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It is time for a closet tour featuring lots of ballroom dance practice wear, all handmade by one of my sewing school members, Carol.

Carol's closet wiith ballroom dance practice wear


Join me as I tour the leotards and practice dancewear skirts she made.

Hear Carol’s thoughts about what she feels is right or wrong with the items, plus my suggestions to improve the look and fit of her ballroom and Latin dance clothing.




Do I need to say that Crazy Covid-19 thwarted a lot of people’s 2020 plans?  

For me, Covid rendered my arduous cross-country trips into almost no Sew Like A Pro™ filming opportunities.  I drove all the way across the USA in October 2020 and back again in December!  Sadly, I only got to meet two of my sewing school members and film a handful of vlogs in three locations 🙁

Lucky I was to meet Carol, one of my sewing school members in Texas, who at that time had only been in my sewing school for about six weeks.

I had the privilege of staying in Carol’s lovely guest house.  We were not able to meet face-to-face for the first few days.  However, she filled the guest room closet with several Latin and ballroom dance practice wear pieces she sewed.

Oh yeah.  This was a sewing teacher’s gold mine!

I went into teacher-mode and started commenting on her work.  I recorded the whole thing with my phone, so you can tour her closet with me and get some tips for making your own dance practice wear 🙂




ballroom dance practice wear, three practice dancewear skirt styles



 Carol’s sewing before and after joining Sew Like a Pro™ 

Carol made all of the dance practice wear in her closet before joining Sew Like a Pro™, my online sewing school for making competition dance and skate dresses.   


“These are all my pre-Sew Like A Pro™ attempts to learn to sew with lycra and modify patterns.  I’ve noted on each what I’ve learned to do better after just a month and a half with SLP™” – Carol


After experiencing six weeks of professional dressmaker training in my sewing school, she knew there were a lot of items on her previous work that could be improved.

I appreciate that Carol shared her early dressmaker work with me.  I loved that she also included handwritten notes about each piece.  She noted what sewing techniques she was proud of, and what she would change in the future now that she has more training from my sewing school.


practice dancewear leotard on dress form and closeup of elastic


For example, Carol did a great job with the leotard on this fun striped mesh fabric.  She wrote about this piece, “I’m proud of my double layers and mesh work.”   After listing what she did well, she noted what could be better too.  She said, “I made the mistake of using white elastic around my mesh!”

Obviously, using white elastic in her ballroom dance practice wear leotard is not the end of the world.  However, it would look better if she had used flesh color elastic around the neckline.  

how to dye flesh color elastic for dance and skate costumes


When Carol made this practice leotard,  she didn’t know I offer a free blog on how to dye elastic any shade of flesh color.  

She also didn’t know about dying elastics until she saw the ultimate elastic training in module four of my sewing school. 

But now both you and Carol know how to dye white elastic a flesh tone to match your skin.




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 Dressmaker tips for improving Carol's practice dancewear. 


1. How to fix a skirt side seam that does not hang straight.

One of Carol's practice dancewear skirts does not hang straight.  This is an easy fix. 

She needs to take the side seam apart (maybe even both side seams) to adjust how they align.  The new seam may be larger or smaller than the original stitch line.  Odds are good, the top and bottom (i.e, the waist and hem line) will no longer match up.  That’s okay.  Experienced dressmakers know sometimes we have to let the fabric go where it wants to.  Do what is needed to allow the side seam to hang as straight as possible.

Once the adjustments are complete and the skirt is basted together again, Carol can try the practice skirt on again.  When she has a green light to proceed,  she can then trim any excess length off at the waist and the hem to make sure they line up properly. 

Voilà.  The side seam should hang more straight now. 


skirt fabric buckles at seam because panels do not match


2. How to fix two skirt pattern pieces that do not fit together.

Carol made one practice dancewear skirt using curved panels to create cool-looking lines and more skirt volume.

The seams look cool, alright.  However, Carol was disappointed in the minimal amount of skirt movement.  Plus, several of the panels do not fit well together, causing the seams to buckle.  

Carol’s pattern pieces do not align well.  The connecting skirt panels are the wrong shape for each other so the seams buckle and there is not much skirt volume.

Carol has two options to fix both problems:


Make a new pattern that adds a lot more curve to the bottom 6”-8”  or 15-20 cm of each skirt panel.  Cut and baste two test panels to make sure the fit and volume looks good.  Then proceed with cutting out an entirely new skirt.


Open the bottom 6”-8”  or 15-20 cm of each skirt panel.  Sew a quarter circle godet into the bottom of each panel.   Re-trim and hem the skirt.  Godets are a simple, fun way to add more skirt volume!


BTW, if you are wondering where to get gorgeous prints like Carol's fabrics, check out my list of 55 dance fabric stores around the world.



3. How to create ballroom dance practice wear that fits your bust curves.

Making women’s ballroom practice dancewear usually takes less time than making a competition Dancesport costume because there are less seams and less detail sewing.  However, one of the dressmaker details that needs to be part of a woman’s leotard - whether for competition or practice - are princess seams and bust darts.   Princess seams and bust darts are the magical components that allow the leotard to fit around a woman’s bust curves.

But what about if you have patterned fabric for your practice dancewear? 

One of Carol's tops is made out of gorgeous patterned fabric.  Doing a long, vertical princess seams would ruin the pattern.  In her case, Carol can create bust support and maintain the look of the fabric pattern by making bust darts instead of princess seams.

The moral of the story: almost every woman’s leotard or top should use princess seams or bust darts.  Which one you use depends on your dress design and your fabric pattern.   


sew princess seams, dance skate leotard



4. How to help eliminate back wrinkles

Does your dance or skate leotard ever wrinkle or buckle in the back? 

This is a common fitting problem.  The two primary reasons this happens on competition ballroom and latin dance clothing, or on the practice wear is:

  1. There is too much fabric in the back of the leotard (Another way to say that: the leotard is too long from the shoulder to between the legs.)
  2. The dress is too tight at the hips.  (This also applies to blouses, leotards, and skirts.)  Whenever fabric is too tight in one area, it will always want to go to a smaller body part.  Since women are almost always more curvy in the bum and hips than the low back, the fabric wants to ride up to the curve of the spine.

For Carol’s practice dancewear skirt, she should let out the seams at the hips so the fabric can relax down to the hips.  Once the fabric shifts down, most of the wrinkles should smooth out.


carol points to wrinkles in back panel of practicewear dress




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 Sewing a fishing line hem 


animal print practice dancewear skirt with fishing line hem


If you have ever sewn fishing line into a skirt hem, you probably noticed that it doesn't always behave like you want!

Carol used a fishing line hem on this fun animal print skirt.  She noted that the fishing line curls more in the front than the back.  There are two reasons why the curl is different.

 1. Fishing line can be fickle. 

When putting fishing line in a stretch fabric, if you stretch the fabric just a little bit differently in sections of the hem, it will curl differently.

2. Carol's dance practice wear skirt is shorter in the front than in the back. 

This means the bias of the skirt changes much more rapidly in the front than the back which in turn changes the amount the fishing line can curl.  

Sew...  if you use fishing line hem in an asymmetrical or angled skirt, the amount of curl will vary.  Save your sanity.  Go with the curve instead of trying for perfection.


Watch below for my live commentary on Carol's handmade ballroom dance practice wear.





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There you have it.  DOs and DONTs, WHYs and HOWs of common troubles in ballroom dance practice wear.

Pay attention to dressmaker details as you sew.  Awareness is the first step to creating better dance practice wear.

If you sew your own costumes, I suggest you adopt Carol’s philosophy:

  • Acknowledge mistakes.
  • Recognize what you wish to improve.
  • Be proud of the things you do well.

Too often, we are overly critical of ourselves and our work.  For every mistake you might make while sewing a costume, there are a lot of things you do well.

For more sewing and design tips, read my blog on stretch fabrics DOs and DON'Ts.

Happy sewing!




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    2 replies to "Tips for Sewing Ballroom Dance Practice Wear"

    • dress4dance

      It is so interesting to see a progression while learning! Good luck to Carol!

      • Teresa Sigmon

        It is great to see Carol’s practice wear progression. Thanks SEW much for the comment!

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