Ballroom dance sport is all about graceful moves, perfect physical condition and immaculate technique. But it’s also an artistic sport where the aesthetic factor is very important- dancers spend months planning their competition looks for the most important events of the season and the right dress is very important.
However, no matter how carefully designed and beautifully tailored your costume is, there is one thing that can make or break your look and that is how you take care of your dance dress. It sounds very obvious, but during our long career we’ve seen it all- dirty dresses, costumes with missing stones, wrinkled skirts and stained collars and we’ve quite possibly been guilty of not always looking immaculate…but we tried, so here are some tips on how to take care of your dance costumes so you can really shine on the floor!
keep it clean
Dance costumes are notoriously easy to get dirty- we sweat and we wear face and body makeup, a deadly combination. Unless you’re dancing in juvenile age group your dress probably has crystals, pearls, lace and ribbons sewn all over and it probably isn’t all the same colour, texture and delicacy.
Although some dance costume designers tell you differently here’s our number 1 tip: NEVER PUT YOUR DANCE COSTUME IN THE WASHING MACHINE! Your dress is delicate- shiny decorations like crystals, pearls and mirrors will get scratched and glue will loose its grip, resulting in loss of shine and applications. In general materials like georgette, organza and lycra are ok to machine wash, but your fringes, lace, beads etc.are not.
If you want to have your dress looking good for longer handwash it in lukewarm water with delicate detergent. We’ll do separate posts on how to take care of different types of materials but for now just keep the following three tips in mind:
– If possible, remove feathers before washing. If that’s not possible or feathers are sewn in places where they get dirty wash it without any strong rubbing and IMMEDIATELY use a blow dryer to dry the feathers
– Even when handwashing your dress use a colour catcher. These conveniently catch any bleeding colour from different-coloured materials and prevent it from settling over your dress
– Wash your dress as soon as possible after every competition. The longer sweat, makeup and tanning products stay on the fabric the more difficult it will be to clean your dress
If you have a light colour costume please make sure you wash your hands after applying makeup before you touch it! Also- when dancing in light-coloured costumes avoid instant tanners or make sure you’re using one that doesn’t transfer- this goes for men as well! One of our pet peeves is seeing Latin dancers starting the dance in a crisp white shirt and ending it looking like they’ve been dragged through puddles of mud.
Re-apply the shine
Sparkles and glittery dresses, ah the beauty! True, but only if you make sure to re-apply any crystals, pearls or mirrors that may have fallen off during previous events.
Shiny decorations are attached with special crystal glues (we like the ones by Chrisanne Clover and Wika) so they won’t fall off after the first dance. But sweat, heat and rubbing will take its toll on your dress and some decorations will come loose. Please don’t bring your dress back to your dress maker every single time- it’ll cost too much! Buy a bottle of glue and a small quantity of crystals your dress has and repair it alone, there’s really nothing to it if you’re consistent about it.
store it right
Once it’s clean and ready for your next competition it’s important to store your dress in a way that won’t damage it. Make sure you use the right sort/size of a hanger- if it’s too wide it may leave your sleeves stretched and stay away from wiry hangers you get at dry-cleaning stores as it’s easy to rip your costumes with those!
Sometimes it may well be better to fold your costume rather than hanging it- some materials like mesh and crepe will lose their shape if hanged for a long time, especially if your dance costume is heavy.
Keep your dress in a dress cover so dust doesn’t settle on it and to prevent any accidental tears or staining.
wrinkles don't belong on your dress
This is especially important for ballroom dresses- nothing worse than seeing a beautiful sparkly dress with a wrinkled skirt, eeew!
Don’t be afraid to iron or steam your dress, the materials used are generally quite heat/resistant, especially organza. Use a cloth over any satins or georgettes and don’t iron velvet. Steamers work well on all materials, and we would advise you to invest in a portable hand-held steamer that you can always take with you.
And finally- make sure you repair any tears and cut away any loose threads in your costume. Some materials like velvet are very easy to repair due to their slightly fluffy texture- even a less experienced seamstress will be able to do a good job. If you get a tear in your dress that is too difficult to repair on your own take it back to your dress maker and they’ll help you out.
Loose threads and any fringes that start to unravel are easy to take care of, just carry small sharp scissors with you and you’ll be fine. And a slightly weird but useful tip- if any satin sashes or georgette start unravelling just pass the piece quickly over a burning lighter. This will melt the fibres and fix the edge, so it stays put. Just make sure you practice on a random piece of fabric first and don’t burn the house down