If you haven’t been taking part in dance shows or stage performances before, choosing your first ballroom competition dress might turn to be a challenging task. Most probably you are not ready to spend a fortune on your first competition costume, you are also not sure what color or design to choose, you might not even know where to buy a dress for dance competitions at all.

Still, this is your first big show and you want to look great and be the queen of the ball. This article addresses some of the basic questions most of the beginners bump into when looking for their dance costumes for competition.

Question N1. Do I need a dance costume?

Some couples decide not to bother with their dance costumes for competition at all. I’ve noticed people wearing their disco party clothes or ballroom competition dresses comparisontheir evening gowns at ballroom competition. To some extent it makes sense of course. You might not even be sure if you are going to continue dancing at all. Why buy a competition ballroom dress to leave it dust in your closet afterwards? However, I don’t think it’s really a good option. Mainly for the reason you are unlikely to feel comfortable wearing these clothes. Party and evening dresses are often made of a non-stretchy fabric that is not suited for ballroom dancing.

The ballroom competition costumes are specifically designed to show off the ballroom movements and positions to best advantage. Long full skirts in smooth/standard dances accentuate the gliding movements of the dancer, while fringed or ripped skirts show off the hip work and fast movements in Latin. The regular evening dress simply wouldn’t make the same impression. The second reason you should consider your looks seriously is that despite everything the judges and teachers say – ballroom dancing is quite a subjective sport. It’s important for you to stand out on the dance floor. And a good ballroom costume is one of the factors that will help you do so. So my position here is: if you are a beginning dancer who doesn’t want to spend large sums on dance costumes for competitions – go for professional look at the cheapest cost you can find. You may either rent a costume, or order a simple undecorated dress from a tailor – neither will require a fortune.

Question N.2. Where do I find dance costumes for competition?

Start your quest for ballroom competition costume from your dancing teacher. He is the person who usually knows good tailors or ballroom dance shops in your area and who can recommend you one. He also knows the actual level of the approaching competition and can advice you what kind of gown would be appropriate to wear for it. The dress code may vary from competition to competition – you want to be neither overly dressed nor look too modest compared to other couples.

Ballroom dress seamstress

Having your competition dress custom made is probably the best option, given that you managed to find a good ballroom dress maker . A custom made dress is guaranteed to fit your figure, compliment your face complexion and be adjusted to your budget. By having your dress made – you get much more flexibility in choosing fabric, colors, and ballroom dress design. You will also get some professional advice from the seamstresses who designed many ballroom dresses before and therefore know what ballroom dress design would suit you best. A good ballroom dress tailor will always recommend you how to save on a dress if you have a limited budget. For instance the tailor may design the dress in a way so he could add more decorations or extra floats/feathers/skirts later on. The only possible disadvantage of a custom-made gown is that it takes some time before it is ready.

Pre-owned gowns

If you need a ballroom competition dress quickly you may consider buying a second hand gown from other dancers. The pre-owned gowns come in all shapes and sizes, priced extremely differently. From cheap “home-made” gowns, to brand new “designer sponsored” dresses, which were only worn once and are now offered for sale with a discount. Sponsored gowns are usually beautiful, heavily stoned, but imho quite expensive for a beginner. Still, the range of gowns is very big so you are likely to find something appropriate for your level and your pocket. When buying a pre-worn gown be sure to ask how many times this dress was worn, require a closer picture of the dress and possibly agree on a return in case the dress turns to be not quite as “brand new” as promised.

Ballroom dress rentals

Renting a ballroom dancing gown is another option you might consider. If you are not sure about what design or color would suit you best, don’t have more than 200 USD to spend and still want a nice professional competition dress – consider a dress rental. The rentals would usually let you choose between two or three dresses, too. And some would even let you buy the dress, if you loved it too much to give it back. To be continued… Part II of the article “how to choose your first ballroom competition costume” will feature recommendations on how to choose the color of a ballroom dress, your image as a dancing couple, and some handy advice on how to check if the dress really fits.

By Maria Chitul

Ballroom Sparkle Studio

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or would like to discuss it, feel free to contact me at [email protected] I’d be glad to hear from you!

Please do not copy this article without my authorization. Email me if you’d like to publish it somewhere else.