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charmeuse ballroom dance dress worn by Christina Musser of Spotlight Ballroom, West Sacramento California



Elegant ruching and heavily rhinestoned lace accentuate this satin charmeuse ballroom dance dress. 

Both ruching and the lace look fabulous, but they are made of non-stretch fabrics which can be uncomfortable for Dancesport competitors.  By far, stretch fabrics are preferred because dancers bend and move so much. 

Using a non-stretch fabric for the ballgown skirt is normal.  Using non-stretch fabrics over the entire bodice is something not commonly done with modern competition dresses.  

Read on to learn more about the problems Christina Musser, head instructor at Spotlight Ballroom in West Sacramento, had with the non-stretch fabrics and how to fix or prevent the problems.


  Ruched  Halter  Neckline  

The neckline ruching (which I call “gathers”) on this charmeuse ballroom dance dress are a beautiful design element.  They are made with the same non-stretch polyester satin charmeuse as the skirt.

Usually ruched fabric such as Christina’s dress creates a strong focal point and makes the part of the body with the gathers look larger.  Therefore, adding gathers to a small bustline sounds like a great idea to make the breasts look larger, right?  I agree.

Except in Christina’s blue Smooth dance ballgown, the ruching does not make her bustline look larger.

I admit I am a bit perplexed by this.  

ballroom dance costumes modeled by Christina Musser of Spotlight Ballroom, West Sacramento California

My two main thoughts about why the blue satin charmeuse ruching does not make her breasts look larger are:

  1. The halter neckline extends high on the neck, creating long vertical design lines instead of focusing the viewer’s attention on the bust.
  2. The gathers do not go completely underneath her breasts. 
    • The charmeuse stops before the bottom of her breast so it doesn’t highlight the entire breast curve which would logically make it look larger. 
    • I didn’t say this in the video because I didn’t think of it until I began typing this blog.  That’s why you need to sign up for my email list and pay attention to the written blogs!

In any case, charmeuse is one of my favorite ballgown skirt fabrics!  It does not wrinkle much and has a slight sheen without being overly shiny.  However, since charmeuse is a non-stretch fabric, I don’t often use it on the bodice of a dress unless I’m making an overdress cut on the bias.

halter neckline ruching charmeuse ballroom dance dress Christina Musser of Spotlight Ballroom, West Sacramento, CA



When sewing gathers (aka “ruching”) with a non-stretch fabric, I suggest you cut the fabric on the bias. 


Woven fabrics cut on the bias usually make prettier, gentler gathers than when the fabric is cut along the straight grain.


Because when the fabric is cut on the bias it has a little bit of stretch.  This tiny amount of stretch allows the ruching to fold and mold better around body curves.


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  Lace Bodice and Bracelets  

In addition to the ruching, I love the large lace accent area on the front.  Guipure lace is fabulous because it creates an easy pattern for placing rhinestones and large jewels to compliment this charmeuse ballroom dance dress.  

However, beautiful Venice and Guipure laces are made of cotton and do not stretch.  As we discussed earlier, this can be problematic for competitive Dancesport competitors like Christina.  Certainly, the open back and sides help offset the non-stretch front of the bodice.  Having no fabric over much of her sides and the entire back allows her plenty of bend-and-stretchability. 

charmeuse ballroom dance dress with guipure lace bodice

As a detail-oriented dressmaker, I tend to notice when design or dress elements can be better.

There are two key things that could have been improved when making this Dancesport ballgown to make it fit better, and to reduce the negative aspect of the non-stretch lace.

1. Add elastic to the keyhole opening 

The small oval cutout in the center front of the bodice is a lovely design element.  However, during the video you may notice that whenever Christina bends forward even slightly, the opening gapes.

Sew Like A Pro™ DRESSMAKER TIP #2 

To help prevent the keyhole from gaping, Christina can add elastic to the inside of the cutout by hand stitching it so she doesn’t have to remove very many rhinestones.  

I suggest using minimal stretch at the top and bottom points so it doesn’t distort the points.  Then, stretch the elastic a lot through the long sides of the oval-shape opening.  

Although the elastic might not keep it from gaping entirely, it will help the keyhole hug her body more than it does right now.  Check out this blog post for more details about how elastic can help the neckline hug the body curves. 

2. Alter the lace armbands: allow room for expansion and use double closures

In addition to a lace bodice, Christina also has matching lace bracelets and armbands to go with charmeuse ballroom dance dress.

guipure lace bracelets with rhinestones

You might be wondering…what armbands? 

In the video, Christina only wears rhinestoned bracelets.  She has lace armbands to go with the dress as well.  She stopped wearing them because every time she flexed her arms, the non-stretch armbands popped off. 

Double closures are always a good idea! 

When Christina had the dress made for her, the dressmaker used only one row of small snaps to hold the halter neck closed and the bracelets closed.  WHAT???  No wonder her bracelets and upper arm bands kept popping open.  Christina wisely added a set of hooks to help keep everything in place.

Christina Musser, head instructor at Spotlight Ballroom in West Sacramento, CA, wears a charmeuse ballroom dance dress

All that being said, Christina looks beautiful with just the lace bracelets at the wrist.  I don't think the dress needs the armbands which would give a strong feel to an otherwise elegant, feminine Smooth dance gown.


Sew Like A Pro™  DRESSMAKER TIP #3 

Like satin charmeuse, Guipure and Venice lace is a non-stretch fabric. 

Small lace appliqués are not a problem, but when you apply large lace appliqués to a dress or armband, the lace prevents the fabric underneath from stretching. 

To help prevent this from happening, it is best to cut the lace into small pieces and leave a little bit of space in between each piece.  This "gap" between the lace pieces allows the stretchy leotard or armband can still expand and retract as it should.


Click here to learn more about decorating a dance dress with lace.

You may also want to visit my blog in which I show you how to make small lace appliqués using a wood burning tool.

. charmeuse ballroom dance dress with open back, Christina Musser

 What makes this non-stretch ballgown work? 

If Christina's charmeuse ballroom dance dress fits her well despite every fabric being non-stretch, then what is the big deal about using non-stretch fabrics for a dance dress?

Well, the main reason this ballgown allows Christina to move enough for her professional competitions is due to the wide open back and sides.  The fact that the front of the bodice does not stretch is okay since there is not very much fabric.

If you are uncomfortable with a back design revealing, I suggest you stick with stretch fabrics for the bodice for comfort and ease in getting in and out of the dress. 

But if you like open back designs, then a non-stretch ballgown possibly made of lace and  satin charmeuse could be an option for you.



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    5 replies to "Tips for Sewing a Charmeuse Ballroom Dance Dress"

    • Carol Morgan-Gohlke

      Teresa, I love your top in this video, both the neckline and the fabric!

      • Teresa

        Thanks Carol! I did not make it. I stock on thrift store buys only usually only film in them once before sending them back to the thrift store.

    • Teresa Sigmon

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, there is a lot to keep in mind. But try not to be overwhelmed with it all. Each costume choice will get better — and easier to make the decision. Stick with me long enough, you’ll also begin to see how a dress can be changed to better flatter your figure. 🙂

    • dress4dance

      Great tips for a dressmaker who is new in Ballroom dance world. So many details you need to keep in mind to make sure the dress benefits the body movement!

      • Teresa

        Thanks SEW much! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Be sure to at least skim each written blog since there are often even more dressmaker details that I didn’t think to say in the video so I had to put them in writing.

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