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If you make ballroom dancewear (or skate or belly dance costumes), you know how complicated sewing and fitting these dance dresses can be!  Every stretch fabric and every design is different, which sometimes makes for an uncooperative sewing project that takes longer than planned.

Making a custom ballroom dance dress adds a new variable to the mix: your client.

Even if you are an experienced dressmaker, you can easily end up with a load of frustration and little profit if you do not know how to work with your clients and run your business in the back end.

Create a perfect dance or skate leotard, Sew Like a Pro™

After years of coaching my Sew Like A Pro™ sewing school members on best business practices, I decided it was high time I created a Dressmaker Business Academy open to everyone who makes dance and skate costumes for income.


I am now accepting applications for an  11-week mastermind and mentorship program focusing solely on the business side of making dance and skate costumes.  My mission is to help your new or existing sewing business increase profits and productivity while creating higher customer satisfaction.

(You do not need to be in the sewing school to participate.  You only need to have an existing sewing business or have the strong desire to begin making money sewing dance or skate costumes, even if you only make one dress per month.)

The first live meeting is coming up fast, around February 13, 2022! 

Get the details and apply today.  The deadline for submitting your application is January 16, 2022.

Reserve your seat in Dressmaker Business Academy.


Today’s video is an excerpt from one of my sewing school Dressmaker Mentorship Q&A calls featuring SLP™ member, Lauren Wilmore. If you regularly watch my blogs, you have probably seen the blog where Lauren and I discuss how to make sequin appliqués.

Lauren is a talented dress designer and a Sew Like A Pro™ certified dressmaker who makes her own ballroom dance costumes.  You can see several of her awesome projects on her Instagram, @made_by_lala.  If you are interested in having Lauren make you a custom dress, contact her through her Instagram account.

Shortly after enrolling in Sew Like A Pro™ a few years ago, Lauren began making practice dance wear and simple but beautiful custom Latin and Smooth dance dresses for teachers and students at her studio in New York City.  Today, Lauren shares some of the challenges she faced with her first major custom ballroom dancing dress commission.

lauren and client wearing custom ballroom dress

 Expect Lots of Alterations 

Hope you don't have them, but expect you will.  Fitting a ballroom dress on a dress form is easy.  But what about on a real person who breathes and maybe doesn't stand up as straight as the dress form?  Not so easy!

When making a custom ballroom dress for a client, you must work with new measurements and a unique body shape.  Expect to make alterations after each fitting.


At the time of this video, Lauren had already done at least two fittings that included some major alterations to make sure the leotard and the skirt fitted properly.  Unfortunately, Covid delayed the date in which Lauren's client wanted to wear the dress.  Doubly (or triply) unfortunate was that this extra time allowed Lauren's client to gain (and then lose) a fair amount of weight between the fittings.

Do you smell dressmaker trouble brewing?  Yep.

Lauren's profits were dwindling away every minute of every alteration and additional fitting.

The skirt that was once too tight on her client (due to Covid weight gain) is now too long and baggy because she lost the Covid weight since the last fitting several months ago. Yikes!

This video catches up with Lauren while she shares potential ways to both shorten and tighten the skirt with the least amount of time possible while still maintaining her sanity and a high quality product.

Since one side of the skirt is open, Lauren needs to tighten the skirt from the other side, taking in about 2"/5 cm at the side seam.  I suggest she also add decorative straps to the right leg opening to help prevent the skirt from swinging around excessively and exposing too much leg.

Click here if you have the opposite problem with your skirt, and you need to loosen and lengthen it.

Shortening the skirt is even more work!  Oftentimes, the easiest way to shorten a skirt is to trim the hem.  In this case, Lauren has already attached fringe tassels and sew-on acrylic mirrors to the bottom of the skirt.  Trimming the hem means she has to remove all the tassels and reattach them, plus remove some of the mirrors.  That's a lot of work that she may not get paid for.

How should Laureen proceed?  Does she ask the client for more money due to extra work needed because of the weight fluctuation?  Or does she play nice, and risk losing much of her profit?

back view of pink latin dance dress with fringe tassels and acrylic mirrors


Sew Like A Pro™ DRESSMAKER TIP #1:

When making your own custom ballroom, figure skating, or belly dance dresses, fit the dress before adding embellishments to the edge of the skirt, so that you don't need to remove any decorations if you have to shorten the skirt.

With Lauren's Latin dress, she attached the fringe tassels to the skirt to see how much they would weigh the skirt down.  This was a smart move because indeed, the weight of the tassels pulled the skirt down.  She can then shorten the skirt from the top since it is only basted to the leotard.


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 Dealing With Client Weight Fluctuations 

Another challenge you may face when making a custom ballroom dress is weight loss and weight gain.  Lauren’s client gained weight after she had already taken measurements and done one fitting.  A few months later, she then lost weight, but not before a second fitting was done.... Can you say, "Thanks, Covid lockdowns"?

Because of the weight fluctuations, Lauren had to work with a different body size each time she did a dress fitting.

If your client goes through weight changes while you are making them a custom ballroom dress, you need to charge them more.  Period.  Clearly this was not a dressmaker issue.

Weight fluctuations = more fittings, more alterations, and more time.

In Lauren's case, some of the skirt alterations that need to be done are typical alterations and/or due to the fact that the fringe tassels are heavy. Lauren should, of course, not charge extra for these changes since they are dressmaker issues.

To make sure she is not selling herself short, Lauren can and should charge extra for all alterations or additional fittings that are done specifically due to weight loss or gain can and should be added to the quote without feeling guilty.


Always quote clients a wide price range when making a custom ballroom dress.  This gives you, the dressmaker, leeway to deal with fitting issues, design changes, fabric upgrades, etc.  A wide price quote instead of a hard dollar amount makes it easier on both the you and the client.

If sewing the custom dress goes smoothly, you can charge the low end of your price quote and your client will be super happy.  If there are complications or extra changes that mean the dress takes more hours than expected, you can charge the high end of your price range without stressing yourself or your client out about asking them to pay more.

Don't risk your company and your sanity.

Get the business training you need to succeed.  Learn the business side of creating women's ballroom and Country dance, artistic roller and figure skating costumes!


Learn more about Dressmaker Business Academy.



 Do You Make and Sell Custom Ballroom Dresses? 

Whether you make ten dresses a month, or only want to make money off one dress per month, the Dressmaker Business Academy is for you!  

I just launched my brand-new Dressmaker Business Academy, an 11-week intensive mentorship-mastermind program designed to equip you with everything you need to be successful in your own dressmaking business.

I want to support you in launching or growing your dressmaking business because I used to be in your shoes.  For almost thirty years I made a living sewing custom ballroom dresses…and it wasn’t easy because I had no one to coach me on what to do and what not to do!

Are you ready to join me?

Enrollment is by application only, deadline January 23, 2022.  Apply today for a seat in my Dressmaker Business Academy!  You too can earn a nice income making and selling amazing custom ballroom dresses like Lauren's.

pink latin custom ballroom dress sketch and final product

Lauren's original sketch and completed custom Latin dress.


Learn more about Dressmaker Business Academy.


Not interested in the business side? Get free dressmaker training with the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter.

We value your privacy and would never spam you




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