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How To Dress For A Ballroom Competition With Discount Dance Supply

Updated on November 20, 2015

How To Dress For A Ballroom Dance Competition

You are about to enter you very first ballroom dance competition (or maybe your second or third?) and your mind is full of those glittery fancy dresses you’ve seen at the last pro competition you watched on YouTube. The price tags are beyond your budget, you know that much. Perhaps you are considering to start sewing your own creative dresses. But let me tell you this much: As much as any hobby like dance needs time for perfection, so does sewing. So, instead of robbing yourself of dance practice time or money and lots of sewing nerves and creativity blocks, look into the following tips I have collected for you from my own competition experience.

Look around you for ballroom dresses and other discount dance supply

As long as you are still in the lower dance levels (called Newcomer in America), you might find what you need in your own wardrobe (or your combined girl friends’ wardrobes). Even if you do not own a suitable dress, a skirt and shirt will do the trick. Combine it with cheap but sparkly (and sparkling it should!) jewelry and you are certain to draw attention on the floor (but make sure you are following dress regulations). My favorite sparkle is found at “Charming Charlie”, but not every city might feature this store. Other shops in the usual crowd are Bijou Brigitte and SIX which will do just as fine.

If you are part of a dance team or dance school, you should try and ask your fellow dancers and teachers for dresses you can borrow. The team I used to dance with frequently exchanged dresses, so we wouldn’t have to wear the same thing over again. Collegiate competition season after all features about 6 weekends in close succession for each wider area in the US.

Clothes Swap


Shopping Possibilities For Ballroom Dresses On A Budget

If you do not have Chinese friends around with connections to motherland seamstresses, nor have you visited Thailand or Vietnam recently, your best bets are on Ebay and Facebook.

How to take your own measurements
How to take your own measurements | Source

On Ebay you will find used dresses as you would expect, but even better, you can find specialist stores with ballroom dance dresses ranging between $100 and $500 dollars. (The Pro dresses start at $1000 …). These stores will often allow you to send your measurements and have the dress made-to-fit. Which is simpy awesome and much to be preferred over used dresses. You can ask your local seamstress to take your measures or ask a friend to help you out.

On Facebook you want to search for dance groups like “Ballroom/Latin dresses” or “Ballroom&Latin Dresses For Sale”. Here you can get in contact with dancers around the world and buy their used dresses. You can get very good deals on here from very ambitious people who change their dresses every so often. It will be pretty much as new.


Another website I can recommend always worth the visit is Etsy. If you don’t know Etsy, go and have a look right now. You will find tons of little private shops with handmade goodies and the best customer service out on the web. Etsy is my new Ebay when it comes to Christmas shopping. The least you will get from Etsy is a bucket full of new ideas on what you might want to wear (or maybe sew after all …).

Ballroom Dress Styles

Ballroom dancing requires certain types of dresses and skirts. You want to show color to stand out among the crowd of dancers, and you want fabric and length that accompliments and intensifies your moves.

You don’t want to wear the tiny black that might fit just any occasion but a dance competition. For one, a skirt needs to show your dance movements. In standard dances like Waltz you want to have a wide flowing skirt for the big movements you will make. In the Latin dances you want to go with easy swirling skirts that accentuate your hip movements. Secondly, black is just not a color that pops out of the floor. The judges might not see you in a crowd of 15+ couples out there. Judges got about 10 seconds to judge you and if you completely fall under their radar because of your blackness, you might not get recalled at all simply because of your invisibility.

Standard dress


Latin Dance Dress


General ballroom dress competition tips

NEVER choose a dress without shoulder holders. If you have a shoulder-free dress, it will come off on the dance floor. Murphy’s law. I guarantee it. There are many neat variations on strap color (nude is an invisible option) and strap position (standard dresses often go far out on the shoulders).

NEVER dance with a new dress in a competition that you haven’t tried in practice before. If you only swirl around at home, you might have overlooked how high the skirt is swirling for instance…If you have not danced a jive in your latin dress, you might have overlooked that your arm holders or bra cups are too loose, too.

NEVER dance in new shoes. You really need to brake them in at least a week in advance. You owe it to your feet. You don’t want to be handicapped by pain. Take enough adhesives and blister plasters with you.

NO - silver is not a good color for beginners
NO - silver is not a good color for beginners | Source
YES - nude color and new look
YES - nude color and new look | Source

A Word On Ballroom Competition Shoes

I know there are many fabulous shoes out there, and the feet of Pros are sparkling the night away. You want to go with comfort. I know you can dance on those stilettos for two hours of social dance just fine. Trust me, you don't want to risk it on a competition day. If your shoes are not comfortable, you will be handicapped while competing.

You also can’t possibly buy shoes for all the colors of your dresses. So go with nude (black is a no-go, seriously) or tan. It will fit (and not distract from) every dress style and you have still enough shoe types and brands to choose from.

Even if you are on a budget for your ballroom outfit, the shoes are a no-go to save money on. Used shoes will be less stable increasing your risk for loosing balance. They will also look shabby, which is just fine for practice sessions but always mentioned by competition judges as a big NO. Good Shoes range from $90 to $160 Dollar (of course there is space above). Do invest them and keep that pair for competitions only, so they will look new and shiny for as long as possible, and won't make you trip over your own feet (or your partners...).


Make sure, you don’t use your 2 year old pair that has barely any color left when you go out on the competition floor. Judges might not like it. Keep a good competition pair that is broken in, or if you cannot afford new shoes, try and repair your old ones by coloring over used spots.

Also, don’t forget to take off those heal protectors! And you might want to do that in practice sessions before the competition. Balance and height slightly differ, so be prepared!

If you are afraid you might loose a standard shoe, remember to use clear plastic bands to wrap around your shoe and foot.

Last but not least

Have fun competing !! If you wear something you feel comfortable in, then you will look much more confident out there on the dance floor (even if that means no glitter ;]). Plus, the judges will most likely note your grimaced face, if you wear painful shoes ;).

© 2015 Lilli2go


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