Want trade secrets on making Dancesport, Country & Skate dresses?

Get the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter!


Today’s guest, modeling a used Dancesport ballgown, is Leslie Peterson, a former client of mine.

I made this American Smooth ballgown for her in 1998 when she was actively competing with her instructor, Jeff Robinson.

What to look for when buying a used Dancesport ballgown. Leslie Peterson, Jeff Robinson


It’s a beautiful gown in immaculate condition, but Smooth skirts are not used on the dance floor like they were in the 1990s.

This skirt is an 8-paneled double circle! A lot of the volume needs to be removed to make the skirt follow the current, sleek fashions.

The fact that Leslie has lost quite a bit of weight since I made the dress for her gives us some great training topics on both alterations and what to look for when you’re shopping for a ready-made used Dancesport ballgown.

Let’s dive in!


So let’s pretend for a second that you need a competition Dancesport ballgown for an upcoming event, but don’t have tons of money to spend.

Given the cost of competing in the Dancesport and skate industries, this is not a difficult situation to imagine for most people.

This is one of the many reasons I created the online sewing school to teach women how to make their own dresses so they can save thousands of dollars each year when compared to buying them, or perhaps earn money making dresses for other women!

I could talk about my Sew Like A Pro™ courses all day, but we should get back to the topic at hand….


What should you look for when buying a ready-made or used Dancesport ballgown?

#1 What is the cost of the dress?

Prices on used dresses vary a lot according to the country, the style of the dress and even the year. Whether it’s a bargain or not, depends on how much you like the dress, how much you pay for it, and how much work needs to be done so the gown fits you nicely.


#2 How many alterations are needed to make the gown your body shape and size?

  • If you know how to do the alterations yourself, how much time do you think it will take? Do you have to buy any supplies to update the dress?
  • Or if you do not know how to sew, how much will it cost you to pay someone to do the alterations?


#3 Is the dress a good value/bargain?

That answer is determined by #1 and #2. Only you can answer those Qs.

Two things that can help you decide:

  • Your favorite seamstress or an experienced competitor who has bought lots of dresses can offer their opinions.
  • Today's video will help you learn how to determine if a dress is a wise purchase for your body shape and size.
  • The dozens of other training videos that comprise my blogs will also help you learn to be an informed shopper. I hope you'll take time to watch a few more and share them with your dancing, skating, sewing friends.


Leslie's dress is for sale. If you're interested in buying it, feel free to send me an email.

What's so great about the dress? Watch the video or read on here.


A)   Leslie's gown is in beautiful shape.

  • There are no snags on the fabric.
  • There are NO missing rhinestones, even after twenty years! (I admit this is unusual because stones and glue tend to separate as they age. Kind of like our bodies, huh?)... Yes, I teach you all my rhinestoning tricks when you enroll in one of my Sew Like A Pro™ courses. 🙂

B)   Many ready-made gowns today are sleeveless.

It's easier to make a dress without sleeves so that's what a lot of dressmakers do these days. Unfortunately, this leaves one of the body parts most women want to cover - the lovely, hanging tricep -  exposed.

Leslie's dress has those saggy upper arms covered very cleverly with one sleeve and one ruffle. Not for a second will you feel self-conscious about swinging your arms about.

C) The upper body of the dress fits wonderfully for mature women competing in today's Smooth trends.

What to look for when buying a used Dancesport ballgown. Our inspiration dress was Angelina Jolie's gown at 50th Emmy Awards in 1998


The gentle symmetrical neckline is what I call "classic with a twist" because it's got this fun pop of orange contrasting the bold ocean blue.

P.S. Leslie and I both liked Angelina Jolie's evening gown so much, we used her neckline as the inspiration for this ballgown.

If you want more ideas for using an inspiration dress to be the starting point for a new costume, check out my Dress Breakdowns.



The one major alteration that really needs to be done no matter who buys this dress is that the Smooth skirt needs to have a lot of volume removed so it looks appropriate on today's competition floor. This can take several hours if you do the work yourself, or cost you a couple hundred dollars if you pay to have the work completed.


what to look for when buying a used Dancesport ballgown.


In today's video I talk more about alterations that need to be done specifically for Leslie's body.

When you buy a ready-made or used Dancesport ballgown, you may or may not need any of the alterations I demonstrate in today's video.

However, all these tips are great training for you so you can begin shopping wisely.  Or,  improve your sewing skills if you're a dressmaker - or a wanna be dressmaker.



Check out the video for more details.

What fitting tip did you learn here that will help making your next shopping adventure easier?

Leave a message at the bottom of the page!




Never Miss a Dress or Design Tip! Get the SLP™ newsletter.

By leaving my name and email address, I understand I will receive 3-8 emails a month, including the Sew Like A Pro™ newsletter and occasional promotions about the sewing school. I understand my information will not be given or sold to anyone else. I can opt-out of the list at any time.





You may want to take a look at Leslie's Latin dress.

How To Buy The Best Used or Off-The-Rack Skate or Latin Dress


Or this blog which also demonstrates which alterations may need to be done when you lose weight (or sell your dress to someone a little smaller).

Weight loss alterations for Dancesport and Ice Skating dresses





    2 replies to "What To Look For When Buying A Ready-Made Or Used Ballgown"

    • Lyn Ainsworth

      Hi Teresa
      I really like the clip on revamping Lesley’s smooth dress. You mentioned that skirts are now sleeker. What do you think that looks like in terms of “circles@? Is it 1.5. – or something less. I am quite a beginner dancer and just experimenting with designs.
      Lyn -Australia

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Great question, Lyn!

        The average Smooth skirt these days are probably 1.5 circles. But with a caveat: the volume of the skirt begins around the knee level, flarin gout dramatically in a short area. The upper section of the skirt is very sleek and streamlined.

        With Leslie’s dress (and all dresses of the late 90s when women used their skirts while dancing) the volume of the skirt begins around low hip level and continuously flares out as the skirt goes down.
        P.S. This really is a fabulous question! It sounds like you’re a perfect candidate for one of my Sew Like A Pro courses.

        Good luck with your project!

Leave a Comment or a Question