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Many amateur ballroom dancers are on a tight costume budget.  Likewise with new ballroom dancing instructors who teach mostly because they love to dance, not because they have the money to pay for this expensive sport. 

When a new female teacher gets ready for her first show or Dancesport competition, she often gets an unpleasant surprise at how expensive competition costumes and shoes are.

Check out my post about buying ballroom dancing shoes.

If you have a budget ballgown for a ballroom dancing competition, how can you tell what to keep or what to change? 

That is the topic for today’s post.

budget ballgown, front view, back bra straps, Phoenix Arthur Murray

Our model, Danika, is a new ballroom dance teacher at the Arthur Murray Dance Center in Phoenix, ArizonaShe ordered this black and white Smooth dance dress online for about $300.  Overall, it’s one of the better economy ballroom dancing dress.


 Sexy Budget Ballgown 

The sexy style of this Dancesport ballgown suits Danika’s personal fashion taste. 

She chose a simple color combination to compliment her striking red hair.  The cut-outs accentuate her womanly curves. 

I particularly like the plunging “V” neckline on her.  It has a sensuous Marilyn Monroe feel and shows off her natural cleavage while still offering good support.

All in all, Danika is pleased with her purchase.

My personal preference is that this Smooth ballroom dance dress is revealing enough that it should be worn only for professional routines, not for pro-am competitions (unless the students are high level performers.) 

What is my reasoning behind this choice?  Simple.  Lower level dancers can easily be out-danced and out-performed by their instructors.  Therefore, it is important to wear performance-appropriate costumes with competitive students so the teacher’s costume does not draw attention away from the student. 

Therefore, it is perfect that Danika plans on wearing this dress in the near future for her first professional competition.

Interview Dancesport judge, Jenell Maranto, about women's ballroom costumes


Watch or read this blog post for more insight on what Jenell Maranto, a Dancesport adjudicator and retired Professional Smooth Champion says about competition costuming.



 What to Keep and What to Change? 

Even though Danika likes her first-ever Dancesport ballgown, there is one really big issue that neither of us like: the bra strap across the back.  It’s ugly and uncomfortable and needs to be changed.

Let’s talk through the good, the bad and the ugly on Danika’s economy ballroom dancing dress.  As always, I offer several simple alterations to help her ballgown be as comfortable and nicely-fitting as possible.


This Smooth dance costume has a plunging V neckline that shows a lot of cleavage.  It’s combined with solid bust support thanks to a built-in bra with underwire.  These are some of Danika’s favorite design elements.  No changes are needed on the front bust area.


Unfortunately, all that awesome bust support includes an ugly, uncomfortable horizontal strap across the back of the dress.

Understandably, the back bra strap is definitely Danika’s least favorite element of this Smooth ballroom dance dress!  It digs into her skin and makes the flesh around her armpits bulge (which is common even for very trim or muscular women.)

budget ballgown, 3 back views, bra strap, criss cross straps

There were already two horizontal lines on the back of this budget ballgown.  The back bra strap is creates a third line across her back. Two lines are plenty.  Three is definitely too much on Danika’s body; they detract from her pretty curves.

Where are the other two lines, you may ask?  One line is the two-tone line at the top of the skirt attachment.  The second line is the white “belt” at her waist.  The icky bra strap makes number three horizontal line. 

Sew Like A Pro™ Dressmaker Tip #1  

The white line at the top of the black skirt yoke needs to be black.If you don’t know how to sew, use black fabric paint to cover the white edge.

Sew Like A Pro™ Dressmaker Tip #2

 Get rid of the annoying bra strap.  Instead, make white criss cross straps across the back. Adding in this design element would complement the dress because there are already criss cross straps over the hips…. Or, if you don’t need a lot of bust support, replace the flesh color bra straps white or silver to match the waistband.

redesign ballroom dancing costume, back cowl drape 1, bargain ballgown


Click here to read one of my blogs in which I explain why it is better to have as few horizontal lines as possible.





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Leotards that are too long from shoulder to crotch is a common problem in budget ballgowns

    1. because they are made to fit “everyone”, and
    2. because when the leotards are cut, how much the fabric stretches is not taken into consideration and adjusted accordingly.

On Danika’s dress, I can tell the stride is too long because the skirt yoke and trunks want to ride up and bunch at the waist.

Sew Like A Pro™ Dressmaker Tip #3

Tighten the stride of the leotard 1-2in/2.5-5cm.  That will make the leotard more snug between her legs and help keep the black skirt yoke fabric down smoothly over her bum.  You can also visit this blog which focuses on how to shorten the length of the leotard.

budget ballgown, side view, Danika Golden, Phoenix Arthur Murray Dance Studio

When choosing a ready-made dress (no matter what style of dance or skate), there are a lot of options!  I mean a lot.  The bottom line is, what do you like and what looks good on you?

This budget ballgown has cutouts over the hips that expose a lot of skin, even with criss cross straps over the cutout.  Danika has beautiful skin and she likes the open look.

However, if you have an economy costume you’re trying to make more conservative, you can add flesh color mesh, black or white mesh under the straps. 

You can also remove the criss cross straps all together and add lace appliqués similar to the bust area.  This would drastically change the feel of the dress.


This is a classic pointed skirt yoke with a single layer of chiffon/georgette for the skirt.  The effect when dancing will be graceful and billowy.

To me, there are already so many design elements on the dress, the silver panel in the skirt is too much.  Also, it’s not helpful to Danika’s body shape.  The accent color godet is a design element that would add height to a short person.  Danika is tall enough that she doesn’t need the extra height.


This economy ballroom dancing dress hardly has any rhinestones on it.  One simple change Danika can make to improve her new dress is to add rhinestones as soon as her budget allows.  She can always add $50 worth of rhinestones one month, and another $50 the next month.

Adding rhinestones is a good idea for any budget ballgown or skate dress.  Watch my blog featuring figure skater Monica to see how she turned an undecorated budget skate dress into a professional-looking rhinestoned costume.


 Choose a Dress That Fits Your Personality 

One of the most important things to consider when buying a ready-made Country dance, ballroom dance or ice skating costume is to choose a dress that fits your personality and your fashion taste.

Danika wanted to start with simple colors for her first Pro dress; black and white is classic.  Whereas this dress may be too revealing for some women, Danika likes the openness of this ballgown.  Even though she ordered this dress online and didn’t even get to try it on, she succeeded in finding a budget ballgown that fit her personality and her personal fashion taste.

Sew Like A Pro™ Dressmaker Tip #4

When Danika gets tired of wearing this dress as a ballgown, she can always turn the ballgown into a Latin dress by removing the sheer panels off the skirt and adding fringe along the bottom of the points in the skirt.


Do you have bargain ballgown or other economy costume? 
What worked and what did you change? 

Type your tips or troubles below.


As always, please share this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends!



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Thanks so much to Holly Udy Meekin, the owner of the Phoenix Arthur Murray Dance Center for hosting a lovely Arthur Awards and for letting me stay late to film this video with Danika! 

P.S.  Holly and I go way back to the 1990s when we were roommates and fellow instructors at the Phoenix AMI.  It was a lot of fun to be in the same studio with her again.


Click here to wear the best dress to perform better.

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