Cheap, Fast and Easy Recital Wear

My last recital as a student, 2008. Starting left: Me, Gail, Annette, Stephanie, Lori and Laura (my teacher).

I can hardly believe it! Our first recital is only a week away. We have talked a little in class about what to wear, but I know some people leave it down to the wire. I know I do! Today’s entry is about how to put a costume together when you are running out of time and money.

If you don’t sew at all your best bet is to assemble something from clothes you may already have around the house, or hit up thrift stores or discount stores. If you can’t find anything suitable there, you can try clothing stores for juniors, like Forever 21, Vanity or Wet Seal. I have no affiliation with any of these stores, but I find that while I would not usually wear any of these clothes for everyday I do find some glam elements that are suitable for dance wear. You will be looking for something form-fitting, stretchy and comfortable to move around it. You will also want to make sure that you have enough bust support, or that you can alter a top or dress or wear a bra underneath if necessary. That means spaghetti strap may be out, depending on your personal requirements. Bikini tops can also be a good choice because they are already decorated and many have cups built in.

Here are a few examples from my own collection that meet the requirements for comfortable dance wear:

Altered T-shirt

This black choli is just a form-fitting T-shirt cut off above the midriff. That was a discount store buy.

Altered top

This shimmery purple and silver top was a clearance rack find at a department store. Once again, cut off above the midriff.

Floral tank top

You don’t have to show off your belly if you don’t want to. This floral tank was $3 at a local thrift shop.

Gold dress with coin scarf

This sparkly gold dress was one of my best ever thrift store finds. I just put a coin belt on it. Voila! Dance costume! It does have slits up both sides for leg movement.

Short party dress with interesting hemline

Dress altered into halter top and overskirt.

Here is an altered piece made from a party dress. I picked this dress up at a thrift store for about $12. It has a sort of modern sparkly pattern on it. You could just put this over a pair of yoga pants and call it good. Really, I think that would be pretty cute. I altered this one to a top and overskirt. Once again, put on a pair of yoga pants, harem pants or another skirt underneath and you got yourself a costume. It took me about a half hour to alter this. One important thing to remember when altering stretchy fabrics, make sure to use a zigzag, tricot or other stretch-friendly stitch so you don’t pop your stitches when you pull it on. If you chop out the middle of the dress remember you can use that extra fabric to make a headband, choker, arm warmers or arm bands that perfectly match the rest of the costume.

An inexpensive ensemble

Here’s a super cheap assembled costume: chopped T-shirt, silky pajama pants and a discount store scarf. The necklace was on clearance. All together this was probably about $25.

If you find something that seems appropriate but kind of boring, dress it up with jewelry. Start in your own jewelry box. I would be willing to bet that at some point you bought some really gorgeous necklace only to realize it was too ostentatious for every day. Well, today is the day to pull that sucker out and show it off. Do not go for modest or tasteful. Go big! Thrift stores and clearance racks are full of jewelry that people aren’t wearing because they are afraid it is too loud. It is not too loud for this occasion. Look for bracelets, rings and earrings too. I would avoid anklets though. They can get hooked on your skirt or pants and may cause you to trip.

Costuming is all well and good, but don’t neglect your makeup and hair. This is a special occasion – you are showing off your skills to your family and friends. Even just a headband or hair flower will really dress things up. There are lots and lots of makeup and hair tutorials on YouTube. Feel free to experiment.

Before the big day though make sure to do a full dress rehearsal, including hair, makeup and jewelry. You need to make sure that your costume will hold up to the stress of your movement, and that your accessories won’t get caught in your costume. If you are dancing with a veil make sure that it does not get hooked on your hairstyle or adornments. If you are dancing with a lot of arm jewelry make sure to practice with it on so you are accustomed to the weight. Consider what you may need to secure with fashion tape, like arm bands, gauntlets or gloves.

What happens if you have a “wardrobe malfunction” during the recital? Keep dancing. This is something that requires a bit of a cool head and grace, and I’m confident you can handle it. Keep dancing and try to disentangle yourself and then move on. And keep on smiling! If you are OK your audience is OK, and they are rooting for you to do a good job. I’ve had a couple malfunctions myself:

  • My veil got caught on a metal piece on my costume. I just kept spinning around until I got it dislodged. Nobody noticed.
  • I wore a skirt that was very heavy velvet, and when I did a spin the skirt lifted up, nearly exposing my underwear! There were a lot of spins in that song, so I kept my arms down for the rest of them. Lesson in favor of dress rehearsal!
  • I saw a dancer once wearing a hair garden and her flowers starting falling out during her set. As she was dancing she just pulled the loose ones out and let them fall on the stage. She just kept on dancing and smiling – what a pro!

For additional tips check out the resource links on the right side of this page, or just start surfing the web. If you have any additional advice or questions please feel free to include them in the comments. I can’t wait until next week!