor.

Movement

Your dress can really help here- whether we’re talking about travelling accross the floor or body/hip actions, your dress can be your best friend.

A full skirt in standard is still the best choice if you want to enhance your swing actions and flight accross the floor. Here we’re not talking about stiff, cake-like skirts that were fashionable a few years ago. Your skirt should be soft and floaty, so it moves with and around you at every step. The effect a single-layered skirt gives will never be the same as if you opt for a few layers of chiffon or organza.

Hip and body actions in Latin dances are very important and a cleverly designed dress can help you emulate the best dancers even if your level is maybe not as high yet. Use voluminous ruffles to create volume or use a fringe skirt- instant hip actions! Man’s shirts that have material passing over the hips can have a similar effect.

 

Take a look at these Standard dancers-

how are they using their dress designs to help their dancing?

How about the Latin finalists-

what choices are they making?

Proportions

We won’t go deep into body proportions of a single dancer as we’re preparing a series of posts that will focus on how to choose the right dress for every body shape. Instead, what we’re interested in are couple proportions. Are you balanced in terms of height, weight and anthropometrics?  

HEIGHT DIFFERENCE obviously this can be helped up to a point with heel heights, but the right dress will help hide it. If the Lady is much shorter, opt for vertical lines like V lines around the neck, vertical and diagonal decorations, and one-tone dresses. Wearing a longer style in Latin will also help the Lady look taller. Stay away from very full skirts in both disciplines as wide designs tend to make you look shorter. The Man can’t really do much here apart from opting for a neutral Latin shirt that won’t make you look too overbearing.

If the Lady is slightly too tall then a fuller Standard skirt will make the couple more balanced- stay away from longline designs no matter how fabulous they make you look- it’s all about looking right when actually dancing with your partner. Off-shoulder designs tend to make you look shorter as do dresses where the top and bottom half are of different colors.

BODY TYPE DIFFERENCE– this is a delicate subject but it’s necessary that we discuss it. Dancers are people like everyone else and “perfection” doesn’t exist as everyone is perfect in their own way- as long as you’re healthy, feel good in your skin, and are able to dance, your body shape is fine. But there are ways that can make both partners feel more or less attractive and comfortable when performing- and the right dress design is here to help again. The couple should look balanced on the floor and here are some ideas:

If one partner is a bit heavier, choose a darker color palette; don’t be afraid of black, navy, and jewel tones as they’ll look fabulous when decorated! You can still use fringes/beads and ruffles but placed strategically. A slimmer lady with a heavier partner should opt for lighter, voluminous designs as that will make the difference less obvious.

be careful

Choosing a new dance dress is very exciting and if you choose it carefully it will make you look great and may just hide imperfections in your dancing. However, there are a few important aspects to consider as well:

WEIGHT– some dresses are HEAVY. We said that a full skirt is sometimes a great idea, but make sure that it’s stll light and easy to dance in. A very heavy Latin skirt can even throw you out of balance and make it difficult to turn. A heavy Standard skirt will not float and just stick out heavily and the Man will have problems stepping forward as his legs will get blocked by all the layers of ruffels. Decorations on arms? Beautiful, but can be heavy so choose carefully. Just imagine dancing five rounds with killos of weight on each arm!

CAN YOU BREATHE? – feathers. We love using feathers to decorate our designs and it’s easy to get carried away. Feathers on the skirt? Ok. Around hips, wrists, or arms? Also OK. Feathers around the neckline? Maybe think about it carefully. If your neckline is off-shoulder it may be ok to use all types of feathers, but if not stay away from ostrich boas as they shed during movement. This is a problem as little feather pieces will find their way to your nose and mouth and may obstruct your breathing (as we’ve seen happen numerous times). Try cock feathers instead or consider different types of decorations.

WILL IT LAST? – we’ve done a post about how to take care of your dress but there are some materials that are very delicate and no matter what you do will get ruined quickly. If you’re planning to use your dress for several season, feathers are best avoided unless detachable and not touching your skin. Choose your lace carefully as there are types that get ruined sooner- a touch test is always a great idea, make sure you can feel the weight of the lace before choosing it. Metal-shine lycra will not last as these materials are not sweat-resistant. In short, a beautiful dress will be beautiful longer if you choose the materials carefully

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