Category Archives: Competitive Ballroom Dancing

Distraction From Historical Sewing…

I mentioned a few weeks ago, in my post about my new silk pockets, that I had spent the Nemo blizzard weekend working on the replacement of my failed berry ballroom dancing dress. I haven’t picked it up since that weekend, but I don’t need it for another few weeks, and I got far enough along to take pictures to show that I actually made progress!

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The new “grape” dress!

This dress has been in the works since September, to replace the failed dress that was started about a year ago. My original vision for this dress was rather different than how it turned out. The skirt didn’t change much, but the bodice did. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the changes are for the better and I like how this turned out!

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Bodice close up.

Originally, I bought gold rhinestones to put on this dress, but since buying them I have decided to use them for a future ballroom dress, incorporating some new knowledge I gained that I couldn’t put into use on this dress. That left me stuck without rhinestones for this dress and not wanting to spend more money. What to do? Years ago I had spent a pretty significant amount of money and time rhinestoning a lace overlay for a dress that was eventually ditched as my knowledge improved, but I kept the lace with all those rhinestones. It was time to finally put that lace to use!

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Back bodice.

The skirt of the dress is charmeuse, as are the bodice drapes. The rest of the bodice is the recycled rhinestoned lace, and under that is polyester stretch. It’s shaped to my body with darts in addition to being stretchy. The skirt is triple layer, with the two under layers being organza. All three skirt layers have nylon horsehair around them to add some weight and movement as well as poof.

The great thing is that I didn’t have to glue rhinestones on this dress! The down side was that I had to hand sew the already rhinestoned lace to the spandex by hand, with a fair amount of piecing to make it fit the shape of the new bodice. Not hard, but time consuming. In the end, you can’t tell the lace is pieced at all! And, you can’t see my invisible zipper up the back, yay!

I’ve got a few more things to sew on the back of the bodice, and I need to sew some bra cups in. Then the only other thing remaining is to make floats: the chiffon pieces that hang off of my arms. I’ve got the fabric (also left over from the berry ballroom dress), so I just need to make them. That’s totally do-able by the end of March, even with my 1864 ball gown happening that month as well.

Ballroom dresses have their own style, so if you want to see my inspirations and lots of other lovely dresses to get a feel for what the style is, you can visit my pinterest page: New Standard Dress… Eek!

“Berry” Ballroom Dress Update

I’ve been plugging away at my new Standard Ballroom Dance dress. I’ve made progress, though not quite as quickly as I had hoped, as the dress was intended to be worn in about 9 days!!! Once the dress is sewn,  I still have the job of individually gluing on about 3,000 (yes, that’s three thousand!) rhinestones.  So… in the effort to preserve my sanity and focus on other projects, I have decided to be a smart stress-reducer and put this dress on hold until summer so that I can have a new dress for the fall competition season.

Also, I am glad to report that my old yellow dress does not fit quite as tightly as I remembered it fitting just a few weeks ago! I wore it this past weekend and, while tight, it didn’t seem to be uncomfortably or unflatteringly so. Also, I was told that the velcro accident instigated by my partner is not visible from the dance floor, which is an encouraging thought. I do have quite a few neglected snap and hook and eye repairs to do on the dress, though… And I really should do those in the next 9 days, so that I’m not distracted on the dance floor…

Regardless of the sewing future of this dress, I’ll share pictures of my progress now, so you can appreciate the delicious berry colors I decided on.

My progress on the dress so far.

Disclaimer: this dress form does no favors for the dress. It fits me far better than the form, and it helps that I have arms to keep the straps on! Most of the weird bumps in the bodice are from the built in bodysuit that is bunched under the dress: the leg openings just don’t work on a dress form!

But anyway, progress: the bodice has been sewn and fit multiple times, the skirt godets have been sewn in, and there is a very invisible zipper sewn in center back (you can only see the zipper pull because it is pink instead of purple-ish)! Still to do before the rhinestones: serge all the skirt seams and hems (which I actually did after I took the pictures), finish the hems with plastic wire (which I did… it was disastrous looking! I hated it and it was so frustrating! so then I took it all out… I think I might try horsehair), finish the top edge of the bodice, sew the straps on… Once the rhinestones are on I still need to make floats (the usually chiffon pieces that hang off of the arms) and a neck decoration of some sort. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but now I’ve got time to plan ahead!

The back of the dress. Those straps blend in with the dress form so well I can hardly see them!

I keep mentioning hems (plural). The skirt is actually four layers: chiffon and organza treated as one, charmeuse, and then organza. So when I say finish seams, or hem layers, that’s because there are three separate layers in the skirt that need attention! Each godet is a full quarter circle, which means that each hem is a full circle and a half. The under layers actually do show through the chiffon, depending on how the light hits the dress (see the picture, below, with a flash on). You can also see the way the chiffon has stretched out more than the other layers.

The skirt photographed with the flash on: you can see the pink under layers much better here.

I’ve decided to call this dress the “berry” ballroom dress, because all the colors (except maybe the purple chiffon) remind me of berries! (And I do love berries!)

The fabrics used in this dress: nude power mesh, berry stretch knit, purple chiffon, raspberry charmeuse, and raspberry organza.

A New Standard Ballroom Dancing Dress…

My 1819 re-made ball gown is almost complete! The ball is next weekend, so pictures will be coming soon. I have all my accessories in order and I’ve just about completed my petticoat. It’s time to start cranking out my Titantic-era dresses… but… I’ve taken a detour from my plans to work on a sewing project from a different facet of my life (warning: this is unrelated to historic costume!): competitive ballroom dancing.

My most recent Standard dress: unfortunately the picture quality is bad

I have made multiple dresses over the last seven or so years that I have been dancing, and they get progressively better (as with most sewing projects: you can see past dresses in the ballroom dance dress gallery in my online portfolio). I still like my most recent dress, the pale yellow with jade green lace to the right, but unfortunately almost four years have passed since its construction and it doesn’t quite fit the way it used too… (That is because the dress shrunk, right?) We are competing three or four times in the next few months and the idea was planted in my head by my partner (cough, cough), that perhaps a new dress would show me off to better advantage. So, after trying on the dress and realizing how tight the midsection had become I decided to pause in my historic construction plans and go blazing on an all new Standard dress!

International Standard ballroom dancing is made up of five dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. Below is a video of the 2010 International DanceSport Federation Standard Semi-Finalists and Finalists. The video is in five parts, if you are at all interested I encourage you to at least skim them all! Obviously, the dancing is amazing, because these are the best in the world, but there is also great professional commentary.

I’ve been doing lots of thinking about the color scheme and the style of the new dress. I’ve been looking at dresses within the past few years to see what the current style is for Standard dresses (because, like other styles of fashion the dresses do change in terms of fashionable details and cuts). You can visit my Pinterest board and see inspirational dresses and colors. It’s really quite fabulous–a riot of colors and great dancing (some of which is from the dancers in the above video)! I really enjoy just looking at that Pinterest board. You can probably guess the colors I decided on, but I’m not going to tell you officially, yet!

I still need to order rhinestones and a hem stiffener. I have yet to decide between nylon horsehair and plastic wire. The horsehair creates a more obvious edge, whereas the wire just makes a nice wavy hem that stands out on its own. But I have fabric! I leave you now to get to work on the dress… eek!