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Are you tired of your Latin dance skirt, or ice skating skirt, and want a new look?

Well, I was tired of not showcasing this awesome BEFORE and AFTER dress so I updated both the written blog and the 2014 video to give it a new look.  I republished it March, 2022 offering more Sew Like A Pro™ dressmaker tips to help you alter a dress for a better fit and more performance costume options via detachable skirts.

Why would I go to the trouble?  One of the easiest and often economical ways to radically change the look of a dress you have already worn many times is to change the skirt.  When you know how to Sew Like A Pro™ you can remove the old skirt and make two (or three or four) new, detachable skirts — for far less money than buying or making a new one!

Check out my new mini-sewing-school webpage to get free sewing and dress fitting videos.

 

matte stretch velvet Latin dance skirt is cut off and has a new short ballrom dance skirt and a long Smooth skirt. Before and after.

 Why change your costume? 

I made the original matte stretch velvet Latin dance dress for my client Nancy in 2009.  She was in her 60s and was very active with her ballroom dancing. Every week she drove five hours each way to take dance lessons!  Nancy competed often, plus did local performances.  She wanted a sexy, trendy Latin dance skirt that would show off her long, shapely legs.

A few years later, Nancy was semi-retired from work and greatly reduced her dancing.  As her lifestyle and her body shape shifted, so did her choices in her ballroom dancing costumes.

In 2015, Nancy said to me, “I’m 70 now.  I don’t want to show as much leg.  Can we change the Latin dance skirt to be fun and sassy yet age-appropriate?”

Of course!  While I never enjoyed altering other dressmaker’s costumes, I don’t mind altering the ones I made because I know which dress parts are easy to take apart and change.  I thought about it for a little bit and proposed to Nancy that we not just change the Latin dance skirt, but that I give her at least two detachable skirts and a set of detachable Standard floats so she can wear the dress for all categories of her ballroom dancing.  In a sense, she now has three stretch velvet dresses instead of just one — plus the option to make more detachable skirts in the future!

Sew Like A Pro™ DRESSMAKER TIP #1:

Once a dance or skate costume is adapted to have detachable skirts, you can make as many as you want to wear for different showcases or competitions.  Skirts are not the only thing you can update and make detachable!

Sleeves, armbands, criss cross straps, can all be made detachable.  Even big focal points like the big red flower on another dress I made for Nancy can be removed.  In this case I made the silk flower detachable so it did not get crushed when the dress was in her garment bag or suitcase.  However, you can remove a 3-D flower and replace it with a flat, lace appliqué for a new look.

Accents like this silk flower or lace appliqués are a great way to highlight a multi-color fabric such as this embroidered mesh from Chrisanne Clover in England.

detachable flower Smooth ballgown Chrisanne Clover embroidered mesh

P.S. Nancy also received a set of detachable floats so she can wear her blue matte stretch velvet dress for Standard dancing.  You will see them in the video.

 


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 Two new detachable dance skirts 

Originally, Nancy's stretch velvet dress had a sexy Latin dance skirt that started high up on the sides of her legs with a long, sharp V down to her ankles in the front and back.  To change the look, I cut off the V at a diagonal angle to make an asymmetrical miniskirt.  The cool thing is that Nancy can now slip any skirt I make her between the short velvet overdress and the leotard.

Detachable Skirt #1:

The first skirt, which I made as a Latin dance skirt, is an asymmetrical ruffle/flounce skirt made of crepe back satin.  The contrast of the shiny skirt with the depth and richness of the stretch velvet is lovely.  The flounce/ruffle is subtle so the volume of the skirt does not visually overpower Nancy's gorgeous legs (of which I am a wee bit jealous. 🤓)

Detachable Skirt #2:

Since Nancy dances Standard and Smooth as well as Latin, I made a sleek Standard/Smooth skirt to make the dress convertible. I also added detachable floats made of the same iridescent navy chiffon I used on the top layer of skirt.

Artistic roller and figure skaters: this detachable skirt concept works great for children as well as beginning-intermediate level solo skaters or solo dancers.  Detachable skirts are also a great way to reuse your testing dress without anyone know it's the same dress.  Clever, if I do say so myself.

However, for top level pair ice dancers, pair skaters and figure skaters (or the artistic roller skating equivalent), I do not recommend this type of detachable skirt because the speed and body contact may make the skirt slide around too much to be safe.

There are many other fun, useful Latin dance skirt changes you can make.  I offer several suggestions in my blog Latin Dance Skirt Alterations to Fix a Short, Tight Skirt which features Duffy Betterton, the co-owner of Dance Dress Couture, a fabulous ballroom and country dance costume consignment store.

leaded curtain weights in hem of stretch velvet latin dance skirt

Sew Like A Pro™ DRESSMAKER TIP #2:

We all love to watch the swish of dance and skate skirts. It's sexy. It's fun. It's beautiful.  Shoot, that's why we women love to wear skirts in general.

Artistic roller and figure skating skirts naturally move a lot because they have speed that dancers don't have.  Big time!  Heck, I was a novice ice skater and I could still fly around the rink pretending to be Superwoman with my practice skirt whipping in the wind like I knew what I was doing.

Lucky skaters.  They don't have to do anything extra to their skirts to make them look great and move beautifully.  Latin and Country dancers are much slower because that's what happens when you're grounded instead of wearing skates.  Therefore, dancers need to add weight to the bottom of her short skirts so they flow and move more when spinning.

Why do you want skirt movement in Latin dancing?

Because it gives the illusion of more hip action.  And because it looks cool.  Also, when your Latin dance skirt moves a lot, it can make your dancing look more advanced than it actually is.  Who knew your skirt could be a clever disguise for beginning technique?

curtains weights etsy sharons custom decor
Curtain weights as shown on Etsy by Sharon's Custom Decor.

 

To create a fantastic twirling skirt, dancers need to weight the skirt.  But how?  Using multiple layers of fabric, or a heavyweight fabric can work.  Additionally, I love to use rhinestones to weight the skirt, but that can be expensive.  So, my money-saving dressmaker tip of the day:

USE A ROW OF LEADED CURTAIN WEIGHTS IN THE HEM

It's easy and economical. Find them in the home decorating section of your local fabric store.  Next, purchase by the yard or the meter.  You'll have big skirt movement for little cost.  Visit Etsy, Amazon or your local fabric store if you wish to buy some.

 

 Mesh Back with Decorative Straps 

In previous blogs I talk quite a bit about using mesh in dance and skate dresses.  I stress how important it is to use mesh to enhance the overall design, not just hold the dress up.

Also, if you follow my guidance, you know I detest a horizontal strap across the back unless there is no alternative.  When I did a fitting on Nancy's stretch velvet Latin dance dress several years after I custom made it, her body shape had changed enough that the shoulder straps did not want to stay on her shoulders.  To help fix the problem, I almost put a horizontal strap across Nancy's dress.

What?!

Whew. Then I regained my sanity and came up with a better solution.  Skip the strap.  Replace the mesh.

mesh back on matte stretch velvet Latin dance dress

Yes, replacing the mesh back was a lot more work than adding a simple elastic strap.  However, there are many rewards for the effort:

  1. Adding a larger piece of mesh offered more skin coverage, which Nancy was pleased about.
  2. The larger piece of mesh made the overly curved back V fit better.
  3. The shoulder straps now stayed in place.
  4. I didn't have to suffer the eyesore of a horizontal strap.  Genius.

 

Watch the video for more details and leave a comment below saying what your favorite alteration is!

 


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Thanks SEW much for reading and watching!

If you sew for income and need tips on how to deal with difficult clients or clients that change designs mid-stream, be sure to check out this blog: A Challenging Custom Ballroom Dress Commission.

Lastly, the lovely woman featured in this post passed away a year or so ago.  This post is a tribute to her genuine caring and dedication to her nursing patients, her dancing as well as to her friends and family.  Here's to you Nancy.  Congratulations on a life well lived!

Teresa Sigmon,

Founder and Designer of Seams Sensational
Creator of the Sew Like A Pro™ online sewing school for making women's dance and skate costumes.

 

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