Here it is.  You’ve paid for your costume in full and you are bringing home that beautiful and expensive piece to keep before pictures and recital.  There are some basic things everyone should know on how to care for costumes.  Of course, it is often assumed that some transfer of knowledge occurs when you walk through a dance studio front entrance, which is not necessarily the case.  So here is the transfer of knowledge from me to you.  In case you are questioning if I really have 24 years of experience, yes this photo is a panoramic of my attic of costumes from my four children, which is the length of my house!fullsizerender-9

  1. First, most costumes will come from the company in some type of plastic bag. Some are like a garment bag and some are just a bag.  Your job is to bring them straight home, account for all of the pieces and get them out of the bags so that your child’s costume is not horribly wrinkled on picture/ recital day.  Now my preference as a Mom is that about age 11, you are having your dancer do this task while you stand and watch, and by age 13, your dancer is independent and you simply need to double check the task was completed
    1. DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THOSE BAGS! You are not just wasting your investment, but every student and your director has worked hard and a crumpled up costume will be obvious in pictures and draw the audience eye away from the performance
    2. I recommend hanging your costumes on the velvet hangers. It prevents the slick materials or tiny strap from slipping off and ending up bunched up in the bottom of the bag
    3. Take the accessories and place them in a gallon baggie. Write on the bag with a sharpie the name of the dancer, dance and a list of everything that goes with that costume. This includes shoes (style and color), tights (color), basic pieces (leotard, pants, shirt, skirt), and all accessories such as head pieces, gloves, wrist bands, etc. If the hair style calls for bobby pins, hair ties, hair nets and the like; put a supply in the baggie. Safety pins and double-stick tape are also needed with some costumes. Put these in the baggie as well
    4. Remove visible tags. Be very careful as you do this as you could easily cut a hole in the costume and while you can’t see a flea on a galloping horse, you can see the 1 inch oval of your daughters side gleaming thru the hole in the seam of her dark leotard.
    5. Write your dancer’s names or initials ON EVERYTHING (unless of course you attend a studio where you check out costumes) – believe me, when the costumes fly and everyone’s stuff ends up in a pile, you will be thankful your kid can find theirs
  2. Wrinkled costumes should be given a day or two to hang and see if the wrinkles will resolve on their own
    1. For persistent wrinkles, try hanging them in the bathroom while running a very hot shower
    2. Do not iron these costumes. You may try to steam them, very carefully
    3. If you have a material you want to try to iron, place a pillow case between your costume and the iron to prevent damage and iron the backside of the costume. Try on a small, unnoticeable area first
  3. Balanchine, platter and pancake tutus should be stored flat and upside down. If you cannot transport them flat, hang them upside down with the netting well fluffed to help return the stiffness that may have been lost in transport
    1. To return fluff to your tutu, lay it upside down and use your hands to fluff out all of the layers
    2. If this does not work, or if your instructor prefers a very stiff tutu, break out the aqua net. Not the expensive hair spray, nope, that won’t cut it.  This process takes several days, so find a flat area protected from dirt and pet hair and spray heavily all layers.  Let dry for a day and repeat several times.
    3. For skilled hands, you may add extra layers of stiff netting to the underside, but I would only recommend this type of modification if you are a soloist with no other matching costumes in the group, your director has asked you to do so, and if you are 100% capable of completing this tasktypes-of-tutus
  4. Romantic tutus can be hung as regular costumes. Simply hand fluff the layers.  For classic bell tutus, ask your teacher how fluffy he/she would like the look to know how to store best
  5. Tutus are best transported in a tutu bag, which can be purchased online
  6. Sew the straps or appropriate parts on your costume, do not pin only. Pins bust open, usually at the most inopportune times.  Everyone can thread a needle, even your dancer, so sew pieces on firmly
  7. Adjust the costume to fit your dancer – these costumes only have so many size choices, some may need to be adjusted – Do this well in advance of when it is needed, not at dress rehearsal.  Why volunteer for more stress?
    1. Simple adjustments include hemming, adjusting straps to pull up a low costume, taking in some minor largeness
    2. You may need to hire a seamstress if you can’t sew if your costume leotard is too short (need to take apart crotch and add material) or too large in some areas (may need darts or taken apart and resewn) Your dancer will be far more confident and comfortable in a costume that fits
    3. If you are in a company that dances all season and you have a growing dancer, consider tacking some of your changes in the fall so that adjustments can be made throughout the season.  I don’t recommend cutting off extra length until later in the season
  8. Store costumes in one place and one place only – this is such an easy thing to do and one of the most frustrating things when I see a family not do this.  You will lose parts and pieces and have a stressed out experience, not to mention honk off your director, on a day that is supposed to show off all you have learned.  One place, organized all year round, for costumes and costume pieces.  Organize it to best fit for your family.  I keep ours in half of the closet in my sewing room.  Washed tights?  Put away in sewing room closet.  Company basic after a performance? Sprayed with vodka, dried and put away in the sewing room closet.  Hat with opening number?  In the hat box in the closet in the sewing room.  Performance dance shoes? In the white basket in the sewing room closet.  My essentials of safety pins, bobby pins, hair spray, gel, makeup, etc?  In the white basket in the sewing room closet.    NO EXCEPTIONS.  You start the organization.  You watch your dancer do that starting age 10 or 11, then check that they do that starting around 12/13.  We also have a launching costume rack in the sewing room for costumes that will be used that weekend for a dress rehearsal or need some cleaning or adjustments
  9. Transport your costumes in a breathable costume bag or other organized set up. Not the plastic that the costume was originally in or just on a hanger.  Original costume bags do not breathe and may cause problem after the performance when the costume is sweaty.  Without a bag, you have no protection if it is dropped or raining or who knows what.  Remember that eye twitch picture?  Insert here for the teenagers that come trit trotting into the studio with their costumes bunched up in their hand! eye-twitchFor those with a gazillion costumes, every family has their special way of keeping it together.  Study your dancer’s friends organizations and see what might work for you.  My husband built us a dance box to wheel with all the costumes/ shoes in it
  10. Costumes sticking to your tights can be remediated with static guard. None on hand?  Spray hair spray on your tights
  11. Tights – need to be kept clean and hole-free for pictures and performances
    1. Now stick with me people, this does work, freeze your tights. You heard me.  Buy your tights and BEFORE you wear them, run them under water until they are damp, put them in a plastic baggie and freeze them.  Take them out and let them thaw.  They last longer.  This does not; however, negate the need for that extra pair of tights with you at all times
    2. Cleaning tights at the heels and toes is not as simple as throwing them in the wash. Use a Dove bar soap and scrub directly on those stains until they are gone, rinse and hang dry, then you can wash them in the washer
  12. Shoe care – be sure to check out the blog on getting out stink, but here’s what you need to know about caring for them
    1. Do not wear those shoes outside. Ok, let me say that again.  Do not wear those shoes outside.  Daddy, remember what Mommy said?  It’s for reals, do not wear those shoes outside.  It damages the shoe.  That shoe you paid lots of money for
    2. Keep your shoes in a bag that you store in the same place at home, unless of course you are particularly fond of the last minute I can’t find my dance shoe freak out game
    3. You may wash canvas ballet shoes, but do not dry them in the dryer; however, this may fade your color so be careful and don’t do this frequently. A trick of the trade may be to find a matching foundation or even calamine lotion to cover some dullness, but check before you cover your whole slipper, you still need to match your classmates
    4. If you use a shoe brush on suede bottom shoes you will keep them cleaner and help maintain the texture of the sole
    5. Use melamine foam (Mr. Clean Eraser) to clean dirt off of leather shoes (jazz and tap)
    6. You can use silicon oil on patent shoes to prevent cracking
    7. For leather ballet slippers use mild dish soap by mixing in a little water until sudsy then wiping on shoe with soft cloth. Go ahead and wear them damp to mold them to your foot.  Water makes leather brittle so do this as little as possible
    8. You may also try Windex sprayed onto a cloth to clean leather ballet shoes
    9. Pointe shoes, so Mommy, these are expensive and well, they don’t last long anyway, sorry. Pointe shoes + water = NO!  However, if your dancer is enrolled in a good pre-pointe class, they will learn all of this.  Many dancers will use some calamine lotion before a performance, but again, check with your teacher to see if this will cause your shoes to look different from your classmates, which will detract from the piece.
      1. If your shoe actually lasts long enough that you need to clean it, you may spot clean with a damp cloth and detergent, but do not soak the shoe
      2. You may use a baking soda and water paste on the spots with a soft cloth in small circular motion. Allow paste to dray and wipe away the paste with a warm, damp (not wet) cloth; however, this will dull your shoe so think carefully before you decide to use this technique
    10. Tap or jazz shoe scuff marks
      1. Melamine foam
      2. Baby wipes
      3. Pure acetone on a q-tip but do not too hard or you will remove the shoe color
      4. Restore shine with Vaseline or shoe polish
      5. Foundation on tan taps can improve look temporarily

Those are my recommendations for caring for your costumes to keep them looking good and keep everyone calm and organized when they are brand new. Check out my other articles on how to care for them following a performance and when things go wrong.

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