As we embark on the new competition season, now is the time to evaluate your costume strategy.

As we embark on the new competition season, now is the time to evaluate your costume strategy.

First lets examine the process of choosing a costume for competition. Is this for a group or solo? Does it expand on the theme and dance discipline? The costume should enhance the number, it provides the visual cue about the number the second it appears on stage. That moment is very important, make the most of it! Can the dancer(s) move comfortably and perform without constraint or embarrassment? It may look great but if they cant move the race is lost before it begins. Finally, a favorite of mine, is it age appropriate and respectful of the dancers body type and shape?

Next lets work on finding the wow factor. Everyone loves the wow moments. When a dancer tries on the costume for the first time and looks in the mirror and saysWow! When the other dancers see a costume and say..Wow! When a costume walks on stage and the judges and audience sigh a collective.Wow! The Wow costume is possible for every dancer and dance if we carefully put the pieces together. Work as a team with the choreographer, costumer and dancer. Note that I did not include the dancers parent; sadly they often have a very different vision and lack the expertise for making the best choice, even though they are paying the bill. It is important to reassure them that you find their ideas interesting but know they will trust you to choose the best costume for their child. Often the costumes that stand out do so because they are different. Do not be afraid to try something new, if everyone else is in little shorts and bra tops, go an entirely new direction, perhaps a dress?

One of my favorite comments from judges and parents is that our costumes are classy, now that is tricky to define but I think they mean a caliber of costume that meets all the points listed above. Look for simple lines that move well. Try to resist the urge to over glitz. While we all love catching the light on stage, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. I frequently order dance basics and embellish them for competition. Several suppliers now do custom orders where you can pick the colors and style, you must plan ahead (6-8 weeks) but the results can be very unique. When on a budget I work with sequins*, and fabric paints. There are some great holographic sequins that do a fine job catching the light. When I have a little more of a budget I work with rhinestones, but again, a little goes a long way. The costume should never overwhelm the dancer, too many appliqus, rhinestones, or ruffles can strangle the dancer and suppress their personality.

No matter where the costume comes from take time to ensure proper fit. Check that the length is good and the arms can move. Dont be afraid of alterations, they can make a world of difference. In pants, check the length and the crotch, nothing is worse than a drooping crotch!

Another part of the wow effect for me is the movement of the costume. We create movement with fabric in the skirt, shirt or props. Now, not every dance is conducive to flowing fabric but when it is possible, it is wonderful. It is also a handy way to mask some little imperfections. A loose sleeve is a real gift if the arms are a bit weak! I think the dancers also feel the musicality when they have movement as part of their costume.

Finally the Wow is accomplished by the complete look. Finish the costume off with the right accessories, tights and shoes. Nothing drives me crazier than a sleek black outfit, pants, hats, the whole thing but tan tights and black shoes, breaking the line and ruining the overall effect. Now the same rules of choice apply to accessories, make sure they are not an obstacle to the required movement. Hats or headpieces must be well secured. I encourage you all to be bold in your choices, look at the costumes that you admire from other schools and find ways to emulate the positive aspects of the costumes.

Dont be afraid to ask questions of others, most are happy to share resources and suppliers. In fact, lets share our costume experiences, good or bad, Email us at Dance teacher web with your costume experiences or questions and we will share it in future columns. Here are a few of my favorite sources:

Spandex House Fabrics www.spandexhouse.com 263 west 38th street New York, NY 10018 USA Phone: 212-354-6711 Fax: 212-354-7432. Spandex House Inc. has been serving customers from all over the world since 1991. Spandex House Inc is a very specialized source of Stretch Fabrics. Spandex House maintains the largest selection of Spandex and Lycra. Users are mainly professional Costume Designers, Dancers, Wrestlers, Ice and Figure Skaters, Exotic Dancers. Spandex House is the major supplier of fabrics for Gym wear, Swim wear, Circus and Ballet costumes and all sports-wear.

Sidney Coe - 306 W 38th Street | between 8th Avenue & 9th Avenue | Manhattan NYC 212-631-0220 | Fax 212-631-0221 Specializes in Appliqus | Beads | Sequins | Trims | More . The very best price on stones & trims. No website but when you call ask for Ralph and tell him Poochie Malloy in Connecticut sent you!

www.instockdancecostumes.com- Save up to 60% on Costume gallery costumes. Also visit Costume gallery main website, includes a very nice newsletter

www.artstonecostumes.com- On demand section features huge savings on high quality costumes. Can be a bit hit and miss on sizes but if it works for you, it will be a great deal. Shipping is quick and reliable and they are very responsive to costumer service.

www.finacostumes.com & www.dansco.com Two costume lines owned by the same company. Both websites have close-out sections, use the drop down menu to navigate to special section.

www.curtaincallcostumes.com Excellent costumer service, again a large in-stock section and interesting incentives for studio owners.

www.beastlybuddies.com Character costumes for younger children. They will do custom work and are very helpful, good quality and have excellent prices.

Correct Measurements are crucial, when sizing be sure to check the charts for each company and when in doubt order larger it is easier to adjust !