Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 1

Today's tip is going to be the first of a few I post about competitive costume considerations for ladies.  Our dresses are expensive, and it hurts to put the time and effort into acquiring a costume only to find that it doesn't quite work for you.  In this series, I'll detail some of the considerations I think through when I'm cooking up a dress design or evaluating if a dress is working for me.

Of course, in fashion every rule and guideline can be broken to great effect under the right circumstances.  These are my guidelines only, and should be taken as that.

I take a fundamental principle that a competition dress has two purposes.  First, it should make you look good.  Good is obviously a vague word that can be replaced with the adjective of your choice: sexy, elegant, flirtatious, regal, etc.  Whatever you want to look like, your dress should contribute positively to that goal.  Second, your dress should attract attention.  I do not necessarily mean it should be outrageous by breaking conventions, though of course what is outrageous is also subjective.  I mean that if your dress makes you blend into the background, it doesn't matter how flattering it is--it's not working for you as a competition dress.

Imagine a competition dance floor with fifteen couples dancing in the style of your choice.  As you scan across the floor, what is going to attract your eye?  I can think of three basic things that catch attention:

1. Color Contrast
2. Movement Contrast
3. Light Contrast

Color contrast comes from the visual impact of having the dress contrasting with something else on the dance floor; I'll talk about this in greater detail in my next post.  Movement contrast can come from your dancing, of course; if you're moving much more than your fellow competitors,  you will get looked at.  But you can also get movement from costume elements such as floats, drapes, fringe, or ruffles.  These move independently of the dancer and can make a movement look larger or last longer than the movement itself would alone.  Finally, light contrast comes primarily from rhinestones and sequins, things on costumes that flash and blink as you move.

Most dance costumes play on two or three of these elements, though some dancers (typically people assured of making the final and the luxury of multiple costumes) will stick with just one.  I think it's worthwhile to think about how your dress is doing on all three, since there is a monetary consideration to these elements.  Color contrast is the cheapest to pull off, while light contrast can get very expensive very fast if you're dependent on crystals for the flash.

These might seem like completely foreign considerations, as nobody I know evaluates their daily attire in this way.  Remember that we are talking about costumes, not clothes.  At least consider things that normally lie outside your comfort zone until you have a good reason for discarding them, particularly when it comes to color.  I would still stick with the same color family that normally flatters you; if you don't know which color family that is, the simplest explanation I've found for figuring it out is here.  Just keep in mind, even if you never wear yellow or orange or lime green, those colors might be good for your dance costume.  I'll talk more about how I evaluate colors for dance costume suitableness next week.

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