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add sleeves rhinestone necklace Smooth ballroom dance dress Bree Blevins, border Bree Blevins


Want to transform the look of your Dancesport ballgown?  Add sleeves or an accent focal point such as a large rhinestone necklace.


This gorgeous black Smooth dance dress featured in today’s post has many classic design elements that withstand the test of time on the ballroom dance floor.

A three-tiered rhinestone necklace is the primary design focal point.

Other interesting design elements include a small cowl drape below the rhinestone necklace and a textured chiffon skirt made with shredded strips of fabric.

I custom made this Dancesport ballgown for Bree Blevins, a ballroom dance dance instructor in Portland, Oregon, USA. 

When she asked me to make a dress for her, she said it had to last a long time and had to be versatile enough to change in the future. 



“Each custom dress I make is a collaborative effort between the client and me.”


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.

For Bree’s dress, I also had several other restrictions to keep in mind:

  1. Bree was a professional competitor who wanted a sleek, sexy dress.
  2. She also hoped to become a mom in the near future.  That meant I needed to plan the design and the fabrics of the dress to allow for her body to expand and change during her pregnancy.
  3. Lastly, Bree wanted to wear the dress as a pro-am Smooth and Standard gown once she stopped competing professionally.  

That’s a tall order all for one dress.



add sleeves rhinestone necklace Smooth ballroom dance dress Bree Blevins

Choose fabrics and a design that allow for versatility and durability


When I made this dress for Bree in 2006, 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. 

Yes, allowing for several inches of waist expansion makes it more difficult when cutting and fitting the leotard.  However, with my Sew Like A Pro™ leotard pattern,  it’s standard procedure to create a perfectly-fitted leotard.  You can check out my blog on how to make a leotard fit well.



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Choose design elements that draw attention away from a changing figure

  1. To help draw attention to Bree's lovely face and skin, I created a dramatic rhinestone necklace as the primary focal point.
  2. A gentle cowl drape at the bustline adds volume to her pre-pregnancy bustline.  In addition, the drape allowed the stretchy fabric to expand more once she was pregnant and her bust size increased.
  3. A textured, shredded chiffon skirt adds volume below Bree's growing belly -- and it looks super cool all the time.


Mission accomplished on making the dress highly versatile!

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.

To learn more about creating effective designs for your body shape and size, you may want to participate in our next ballgown design challenge or masterclass.


add sleeves rhinestone necklace Smooth dance ballgown cowl drape black textured chiffon Bree Blevins




Add Sleeves for a Dramatic Change

Seven years after the dress was made, Bree wanted to update her Smooth dance dress to cover her arms.   She said, "I'm older now and do not want to show my arms, plus it's cold in the ballroom while I'm waiting to dance!"

We decided to add sleeves in a black mesh.   We also got to create a new back design since the mesh sleeves and back are all one piece with no seams around the armpit.  (Yes, I teach my Sew Like A Pro™ members how to do this in the Advanced Program for Latin, Skate and Gowns.)  The mesh sleeves and keyhole back added elegance to Bree's dress and it better suits her mature fashion tastes.


Check out the video for more details about the dress and watch the process of adding sleeves to Bree's dress.




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1) Add 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 armhole seams on your sleeves?  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!


3) Choose classic lines with strong focal points for a look that stays fashionable for a decade or more.

  • The rhinestone 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 a decade or more 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.

  • Stretch crepes and jerseys 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 and are not on body parts, such as hips and tummy, that many women want to minimize.
  • Adding rhinestones to matte fabrics creates a lovely shiny effect without adding "visual weight" that shiny fabrics create 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 chainette 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 Smooth dance 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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