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lace ballroom dance dress, ballroom dancing costume, guipure lace

Our model Pat wears her vibrant pink, lace ballroom dance dress. This Dancesport ballgown is eighteen years old and she wants to update it.

Join Pat and I as we discuss seven ways to give her dress a new look and make it fit better.

7 Key Steps to Update a Lace Ballroom Dance Dress

  1. Decide which design elements of the dress you really like and want to keep.
  2. Determine any parts of the dress you want to change. Be specific.
  3. Tighten any loose shoulder elastics or support straps.
  4. Analyze the bodice to determine if the body suit or the overdress needs to be adjusted so it fits well.
  5. Decide if the sleeves or arm treatments are the correct length and tightness. If the dress is sleeveless, do you need to add sleeves?
  6. Look at the skirt and decide if it needs to be longer/shorter or have more/less volume for the current trend.
  7. Check the entire dress for tiny holes, fabric tears or seams that have popped open so they can be fixed.

Let’s dive in and talk about these seven items in detail.


Before talking about possible alterations, Pat told me her three favorite things about the dress.

1) The vibrant pink color

2) Only one mesh sleeve

3) The asymmetrical neckline

She did not specifically mention anything part of the dress she disliked. As a result, I have freedom to pick and choose which alterations to do to create a better fit and a more up-to-date look.


These two steps go hand in hand. Before any serious alterations can be determined, the support structure - including elastics straps and the body suit - must be looked at first. Meaning the dress must be functional before we talk about it being pretty.

lace ballroom dance dress, shoulder elastic, guipure lace,

In Pat’s case, the 18-year-old shoulder elastic is understandably stretched out so it offers no bust support.  It needs to be replaced (which may be complicated), or at the very least tightened and Pat will live with minimal bust support.

Why is replacing the elastic potentially complicated?

If Pat’s dressmaker chooses to replaces the elastic, it needs to be covered in pink fabric to match the rest of the dress. Flesh color elastic will not look as good.

The dressmaker may or may not be able to find a closely matching pink fabric which is, of course, the easiest fabric solution. If she cannot find a closely matching color in either mesh or lyrca, she can always steal some fabric from the body suit trunks which are way too long.

Cutting excess fabric from the trunks creates another set of alterations of reshaping the trunks so they fit better. Does the leotard need to fit better? In an ideal dance costume world, yes. However, I suggest to Pat that she not bother adjusting the leotard since the terrible fit is not visible from the outside.

Do you see how remodeling an old lace ballroom dancing dress is much like remodeling an old home?

You never know when you change one thing when another issue will arise. Sometimes old dresses are not worth saving. Every ballgown is a case by case basis. I hope this article will help you decide how and when to do your alterations.

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Let’s continue with fitting the bodice.

The bodice of this lace ballroom dance dress consists of a lycra overdress that is too tight and built-in leotard (body suit) which is too large.  This is a rather unpleasant combination.

lace ballroom dance dress, lace ballroom dancing costume

One of the biggest problems caused by the too-tight bodice is that is causes her belly to look larger. It also makes the fabric ride up and settle in a big bunch under her breasts.
There are several different ways to fix this problem.

Too-tight Alteration Option #1:   The dressmaker can pull the dress up a few inches so that the skirt hangs straight off the tummy. On Pat’s lace ballroom dance dress, this requires removing a lot of lace and rhinestones.

For more information you can also check out my blog on how to make a round tummy look flat.

Too-tight Alteration Option #2:   Letting out all the bodice seams to loosen the dress is a great alternative…. However, there is almost no extra seam allowance remaining in the dress so there are only a few millimeters to let out. That minimal amount of adjusting will not let the dress relax enough to make it worth the trouble of removing all the lace and stones.

DRESSMAKER’S TIP:   This is exactly why I suggest my Sew Like A Pro™ members leave a 5/8” or 16mm seam allowances in every dress. Leaving big seam allowances enables you to let out the dress should you gain weight or sell the dress to a larger woman.

Too-tight Alteration Option #3:   Avoid all sewing alterations and run matching or coordinating pink lace diagonally across the tummy down to the skirt, to both add the illusion of more height and camouflage the round stomach.

Finally, we move onto....

lace ballroom dance dress, mesh sleeve, ballroom dancing costume


Pat really likes the fact that her dress has only one sleeve. She feels, it “adds drama.” And she’s right. I love asymmetrical necklines for many reasons.

However, her mesh sleeve fits very badly and sags at the armpit instead of hugging the arm curve like I teach my Sew Like A Pro™ students to do

The sleeve should be taken in to fit more snuggly around Pat’s arm.

Unfortunately, because the sleeve is cut like a street blouse, not like a ballroom dancing costume or ice skating costume, it needs a gusset to even begin doing the armpit area justice. (Again, where to get a matching fabric with a dress this old?)

I explain in more detail how to put in a gusset in my blog How to Fix Bad Armholes and Loose Necklines.


There were too many fitting and design issues. I didn’t even get around to talking about the skirt on Pat’s lace ballroom dancing dress.

Luckily, her dress is so old the skirt is back in style. No joke! The godet inserts, sometimes called a “star point” skirt is a common skirt style these days. The volume of the skirt is classic enough it can be worn for Smooth or Standard styles with no adjustments.


Lastly, check the entire dress for tiny holes, fabric tears or seams that have popped open so they can be fixed.

While I do not specifically mention this in the video. It is a step I would have done when first sitting down with the dress, moments before picking up my seam ripper to begin alterations.

If you are buying a used or off-the-rack ballroom dancing costume or skating costume, this is a step you do not want to miss because it could result in a significant time or money commitment that you want to know about before purchasing the dress.

Thanks to Stan and Mary Collins at  U Can Dance Studio in St. Louis, Missouri, for letting Pat and I film at their space!

Now that the boring alterations have been decided, let get to the fun stuff of re-designing the dress to be more visually appealing.

lace ballroom dance dress, ballroom dancing

Here are my recommendations. Leave a comment below telling me that you think of these suggestions.

Remove all white lace decorations.

Removing the white collar helps Pat look taller and more youthful.  Wearing a collar or large necklace with a dress that shows the décolletage often makes your body look shorter.  Even worse is that it often makes your bustline look lower.

Peeling off the white lace flowers will give this ballroom dancing dress a new look. The flowers are glued on, so taking them off will leave dark glue spots behind, but those can easily be covered up by rhinestones or more pink lace.

Relocate the jewels from the top of the godets.

In their current place, the jewels don’t really add anything to the design.  Mix them in with the pink lace is a much better use for these lovely bits of crystal.

Add pink lace to the front and back.

Using the same pink lace already on the front of the dress, she can create new, bolder asymmetrical lines that are more slimming.  This extra pink lace on both the front and back of the dress should go  diagonally from the bottom tip of the star point in the skirt blending in with existing design elements on the the dress.  On the back, this extra pink lace will also cover a lot of the glue dots left after the white flowers are taken off.

DRESSMAKER’S TIP: If Pat cannot find the same color pink lace, another option is to get a darker color and make the lace two-toned. To help the colors blend better, darker pieces can be mixed in with the original pink lace. Two-toning the lace will definitely give this ballgown a new look.

As always, picking and choosing between alterations is a balance between what is the most economical and the most effective.

Good luck with updating your own lace ballroom dance dress! I hope you enjoy the video.

Please share this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends.


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What is your favorite update on this lace ballroom dance dress?



    8 replies to "7 Ways to Update a Lace Ballroom Dance Dress"

    • Maureen

      Another good solution to the “tummy” issue might be to use the leo/bodysuit as a corset. What I would suggest is to half-line the bodysuit (up to underneath the bust,) with heavyweight powernet; thus tightening up the entire foundation structure, which would cause the dress itself to hang more loosely. In this case, it looks like largely re-making the bodysuit might be easier than trying to alter the length of the heavily decorated dress. (Easy enough to test this idea if she owns a shaping garment; have her put it on underneath to see if that slight tummy bulge flattens out.)

      Also, it was only a fast glimpse, but did I see a piece of the pink from the bodice fastened along the interior of the lace choker? That might be usable to cover a new shoulder strap, whether or not they add rhinestones to it.

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Thanks for the fabulous comment, Maureen! As a general rule, I like the idea of tightening up the leotard front to help flatten the tummy. However, the leotard underneath is old and almost as stretched out as the shoulder elastic so it won’t be worth the effort to take it in much or add the girdle effect you mentioned. However, something like a Spanx could work well since the back is high.

        Hmm… I don’t remember seeing the scrap of fabric you mention. But I’m also looking at everything to edit the video and the photos, not necessarily to catch the tiny details. Maybe there is a scrap?

        In any case, I’ll let Pat know your suggestions. Thank you for commenting!

    • Carmen

      This is such an excellent post! Your advice was spot on – the dress looks so much better. For a star point skirt, is the skirt yoke one piece or 6 separate pieces like an overdress?

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Thanks Carmen! Glad you liked the post 🙂

        It can be either. On this pink gown, it is an overdress into which they cut 8 points. On curvier women, I tend to like 8 points better than 6 points because it is more slimming.

        Carmen, are the Carmen in my Sew Like A Pro™ courses? If yes, do you want me to add this star point skirt Q to be discussed further in our live video call this weekend?

        • Carmen

          Hi Teresa, thank you so much for the response. Yes, I am that Carmen and I would love to add this topic to our Q&A. I am at the point where I’m ready to cut the skirt and want to make sure I do it right. 🙂 Thanks!

          • Teresa Sigmon

            Sorry Carmen, I forgot to look back at this Q before our last live call. I have now added it to the list of topics for the next call.

    • Wendy Foster

      I really think your ideas are wonderful, exactly what I was thinking also. My added idea would be in regards to the stretched out strap. I’d probably replace it with a nude but cover it with the pink Swarovski Crystal’s and add the same pink Crystal’s throughout the lace to pull it together. Love your videos, Wendy Foster

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Thanks for your fabulous comment, Wendy! Indeed, they may end up taking your flesh color strap suggestion. Time will tell. If they do the alterations and send me photos, I’ll add them to the post and send out an email letting you all know.

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