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How to Design a Dress

Have ever tried to design a dress for competitive Country, Line dance or ballroom dancing?   Then you know how difficult it can be because there are an infinite number of costume options.

Every competition ballroom dance costume needs design elements to make it interesting, but there are two main things you want to consider when you create a dress design.

1. How to choose elements for your dress design.

2. How to design a dress that looks good on your body shape.

 

design a dress, Tammy Arriola Sew Like A Pro dressmaker, Latin dance dress, ballroom dance costume, red fabric flowers

 

How to choose elements for your dress design

This flesh color Latin dance dress was designed by Tammy Arriola, one of the original Sew Like a Pro™ members.  She made this dress for her daughter who looks amazing in this skin tone dress accented with red fabric flowers.

 

Find your inspiration dresses. 

You can search magazines, billboards, clothing stores, and a plethora of other places online or in person.  For really fresh ideas, look outside your normal comfort zone.

Floral arrangements, haute couture, Western horse show jackets, and Irish dance dresses are just a few non-traditional places you can look for Country or Dancesport dress inspiration.

Pinterest is fantastic for storing all your ideas in one tidy, easy to access location.  Before you begin a new dress design search, visit our  Sew Like a Pro™ Pinterest boards, where we saved thousands of dance and skate costume photos for design inspiration.

As you know, it is easy to get lost down the online-rabbit-hole of dance and skate costumes ideas.  The sheer number of dress options can be overwhelming.  If you get frustrated in your search for a design elements, read my blog on how to avoid overwhelm when designing a dress.

 

Choose a design element you want to focus on, then do a dress search with that key element in mind.

Prior to searching for inspiration dresses online, Tammy decided she wanted her daughter’s new ballroom dance costume design to include gathers and a drape; two design elements she had not done before. Choosing those two design elements before beginning an online search helped Tammy narrow down the inspiration dresses so she could stay focused during her online search.

Once Tammy saw a few gathers and the drapes on other Dancesport dresses, she was able to design a dress with ease and clarity.

design a dress, Tammy Arriola Sew Like A Pro dressmaker, Latin dance dress, ballroom dance costume, red fabric flowers close up, Teresa Sigmon

 

 

My favorite design element on this dress is the pattern of red flowers. 

Tammy hand-sewed and rhinestoned all of them, beginning with the large flowers, and filling in with the smaller flowers. It adds an eye-catching touch of color to an otherwise flesh color dress.

In addition to the drape, gathers, and flowers, the skirt also adds to the overall design. It is very lightweight and fluid stretch crepe from Chrisanne Clover.

The rhinestones are also a beautiful touch.  Tammy used cabochons, red beads, and Siam navettes to decorate this dress.

 


SEW LIKE A PRO™ DRESSMAKER TIP #1:

Ideally, when designing a dress using beige fabrics, you do one of these two options:

  1. You can make the beige much darker than your skin so it looks intentional. 
    • This is what happened with me because I am so pale.  The brown lycra looks like brown, not "flesh color" as Tammy made it for her daughter
  2. You can make the lycra match your skin tone so the dress appears to be flesh color. 
    • This is usually the intended, and better, look

Try not to make the dress almost, but not quite matching your skin. It will look like you meant to make the dress flesh color and didn’t quite get the right tone.  If you need to have a better match between the dress and your skin, you can custom dye many fabrics before making the dress.  Or for an easier solution when the dress is too dark to match your skin tone, apply fake tanner or visit a facility that does spray-on tan to achieve a temporary darker skin tone.


 

design a dress, Tammy Arriola Sew Like A Pro dressmaker, Latin dance dress, ballroom dance costume, red fabric flowers

 

 


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How to design a dress that looks good on your body shape

 

This part of designing a Country or ballroom dance costume can be difficult because everyone has a unique body shape.

Look at the photo below of me wearing the beige and red dress featured in this post, plus two additional dresses also made  by Tammy.  Notice how each dress looks very different on me?

When you design a dress, it is necessary to know your body well so you can choose design lines that accentuate what you want to show and draw attention away from body areas you which to camouflage.

 

design a dress, 3x Tammy Arriola Sew Like A Pro dressmaker, Latin dance dress, ballroom dance costume, Teresa Sigmon

 

Click here to read the blog post featuring Tammy’s purple velvet Latin dance dress.

Click here for the Latin dance dress with white chainette fringe and blue fabric flowers.

In the near future, I will do another post talking in detail about how and why these three dress designs look so different on me.


SEW LIKE A PRO™ DRESSMAKER TIP #2:

Since our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical, asymmetrical design lines or big focal points can draw the viewers’ eye to specific areas of the dress.  Why is this useful?  Because when a dress can intentionally make the viewers look at a particular part of the dress, it can be used to draw attention away from areas we do not want them to look at.

Click here to learn how to use asymmetrical lines to create focal points on your ballroom dance costume.

 

Lastly, if you want to know more about how to design a dress specifically for your body shape and size, I recommend you participate in our upcoming design challenges or masterclasses.

 


 

Please leave a comment below telling me your favorite part of Tammy's skin tone and red fabric flower Latin dress dress.

As always, I appreciate you sharing this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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