Friday, May 29, 2015

Ballroom tip: Keep a Sewing Kit

Since my lovely new ballgown is currently ready for action, let's talk about a few things that keep those costumes ready to dance.  Regardless of your style or gender, your competition clothes are going to get damaged after being danced in.  Seams pop, skirts and floats get stepped on, buttons pull off, and decorations come loose.  Hence you should keep a small sewing kit with your costumes.

You can see above the sewing supplies I bring to a dance competition.  The needles, thread, and scissors are for dealing with small rips or popped stitches.  The safety pins are for holding things together when you're about to walk out on the floor, or in a pinch for my partner's number.  The black thread is for my husband, since we pack these things together.  This advice applies to men as weell.  Buttons on the fronts of tailsuits are unfortunately right about where the lady, in her stoned and decorated dress, makes contact with her partner; they need to be re-enforced or they will disappear, probably right before you dance a final.

You should also check your costume for damage regularly, and correct things as soon as possible.  I can attest that I have sat backstage at a competition, in costume, with needle and thread repairing a hole in a seam.  After all the money and effort that goes into our costumes, it is worth it to protect the investment.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Finished: Jade Anna Dress

It has been a hectic few weeks with travelling and train strikes and a presentation and birthdays and a competition.  I have multiple finished things to share, but let's cut to the main event, shall we?

Guys, the Jade Anna dress is done.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Signs Your Shoes Are Dead

Our dance shoes.  They are our greatest support and our most basic need in dancing, and yet eventually we throw them out for something shiny and new.

How long a pair of shoes lasts depends heavily on how much you dance, what brand your shoes are, and to a lesser extent what kind of figures you dance.  On average, I find myself buying new shoes annually, though if accidents don't happen and I break my shoes in well, I can probably stretch that to 15-16 months.  That is with Supadance shoes and spending on average 10 hours a week wearing them.  I would kill shoes from brands like Dansport or Capezio a lot faster.  They aren't bad shoes--I actually quite like my Dansport pairs.  The cost of them being less expensive, however, is that they are less resilient.

So how do you know when to go looking for a new pair?  Competition shoes can stay competition shoes until they are too ugly to be on the floor.  Depending on how well you maintain them, that can be a very long time.  Even satin shoes can be washed to remove the worst spots, though they won't be as shiny afterwards.  My practice pair of shoes actually determines when I go shoe-shopping; when the practice shoes die, the competition shoes are demoted to practice shoes, and I buy a new pair for competitions.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ballroom Tip: What color shoes should I get?

This week we have two ballroom tips, to make up for my inability to post last week.  After discussing the characteristics of ladies' competition shoes, it is clear that there are dozens of options available.  Heel height and strap style depend on the shape of the foot, and a dancer should try on shoes until she finds a combination that works for her feet.  I can't give any guidance there.  About shoe color, however, I can offer a few general guidelines.

The first question to ask yourself is, do I care if people look at my feet?  If the answer is "No," feel free to select the pair of shoes that look gorgeous in a color you love and have fun with them.  This option is not available to competitive dancers.  If you are registering for competitions, you must care about your feet.  You are paying for judges to evaluate your footwork, and so need your footwear to present your feet as nicely as possible.

For most dancers, "as nicely as possible" means "inoffensively."  You don't want to attract attention to your feet.  You do want to have the longest leg-line possible.  This is why tan and nude shoes are the universal footwear of competitive ladies.  They blend in with the leg, more or less, and they blend in with the floor to make your legs look long and your footwork look inconspicuous.  In the dance world, tan shoes go with everything.

Black shoes do not.  Wearing black shoes will visually break your leg-line, making you look short and making your feet look big.  You don't want this.  The only exception to this is if you are wearing black fishnets and a dress that looks good with black fishnets (this, for example).  Then tan shoes would break the appearance of your leg-line, and black shoes make sense.  This is also why men's shoes are almost universally black--they wear black pants all the time.

These things being said, there is a long tradition of wearing shoes that call attention to your feet, because the dancer is confident in her footwork, wants to call attention as much as possible, and is willing to acquire shoes matched to specific costumes (latin examples, ballroom examples).  Stoning shoes is common, and there is a long tradition of dying shoes to match costumes, particularly among standard dancers.  Personally, my footwork isn't that great, and shoes are expensive enough that buying pairs for specific costumes doesn't make sense.  I stick with tan.

Ballroom Tip: Ladies' Competition Shoes

As promised to kick off a short tour of ladies' competition shoes, here are my newest pair, shiny, clean, new, and ready for my last competition of the season.

These are ballroom, standard, or court shoes, depending on who you ask.  They enclose the foot because they are meant for heel-lead heavy dances like waltz and foxtrot.  Heel height is customizable in most brands, though heights around 2.5 inches are common.  Shoes are typically made from satin, though leather is also available; the color is typically flesh or nude, though white and black are also available.  Since these shoes are fabric, they can be dyed to match a costume.

Several styles of straps and toes are available.  The trick is to find a combination that stays on your foot comfortably.  My shoes are Supdance 1012s because of they have the integrated strap across the foot and the rounded toe.  I feel my feet are wider than average across the balls, so I like the strap because it keeps my heel from popping out of the shoe (a problem for me with strapless varieties).  I also like the rounded toe because then I don't feel like I have an extra several inches of shoe to deal with in lines like the throwaway-oversway.  These are personal considerations, and every dancer will have her own reasons for her particular style of choice.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Apologies to Jacqueline

This is Jacqueline.

Jacqueline is a Brother 1034D four-thread serger, and a hugely valuable tool in making ballroom costumes.  A serger isn't necessary for sewing clothes of any kind and there are several tasks which sergers cannot do (buttonholes, zippers . . .), but they excel at sewing stretch fabrics, sewing light fabrics, and sewing quickly.  Since sewing stretch and light fabrics on a deadline is the majority of my sewing, I find Jacqueline invaluable.