Entering a ballroom competition is like entering another world. The floor is awash in a sea of color and sparkle and everything is designed to catch the eye. Other than the face, a person’s apparel is probably one of the first things that is noticed. This goes especially for a ballroom competition where the judges and audience are actively looking at participants. As such, costuming is a very important aspect of presentation.
A good ballroom costume ought to flatter the wearer while supporting the movement style. After all, you want to get noticed for all the right things, not something like a poorly-fitting or unflattering costume. This means considering everything from the cut of a costume to the color. Choose to reveal your assets. For example, if you have great legs, opt for a shorter skirt. If you have articulate back action, look for something backless. If you’re a leader and proud of yours pecs, maybe look for a more open shirt. Contrastingly, you can use your choice in costume to draw attention away from perceived flaws. When you have the opportunity, do try on a costume before you buy it and/or ask a friend for their thoughts so you have a better sense of how it fits you.
Remember that color is another important consideration in costume selection. The color should flatter the wearer and ideally also catch the eye. Depending on the fashion season, this could mean anything from wearing a bright dress to stand out amidst a sea of black and white to sporting black among pastels.
Costumes should also serve to enhance your dancing. In latin/rhythm dances, this means that decorations like fringe are popular due to how they emphasize hip action. In standard/smooth dances, floats and light skirts show off the effortless glide of the dances. Going beyond that, a costume ought to reflect the attitude you want to portray in a style. If you prefer an elegant cha cha, extend that attitude into your costume with a classier silhouette. Alternatively, say you like a fierce standard/smooth set. Try powerful colors or perhaps animal prints.
Similarly, costumes should not only serve as an extension of your dancing but also of your partnership. Costumes create a visual connection between partners. For example, one would not expect a militantly garbed leader to be dancing with a follower in a skimpy feather dress. This is a style clash. One might expect to see that leader with a follower in a more understated costume. Likewise, the feathered follower might be better paired with a leader in a riskier costume. On a more basic note, also try not to clash color-wise. A leader tends to wear more neutral colors in order to emphasize his/her follower’s costume.
Most importantly, wear a costume that makes you feel great about yourself. As cliché as the statement may be, confidence really is one of the best accessories and what you wear can affect it. Choose something that makes you feel fierce on the competition floor and enjoy the dance!
Share your thoughts on costuming in the comments below!
For more on presentation, see An Introduction to Competition Presentation.