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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When I originally made the dress for Bree, a local ballroom instructor in Portland, Oregon (USA), she wanted a durable, comfortable, stretch fabric so the dress would fit (and look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. Although this made making the dress more difficult than normal, it’s easy to create a well-fitting leotard when you know what you’re doing, and you can check out my blog on how to make a leotard fit well.

Mission accomplished! Bree wore her dress 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.

Dancesport dresses commonly need updated or changed to fit the wearer better. That’s why I created an online sewing school that teaches people how to alter their own dresses.


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1) Add mesh sleeves (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 the dress with minimal expense.
  • sewing level=MODERATE to DIFFICULT


P.S. Don't like mesh seams? Read my blog featuring a skate dress with seamless mesh sleeves.


2) Remove a skirt attached to the leotard and replace with a new skirt to change the look of the dress!

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


3) 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 lie flat on her chest. However, the effect is well worth it, and is stunning nine years after it was made.
  • Make or buy bracelets to further highlight the focal point.
  • Necklaces, bracelets, and belts (made or purchased) all make great, simple accents to adorn a classic dress. This best part is that you can change your accents every year or every competition without altering the dress!


4) Choose durable stretch fabrics for a 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.


5) Matte (non-shiny) fabrics are almost always more slimming than the shiny ones

  • "Lose weight" the easy way by choosing non-shiny fabrics for the bodice of 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 fabrics creates a nice shiny effect without adding the look of extra bulk due to light reflecting off the shiny fabric.

6) Textured skirts add interest and the illusion of more movement

  • On Latin, Country, or Skate skirts textured materials 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 as 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 right 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 and also compliment the soft mesh sleeves.



Adding mesh sleeves dramatically changes this Dancesport ballgown.




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