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How To Choose, Coordinate, and Care For Your Costume.

Important performance coming up? Ordering your custome should be done well in advance. Coordinating you makeup and accessories is just as important. Last, but just as important, is careful packing and care for your costume.

Choosing the Costume

The choice of the costume is the teacher's, although parents frequently provide some input. The type of dance--tap, jazz, lyric, ballet, or acrobatics--should be the first consideration. Also, a fascinating costume for a solo dancer, repeated in a group, can overwhelm the choreography. The choice should support the message or mood of the dance.

Costumes for young students should always be age-appropriate and tasteful. Bright colors are flattering to the very young; black is unsuitable.

Have to make your own decision? Don't hesitate to ask catalog costumers. Need to disguise heavy thighs? Find a loose, fringed skirt. Do you have a slim body? You can wear long, soft skirts in any pastel color with matching leotards. Cut velvet is elegant and flattering. Stay away from midriff tops on the stage. Straight lines on young boys can make them look taller and stronger.

A costume should never overpower the performer. Check the colors of the lighting and backdrop while there's still time to make adjustments before the performance. Rehearse in costume. If the choreography requires sitting or rolling on the floor, will a skirt be a hazard as you stand up? Will you do multiple turns? A long skirt can wrap around your body, if the fabric is too soft or too heavy. Are the lines of the costume clear or too busy to show the clean line of the body? Study the costume on you at a distance.

Color, while flattering to the dance and the dancer, can also make a strong statement. Martha Graham (who largely designed her own costumes) could make dramatic use of a costume accessory, such as a long purple scarf over a bright red costume. The scarf became an effective prop, as well. A harsh color or horizontal stripe, however, can dimish a long, lean line.

Small touches of elegance can attract attention or be used to distract the eye from parts of the body. Tapestry trim, brocade, hand-painted areas, beading, embroidery--these touches enhance the elegance of the costume.

According to costumer Rosemary Ponzo, "a costume too full of material can obscure the body. Too many pieces can make an audience uncomfortable. A long body can wear an empire line well; an all-black leotard or black pants and shirt on a male dancer needs a touch of color at the neck or waist, or his costume choice could be in a shimmering fabric."

Comfort and fit are everything. Some designers--such as Halston for Martha Graham, Karinska for New York City Ballet, and Irene Sharaff for stage and screen stars--knew how to design structurally original and comfortable wardrobes. When possible, dance in a costume before you purchase it.

Coordinating Accessories

Think twice before you put on the glitz. Too many sequins or rhinestones can outdazzle you. Red nail polish can create bloody claws onstage. Any neutral color, however, adds to a well-groomed look, as does neat hair. If you have to look bloody for Dracula roles or Halloween, contact Foothills, 1295 Ithaca Drive, Boulder, CO 80303-6331; (303) 499-7362; their reusable, custom-made fangs will not fall out. If a mask is required, be sure you have plenty of practice in wearing it. To look as if you came from another planet, or to create a character, Cesar has your solution at 25 East 21 Street, New York, NY 10010-6293; (212) 228-MASK.

Personal jewelry does not belong on the stage. Effective stage earrings or necklaces can be purchased that look real but don't detract from the overall effect. Small sparkling earrings for pierced ears are the safest; clip-ons can be secured with a touch of liquid adhesive. Applied to tights or stockings, adhesive can also keep a shoe, especially a pointe shoe, in place, and be washed out afterwards.

Tights and shoes can be custom-dyed to match your costume. In a pinch, you can apply dry from a packet with alcohol on a cotton pad to change the color of a shoe. Liquid dyes harden fabrics and leather. Dip your tights in a mild solution of packaged dye after each washing.

Need tights in preprinted stripe patterns for male dancers for roles in such ballets as Romeo and Juliet? Renaissance Dancewear, (209)271-1411, can provide thick, durable cotton-Lycra opaque tights in a variety of colors and sizes. Need a wig? Lacey Costume Wig can provide a fifty-six page catalog of historical, theatrical, stage, TV, clown, and other wig styles. They are at 505 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018, (800) 562-9911 or (212) 695-1996. It's best to try on several wigs and listen to expert opinion.

If the right costume period is a question for parents, such as in the first act of The Nutcracker, royalty in The Sleeping Beauty, or a 1920s or 1930s look, a professional costumer can guide you through the maze. You can telephone United Scenic Artists in New York City at (212) 581-0300.

If you're near Fremont, Ohio, visit Costume Holiday House, Inc., 3038 Hayes Avenue, for period costumes; or call (800) 348-6616 or (419) 334-3236.

Special makeup needs? Bob Kelly Cosmetics, Inc., has been famous with Broadway stars for decades. The catalog is available at (212) 819-0030.

Costume Care

Got a tutu that needs freshening? Don't be afraid to dip it into a tub of cool-water suds. Gently rinse and hang upside down to dry. When the skirt is almost dry, spray starch on each layer as you pull out the creases.

Nylon net and stretch fabrics are washable in mild suds.

Spots? White Rain or Aqua Net in an aerosol form sprayed from eight inches away, will lift off a spot. Ivory Soap on a white washcloth with plain warm water will do the same. Motsenbocker lift-offs (available in drug stores) will remove food, beverage, grease, ink, and other hard stains.

Pointe shoes, and all footwear, should be kept clean. For pointe shoes, use a cotton pad dipped in alcohol or cleaning fluid to remove dirt and rosin from the satin. Pancake and powder will mask those stains too stubborn to be removed. Clip the "beard" from the tip of the shoe as it wears if you have not learned to dam the tips. A light spray of Zinsser shellac or Lambert's Fabulon clear floor finish, used inside the box of the shoe, will strengthen it for longer wear; let the shoes dry thoroughly. Wash the ribbons after each wearing.

Check for weak spots, such as loose hooks, overly stretched elastics, or missing decorations after each wearing. You must put on your wardrobe the last minute before going onstage and never eat, drink, sit, or smoke in your costume.

First show with a dresser? Let him or her take the costume off the rack, help you step into it and zip, hook, or Velcro the closings. After your performance, let the dresser unhook and help you remove your costume and hang it up. Dressers should receive a tip at the end of a week's work of at least $20 or $5 for a single performance. They spend their entire day mending, ironing, and cleaning costumes and are frequently the last to leave at night with the stagehands. They are the masters who help with those changes executed in pitch-black backstage areas during a performance.

Special Needs

Need a special hat for a period costume? Contact Smithbilt Hats in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, (403) 244-9131.

Need a Celtic or any other special tapestry trim for your costume? Contact The Pillaged Village in Carlisle, Ohio, for their catalog, (937) 855-4555.

Need special garment bags for your expensive costumes and accessories? Travel Auto Bag Company can supply clear plastic bags in any size, as well as cleaning equipment. Call for catalog, (212) 840-0025 or (800) 840-0095.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Dance Magazine, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Horosko, Marian
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Previous Article:DANCESCAPE.
Next Article:Jobs in Costume Design.

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