Want trade secrets on making Dancesport, Country & Skate dresses?

Get the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter!


Each custom dress I make is a collaborative effort between the client and me: taking into consideration her body shape and size, performance needs as well as her personal fashion tastes. In this video, we add mesh sleeves to a ballgown I made for Bree in 2006.

When I originally made the dress for Bree, a local ballroom instructor in Portland, Oregon (USA), she wanted a durable, comfortable, stretch fabric so the dress would fit (and look great) at the time of making as well as during her planned pregnancy in the following months.

Mission accomplished! Bree wore it before, during and after her pregnancy. She looked just as beautiful seven months pregnant as she does now. Thanks to a classic design and well-chosen fabrics, the dress also still looks fantastic.

However, personal tastes change, as do body shapes (she had a baby, but goodness knows age changes us all.) It’s time to make a few dress alterations to accommodate Bree’s request to be more covered up and to better suit her current performance needs, which includes only ProAm competition.

Never Miss a Dress or Design Tip! Get the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter.

We value your privacy and would never spam you



  • Use mesh (or any attractive, durable stretch fabric) to: 


  • Create long arm lines
  • Reduce the need for tanning
  • Create good bust support
  • Stabilize the neckline so the dress stays where you want it, not where the dress wants to go
  • Stay a little warmer while not performing or competing
  • Change the look of a dress with minimal expense
  • sewing level = MODERATE to DIFFICULT
  • Remove a skirt attached to the leotard and replace with a new skirt to drastically change the look of the dress! 


  • This is usually more labor intensive and requires more costly materials than adding sleeves -- especially if adding rhinestoning or beading
  • sewing level = MODERATE to DIFFICULT


  • Choose classic lines with strong focal points for a look that stays fashionable for a decade or more.
  • The necklace on this dress was not easy to make. It required many stages of fitting to make the curves lay flat on her chest. However, the effect is well worth it -- and is stunning nine years after it was made.
  • Make or buy matching bracelets to further highlight the focal point
  • Necklaces, bracelets and belts (made or purchased) all make great, simple accents to adorn a classic dress.... best part, you can change your accents every year or every competition without altering the dress!
  • Choose durable stretch fabrics for beautiful, long-lasting wear.
  • "Dance crepe" and stretch jersey are prettier alternatives to plain lycra. However, lycra comes in more colors so use lycra if you must have a specific color.
  • Matte (non-shiny) fabrics are almost always more slimming than shiny ones. 
  • "Lose weight" the easy way by choosing non-shiny fabrics for the bodice or Latin/Skate skirts, or for ballgowns that are tight over the hips. (Shiny fabrics for ballgown skirts are normally fine because the skirt is long.)
  • Adding rhinestones to matte fabric creates a nice shiny effect without adding the look of extra bulk due to light reflecting off the shiny fabric


  • Textured skirts add interest and the illusion of more movement.


  • On Latin, Country or Skate skirts textured skirts such as beaded or regular fringe add texture without bulk as well as a fun, sassy look and lots of action
  • Ruffles (cut proportionately for the length of the skirt) add soft, flowing movement
  • Textured fabrics such the shredded chiffon on this dress add visual interest without adding bulk
  • NOTE 1: use textured fabrics with caution on the bodice! If you are very trim or petite and can handle adding 3-D items to the bodice -- go ahead; it will look great!
  • NOTE 2: If you are not as trim or tone as you would like to be -- avoid textured fabrics on the bodice because it will make you look heavier and thicker
  • NOTE 3: If you are small busted and want to look a little larger, textured or other 3-D items such as the soft drape on this dress are a beautiful way to add bust volume




Adding mesh sleeves dramatically changes this Dancesport ballgown.




Never Miss a Dress or Design Tip! Get the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter.

We value your privacy and would never spam you


Dress Breakdown: a competition Dancesport ballgown


Rhinestone Glue: Which Is Right For Your Dress?

Leave a Reply