Wardrobe malfunction: two words that so delicately yet explicitly describes what terrifies every dancer, instructor, and parent. Almost every performer has had a brush with this disgrace, with experiences ranging from the minor slip of a bobbi pin to a catastrophic event reminiscent of ‘Girls Gone Wild.’ One thing that anyone who has been touched by this performance horror can agree with: it can make or break a shining moment.
In my many years of being a performer and instructor, I have witnessed my fair share of costume melt-downs. One that particularly sticks out in my mind involves a hula skirt and a very confident captain. In my inaugural year on the high school drill team, we performed a Lilo and Stitch inspired hula routine. We wore dreadful floral crop tops, paper lei’s, and bargain store hula skirts. (We are talking Dollar General Hula skirts here people!) These said hula skirts were secured by the cheapest of Velcro. The vast majority, dare I say all, of the drill team members were keenly aware of how their Hawaiian gyrations would afford the necessity to reinforce their skirts with at least five to ten safety pins. Well, all except for the one person who should have been leading the charge in assuring that no hula skirt would be left behind; Oh Captain, My Captain.
On the final night of our spring show, we stepped out on stage in those hideous hula skirts with the added awareness that we were being filmed by a professional videographer. As our hips began to sway to the sweet song of the Ukulele, one sound could be subtly yet alarmingly distinguished on stage: the unmistakable sound of Velcro disengaging. As my captain’s hula skirt caught the breeze and fell to the ground, eyes widened at the real horror of it all; she had somehow managed to forget to put on bloomers. Now, one could only naturally assume that this performer would be ashamed, humiliated, and near tears about giving the entire school an intimate perusal of her bodily features. But nay, she continued to dance…with gusto…as if she was a tigress ready to pounce.
For X-rated content, the infamous Lilo and Stitch hula routine of 2003 never made its way on the Spring Show Video that year. (It’s probably just as well that there is no video documentation of that travesty of a costume.) But that moment will live on in infamy for those who shared the titillating experience of getting a peep show in the high school auditorium.
We at The Costume Closet make it our mission to help enhance performances through fabulous costumes and I feel compelled… no… I feel it is my duty to share with you the small wealth of knowledge I have on preventing costuming blunders.
• When in doubt, ALWAYS size up if you are in between two sizes. Girth is the most important measurement when evaluating sizing. There is nothing more uncomfortable or unsightly than a costume that rides up the nether regions or causes awkward bulges.
• Body tights are your best friend! Tights with waist bands can put a small bulge in the stomach of even the tiniest dance. Body tights make clean lines under costumes and help hold in any extra jiggle.
• ALWAYS SECURE HEADPIECES. These are the most common items to fall off during a performance. Sometimes bobbi pins are not enough. My favorite way of securing tricky headpieces such as hats, fascinators, or appliques is actually sewing them into the hair with a large blunt ended needle and thick thread the same color as the headpiece. Wigs are best secured when primed with a wig cap to keep all natural hair hidden and in place.
• E600: if you don’t know about this liquid costuming gold, prepare yourself. This is the most effective fabric glue you can buy. Rhinestones, appliques, buttons, etc. will not fall off for any reason if you use this stuff! (I have even been known to use this in lieu of sewing when in a time crunch…but I don’t recommend following my lead!)
• Practice in your costume multiple times before your performance! This will be the greatest indicator of costuming weaknesses that need your attention.
• A word to the wise about wearing white:
o Stains happen….everywhere. Bring white baby powder with you as it is a quick fix to cover last minute stains and washes out easily.
o Stage lights show anatomical features not seen by the naked eye in ordinary light. If wearing white bloomers, double them up!
o White undergarments under white costumes actually show up more noticeably than nude undergarments. Try to wear undergarments that most closely match your skin tone.
• A few tastefully blunt words about the “girls”
o Bouncing breasts are more distracting than flat breasts. No matter how much or little you were endowed with, they have the potential to bounce. Wear a supportive bra!
• There are so many choices these days: strapless bras, clear straps, clear back straps, plunging neckline bras, self-adhesive bras, pasties…heck, they even have flesh colored duct tape!
o Because of the nerves and excitement from a performance, you tend to get chill bumps without noticing it, which makes your headlights come on, so to speak. Walmart, Target, and K-Mart all sell adhesive petals (or headlight dimmers, if you will). And when you’re in a crunch, band-aids will do the job too!
• Finally, always listen to your instincts! If it feels like it’s going to fall, break, bust out, or show through, it probably will. Have a small arsenal of quick fixes on hand such as safety pins, super glue, bobbi pins, a small sewing kit, band-aids, pasties, and fabric tape on hand at all performances.