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I started to learn to dance at the age of 4 and began competing in open competitions when I was 6. Like most little girls at this age I wanted pretty dresses and preferably lots of them!!  My Mum having acquired some basic dressmaking skills over the years decided to dig her old sewing machine out of the loft and attempt to make them for me.  I won’t go into detail about her first efforts but suffice to say that I wasn’t too impressed even at that tender age!  Making nice dance dresses is a bit like dancing itself in that the more you practice the better the results so throughout the intervening years whilst dancing in juvenile and junior and into youth and amateur I have been very lucky to have owned and worn many beautiful dance dresses. About four years ago Mum decided to turn her hobby into a business and on leaving college I decided to work with her whilst continuing to study with the OU.  It has been a huge learning curve but I now make some of my own dresses along with helping to design, make and stone dresses for our customers of all  ages, sizes and grades.  Approaching my 21st birthday I am still an active competitor which gives me the opportunity to keep in touch with the latest fashion trends and design concepts as well as being able to see how these look and perform on the dance floor.  



What makes “The Perfect Dance Dress”?  Finding your ideal dress, whether buying new off the peg, pre-worn or having a dress made, is not always easy and mistakes can be costly.  The following are all factors which I take into account when designing and making my own dresses as well as when helping and advising customers.



Fashion of any sort is a matter of personal taste, what one person may love, another may hate. The most important thing is that you the dancer like your dress and are going to be happy wearing it. What might be my ideal dress may not be yours as we all have our own individual tastes and will like or dislike different things. When considering whether to buy a dress or have a design made by all means listen to advice from teachers, friends, partner and family, along with your dressmaker/designer about what they think might suit you but don’t be influenced into buying something that you are not going to be totally happy with, because at the end of the day it is you that has to wear it!



Comfort, this is high on my list of priorities.  When I am dancing I don’t want to be distracted by any discomfort caused by my dress, rubbing, cutting or digging into me nor do I want to be nursing skin damage or blisters after wearing it. When considering the purchase of a dress make sure that it is comfortable if any areas are not investigate whether it is possible to have these altered.



The perfect dress should be an excellent fit for you. A well fitting dance dress should fit like a second skin without being too loose or too tight.  If a dress is too big it may gape and wrinkle as well as moving around on the body as you dance. Baggy bits do not enhance the look of a dress!  Equally the dress should not be too small or too tight as this can cause discomfort as well as many other problems such as over exposure of parts of the body and restriction of movement.  Consideration should also be given to practical and technical aspects of the dress, for example straps and fastenings.  Are any straps the right length and comfortable, are fastenings secure and are there enough of them to hold the dress properly in place?  Even the most beautiful dance dress is as good as useless if it is likely to fall off in the middle of the floor!



Design, style and colour(s) are all really a matter of individual taste but when considering what will or won’t work for you, a good starting point is to initially identify which parts of your body and/or shape you like or dislike and then look at design concepts which will flatter and enhance your figure as well as covering any areas that you might prefer not to be exposed. As a couple of examples if you are tall and slim you might look at designs that will cut the body into smaller sections, such as having a style or decoration with horizontal lines around the body whereas someone who is smaller or with a fuller figure might find that a dress with vertical lines and/or decoration may be more flattering. Think about drawing attention to certain areas of the dress perhaps by use of design or embellishment, which also has the effect of drawing attention away from other areas.  When considering colour(s) think about which colours may work best with your hair and skin colouring as well as your body size and shape. As a rule of thumb darker colours will have a slimming effect with lighter colours working the opposite way. Rhinestone decoration is popular and really does enhance the look of a dress, especially one made from plain fabrics. However they can be very expensive so if your budget will not stretch to a dress plastered in Swarovski, think about the use of colours or patterned or embellished fabrics or laces to achieve a striking look without the need for heavy decoration.



Fashions come and go and often come back into fashion again some years later. Dance fashion is no exception and there will always be fads and trends. Should you follow them in an attempt to have the latest look on the floor??  I believe that the answer to this question should be “only if you like them”!  Don’t feel pressurised into becoming a dedicated follower of the latest fashions unless it is something that you are going to be happy and comfortable wearing.  If not stick with a style or design that you know looks good and suits you, as at the present time I think it really is a case of anything goes!!



Hannah Davis - October 2009











I have been asked to write this article as a general easy to understand overview of the dress code and restrictions for juvenile competitors taking part in open competitions run under British Dance Council rules.  This is intended as a guide only and the full code can be obtained from the BDC if required. 




We will start with the boys (as they are simpler) and unless otherwise stated the code applies for Ballroom, Latin and Sequence:  In one or two cases where perhaps a rule is unwritten or unclear I have used my own interpretation as to what I believe would normally be acceptable or otherwise.









Trousers - Plain Black Trousers with either a normal waistline or a high waistband and made from a suiting type fabric or similar. Underfoot straps are acceptable. A narrow black belt can be worn for latin.  No decoration is permitted.




Shirts – Plain White Shirt with a normal collar and no pleats or ribbing. Wing collars and extra full sleeves are not permitted.  Fabric must be plain. No satin or shiny fabrics are allowed and again no decoration in any shape or form.




Ties – A Plain Black Tie should be worn for ballroom and sequence and a Plain Black Bow Tie for latin.




Sponsorship Logos – These are permitted up to a maximum of 40 square centimetres




Shoes – Plain Black Shoes, leather or patent. Small Cuban heels are often worn for latin.




Onto the girls, which I am afraid are slightly more long winded!!








Dresses – A simple dress of one colour only or a leotard or plain blouse and full wrap over or circular skirt both of the same colour. Pleated skirts are permitted.  Skirts must be above the knee with the exception of Sequence dresses where they may be one inch below the knee. Skirts should have a maximum of three layers and the top layer can be wired with fishing line wire but rigilene or hem stiffeners are not allowed. Although I cannot find any guidance in the rules I believe that finishing the dress hem with bias binding or ribbon is acceptable as long as this is the same colour as the dress.  A frill on the bottom of the dress is permitted up to a maximum of three inches in depth.  No Sequin, Diamante or other similar decoration is allowed.





Dress Fabrics – Must be of one colour throughout the dress and metallic threads or fabrics with lurex or glitter patterns are not permitted. Stretch lace fabric is allowed as is colour co-ordinated mesh or power net.  However any see through materials used on the bodice must be fully lined from the waist to the shoulder line.  See through fabrics are permitted to be used unlined on sleeves only. Body stocking or similar see through material inserts are not allowed nor are straps.




There must be no decoration in any form such as sequins, lace diamantes, rhinestones, beads, fluorescent paints, feathers, fringe, bows, buttons, braids or similar trimmings.  Small bows may be used as a fastening for a belt or sash and buttons may also be used for fastening purposes only.




Dress Styles



Permitted Front Necklines:



  • Round


  • Boat


  • High


  • V Neck


  • Sweetheart


  • Simple Collar


  • Square Neck


  • Peter Pan Collar


  • Frill up to a maximum of 3inch depth





None of the above necklines should be “low cut”



Permitted Back Necklines:



  • Round


  • Boat


  • V Neck


  • Square Neck


  • Small Keyhole cut no lower than armholes




I am unable to find any real guidance as to how low the cut can be on the back neckline but would suggest that no lower than the armholes would be acceptable.




Unapproved Necklines:



  • Off the shoulder on one or both arms


  • Any shoulderless dress with straps


  • Any backless dress


  • Low cut back either round or V


  • Cut outs other than a small keyhole as mentioned above





Permitted Sleeves:



  • Long either loose or fitted


  • Short


  • Elbow Length


  • Sleeveless


  • Short Puff Sleeve


  • Cap Sleeve




Unapproved Sleeves:



  • Dolman


  • Tiered


  • Slashed


  • Frills on Shoulders


  • Frilled or Layered


  • Frilled Cuffs
  • One Sleeve


  • Belled




Permitted Skirts:



  • Full circle


  • Full wrap around


  • A line with full hemline



Unapproved Skirts:



  • Fringed


  • Fringe Trim


  • Feathers or Feather Trimming


  • Tiered Frills


  • Godets or Fabric Inserts


  • No splits at Front, Back or Sides


  • Slashed Thighs at Front or Back


  • Skirt made from Strips


  • Frills longer than three inches on hemline





Shoes    Block Heeled Shoes only with a maximum heel height of 3.5 cm. As far as I am aware there are no restriction as to colour and gold, silver, white, flesh shoes can be worn.  Strictly no high heels.  White ankle socks are normally worn.




Hair & Make Up – Parents are asked to be sensible in regard to hair styles and the amount of make up worn by juvenile girls. A small hair decoration such as a flower in the same colour as the dress is normally acceptable.




Accessories – Armbands, Wristbands, Chokers or Headbands worn around the forehead are not allowed.




Sponsorship Logos – These are permitted up to a maximum of 40 square centimetres















I am often asked about the rules concerning the dress code for beginners competitions, particularly junior as well as other competitions where day wear/lounge dress is required. As far as I am aware there are not actually any formal guidelines available as to what is or is not permitted.   I believe the philosophy is that a plain simple dress or skirt and blouse of the type which are available in the High Street should suffice.  Most practice wear is also suitable for example a leotard/body and a skirt.  However I would not recommend wearing anything with decoration in the form of diamantes or sequins (even if purchased in a High Street store).  Some years ago I discussed this issue at length with a Professional who advised that to be absolutely certain of being suitably dressed for beginners competitions, the most sensible course of action is to follow the same guidelines as laid down for the juveniles.



Elaine Davis - October 2006
















































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