Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Search For The Perfect Dress

My apologies for not posting! I honestly have 3 different posts that want to be written, but we are into the "end of the summer scramble". I'm finishing my last crazy week at my 2nd job, I have been starting to get ready for a new school year (and probably not nearly as excited as most teachers are about setting up their classroom), plus writing assignments, practicing, the Olympics are on, my eight year old nephew is staying with my in laws, excuses I know. Be rest assured that I have a post dedicated to the upcoming Oireachtas, a gymnastics/irish dance themed post, and I have a feis next weekend. I'm also planning on doing a regular post about teaching my prebeginners (I'm starting after Labor Day!) so stay tuned for that!

Today, we focus on the fabulous but frustrating world of Irish Dance solo costumes.

Even when I first started Irish dance, I knew that I was going to compete. Why wouldn't you? Otherwise you are learning those steps for just the pleasure of knowing them and while that's all well and good, my old school rarely did performances and did not have a recital. I'd also been swept up into this world where there were world champions and things that got progressively harder. I wanted in.

Despite everything that I have said about my old teacher, he was totally fine with me competing...as long as it was in adults. He even was going to let me buy a dress or get one made because I was his first adult and not only did he not have a school dress in my size, he was in the process of updating them from like, I don't know, the seventies I swear. Haha. I was given the green light, I was only told that I had to run whatever I liked by his wife (Which in hindsight, I probably should have been concerned about...but oh well.)

I don't mean any disrespect to my friends that still dance in adults, but one of things that I noticed right away about adult dancer costumes was that they were simple, and in some cases I felt like they were a huge velvet beacon being saying "The Irish dancing world doesn't care about me and won't give me the guidance to wear something flattering. Look and marvel at the fact that I had to make this myself." Then you had the traditionalists, the severely used dresses that I just don't like (you know the big geometric shapes, huge skirt *shudders*) I had watched Jig, I had watched a million parade of champion videos before I took the plunge to start dance. I was a ballerina for almost ten years, I wanted to look pretty, I wanted to sparkle. I also wanted to just fit in because that's my other beef about adults...you look old. I don't consider myself old. Well, maybe I do when I'm in a camp with 5 year olds, but you get my drift.

Another thing that I learned and I'm still grappling with is how expensive dance dresses can be. I understand that they are hand made, but when you are trying to live on a budget (and your husband's biggest problem with dance is over how expensive it is) you try to find a bargain. I ended up going with a smaller dress maker which shall remain nameless because I'm going to tell you the good and the bad. She was very easy to email with and she was able to make my dress just in time for my first feis (It literally came the day before!) She draws beautifully! I almost cried at how beautiful the dress looked and she did a fantastic job of incorporating my old school's knot work onto the dress. However, when the actually dress came, I was so disappointed. Part of this was my own fault. I will be honest, I measured myself in secret because it was a lot of money and I knew that my husband was probably going to get mad. He found out what it really cost and I don't think the dress was a perfect fit because of this. It was also not flattering. While I was bigger in my waist and hips at the beginning of all of this, The dress made me look HUGE! There was tulle in the skirt and it bunched up weird where she sewed it. She'd made marks on where to put crystals on my white sleeves with highlighter, it was heavy. I still wore it and felt more like an Irish dancer then if I were to wear a velvet skater skirt with a green collar thing (Nice people but I HATE their dresses.). I'm actually relieved that my current TC told me to sell it when I transferred and someone bought it. Now it's someone else's problem!

Okay, okay so there is a moral to this story I swear! A lot of people on the voy boards or Tumblr ask the question: "Should I buy a used brand name dress (Gavin, Celtic Star, etc) or a brand new second name dress maker's dress?" Now that I've been though it and am going through it again as an & over dancer (more on that in a minute) my opinion is to buy used. Unless you have weird measurements (but seriously, I have found lots of dresses that fit my curvy hips) or it's time for a custom (When I get to open champs I am getting one made) the used dresses by bigger dress makers usually still fall into the "trends". This might not bother most people, but since I'm trying to blend in with girls about 10 years younger than me it's very important. It's also kind of like pets...there are so many beautiful dresses that need a home, you could buy one instead of bringing a new one into the world. Hahahaha.

So let's talk about my current search for the perfect dress. In the grades, you are allowed to start wearing a solo dress in Novice. However, every school has different requirements and my TC wants us to be in Prizewinner before we wear one and I think we even have to have a placement in one dance. I am still a 40% prizewinner, but I'm hoping that will change very soon. I also feel like I am at an advantage over younger dancers because I am no longer growing. So I figured that I could look now, save up for something, and then when the time finally comes, I'll be ready to look like the Irish dancing princess that I so desperately want to be. My budget is small, I really don't want to pay more than $600. My current TC won't let us have a custom made until we are in open. At one point I was concerned that my measurements wouldn't make it possible. (I carry my weight in my hips) I looked into a custom that was more for someone on a budget and it was still over a thousand dollars and that was with no crystals! I'd also had some bad luck. I messaged someone about a dress that I loved and it was listed for 600, I offered 500 and she said she wanted between 600 and 700....Confused, I walked away from that one. Fell in love with a white dress. I'm too pale for said White dress and let's face it I would probably stain it. Met someone at our sister school with a beautiful dress. The dang hips were too small! So I did something crazy...instead of posting on the voy boards and having someone be like "OH my God, why are you still dancing? You should be focusing on other responsibilities!" (You know, they think I'm gonna beat their daughter or something) I ended up posting something on tumblr saying that I needed a dress and wasn't having good luck and I swear like at least 10 people sent me pictures of dresses.

It was a wide variety of designers, dresses, and prices. There were a few I ruled out right away, there were a few that my TC ruled out for me. Hahah. One was in Australia and we like it but they wanted the dress paid in full before I could pay it off (I'm asking people if I can pay in installments. Again, hoping to make the husband less nervous) and customs and shipping wasn't worth it. I found one that I would have the opportunity to try on in October but then I found out a friend has two dresses she's trying to get rid of and that we're very similarly built. They are both in my budget, both current looking dresses, and best of all, my TC is friends with her so she's seen them! They are currently on their way to the studio. I'm hoping I'll be trying them on Thursday and I'm hoping that my search for the perfect dress will be over. Then I will have to get my dances out of Novice so I can finally wear it!

Stay tuned and good luck if anyone else is on the search for their perfect dress.



  1. Glad you posted about dresses!

    The adult dancers in my region don't look old at all! Most are in their 20-30-40s and are in great shape. ;) I don't think I look old, at least I hope I don't! XD The head of my school said that he likes adult dresses to be more elegant so we don't look like 12 year olds. I understand what he means, so it's okay with me to have a darker school dress. But, once I progress a little more I'm getting a bright and colorful blinged out solo dress! One of my goals is to change how adult dancers are viewed in the Irish Dancing world. ;)

    I'm sorry you had such a difficult time dancing as an adult. I think to make it as an adult Irish dancer you have to have very supportive teachers and other adults competing in feiseanna around you.

    There are so many used solo dresses available! Many of them are absolutely gorgeous too! It's crazy! I have a very large bust and hips (birthed three babies over here XD) so I'll probably be getting a custom one made when the time comes.

    Keep us updated on how the dresses go! It must feel so nice to dance with a real dress; I'm definitely tired of my black turtleneck and skirt.

  2. Hey! You definitely don't look old! I know what you mean about a more elegant option, someone sent me a hot pink dress and while it looked cute on her, it definitely wasn't for me. I can't wait to see what your blinged out dress will look like when the time comes. Honestly if these two dresses don't fit, I may have to go back to looking at custom made ones...eep!