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costume question

wlric | Posted in General Discussion on

I have a question for all the costume makers out there. I am making a “little black dress” for a professional ballet dancer’s performance. It is sleeveless, fitted, short straight skirt with side slits. The fabric is silk charmeuse. I want to line the bodice to the waist, and would like your thoughts on lining fabric choices. She has very strenuous choreography, so she will be sweating in the dress. She may wear a leotard under the dress, but is considering just dance trunks. Any thoughts? Thanks for your ideas.


  1. tmorris1 | | #1


    My first instinct would be to go with a lycra, and instead of just going to the waist, taking it down to a snap closure in the gusset (like a body suit) for modesty.


    1. wlric | | #2

      Thanks. Are you saying to essentially build the dress onto a leotard? I'll do some thinking about that. It might work.

      1. tmorris1 | | #4

        Yes, build the dress into a leotard. Or, you can sew it to a leotard. The gusset snaps will allow her to just take it off over her head quickly with no need for a zipper. If you are doing this as a favor, the dancer would probably have an old leotard that you could sew the dress to, and cut away any additional fabric to make it faster.I warn against a zipper though, the added stiffness in that area of the dress could effect some of the beautiful lines that the dancer is creating with her movement. A snap closure in the gusset will allow her to quickly remove the dress over her head, It is quite standard in dance.Happy sewing.T.

  2. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #3

    I'm with tmorris.  Build it on the leotard like you said.  Does she have a fast costume change?  An invisible zipper in the back will get her in and out.  Sew the 2 together at the neckline, armscye and zipper.

  3. User avater
    DonMcCunn | | #5

    Silk charmeuse strikes me as a potentially problematic choice. I'm not an expert on silk but my understanding is that it is a fabric more appropriate for non-athletic activities. It's satin like finish means it will snag easily and keeping it clean would require extreme care.

    Don McCunn

  4. wlric | | #6

    Thank you all for your kind replies. I am leaning toward building the dress on a leo; attached at the neck and armholes.
    The dress is closely fitted and she can not get it up and over her shoulders and head. It will need to have an opening. We have chosen to have hook and eye closures at the back. None of us are trusting of a zipper closure for this performance. I know that the silk may seem an unlikely choice. For this dancer and this performance it was right. I'll post a photo in a couple of weeks when it's done.
    If anyone else has thoughts to share, I'd love to hear them.

    1. tmorris1 | | #7

      wlric;have you considered sewing a strip of elastic into the side seams?? This would give the garment more stretch through the bodice so that you could eliminate those pesky hook and eye closures. If you do use the hook and eye, place them with the hook part facing out, this way the hooks will not dig into your dancers skin when she moves.T.Are you using a pattern?? If I could see the pattern, I may be able to give you a couple more construction tips, I used to make costumes for gymnasts and showgirls.

      Edited 7/29/2007 10:29 pm ET by tmorris1

      1. wlric | | #8

        You are psychic. After working with the muslin on my dress form I had concluded that a strip of lycra was going to have to go into the seams. In the original design a triangular underarm gusset was included to allow for the expansion of her ribcage. I am just going to extend that to the hem.
        I am working from a sketch drawn by the designer. It's just a basic fitted shell, but complicated by the dancer's 18" back waist measurement and small waist/large ribcage. I have to work around the needs of the dancer, designer, and choreographer and make everybody happy. It's a challenge I actually enjoy. But, definitely a challenge.

        1. tmorris1 | | #10

          I see...great love in your life...and...I am getting something else...I think, Yes!!! sometime within the next 3 hours there will be a great rush, the waters will rise and fall, and all that which you waste will be flushed away. LOL Good luck with the dress. If you have any other problems, let me know and I will be more than happy to help. Post a pic when you are done, I would love to see it.T.

          1. wlric | | #11

            I posted a photo of the dress in the photo gallery. It worked out well for the dancer. The photo was taken just before the last fitting. The girl had that very long torso and one shoulder considerably lower than the other, so it did look better on her than on the form.

          2. tmorris1 | | #12

            wlric;I love the fabric that you used, the dress looks great. Thank you so much for posting pics. You did a great job. So, are you going to start your own line of skate wear now?? :-) T.

          3. wlric | | #13

            Thank you. I'll keep doing the occasional special order, but making skirts for dancewear shops keeps me plenty busy.

  5. ctirish | | #9

    You might want to look into some of the new fabrics that wick moisture away from the body for the lining of the bodice. I know there are some that contain lycra and other fabrics that are helpful in close fitting clothing. Sweating is inevitable but hopefully you can help make her comfortable while she is performing.


    Edited 7/30/2007 11:25 pm ET by ctirish

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