Ballroom Dance > Black Gowns (and other ways to shoot yourself in the foot)

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Chris Stratton, Jun 20, 2004.

  1. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Two couples in the pro smooth at Yankee had essentially black gowns.

    I really have no idea how they danced, because I found them essentially unwatcheable. Maybe if there had been no one else in the room, but I found the black skirts to be just so far outside of my conception of dancing that any of the other couples would pull my attention away from them.

    Also, while black velvet has a nice texture that might work in some other settings, it really does not work next to a man in wool (or wool-like) evening wear. The velvet ends up looking luxuriously deep black, but that makes the suit look flat and even faded in constrast.

    I'm going to have to change my previous position: I don't care if you _are_ Karen Hilton, you still must not wear black.

    For the guys, I can't say I think the extra-long and Mandarin-style jackets really help things at all. With or without arms, they still have the problem that they are either tight over the hips so that they bunch up in the lower back, or vented in which case they flop around oddly. Don't wear tails if you don't want to - but realize that the primary reason why a tailsuit is such a practical garment for dancing is not the tails, but rather that the jacket itself is short enough that it doesn't get in the way. I find it kind of odd that in the style which insists it needs more freedom of movement, we're now seeing clothing that is even more restrictive than that worn in the stuffy conservative style.
  2. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    On the other hand, the two black gowns did place #1 and #2 ... though I agree, if they hadn't been on a couple of the best dancers on the floor, they would have had trouble making the cut.

    I will note that the problem of breaking up the line between the man and the lady is not as severe in American style, where the partners are apart much of the time.

    I saw a major contrast between the tuxedo jackets in the rising star on friday versus the open on saturday. On friday, nearly all the men wore tuxedo jackets, but most looked pretty much off the rack. They often bunched up in the small of the back when the men made lines, which was unattractive.

    The tuxedo jacket variants on the top men on saturday were cut looser and had vents, which allowed them to move nicely without bunching up. I didn't mind them on the top smooth couples, nor on Christopher Hawkins in the dance or two where he wore one.

    I would agree with preferring a nice tailsuit. Some of the current tailsuits, that are designed to hide the man's back line, I don't consider very attractive, though.
  3. Laura

    Laura New Member

    My Standard coach always says that black is difficult for women in Standard: she ends up looking half again as wide as she really is because when she fades into the guy she has her body plus half of his. I probably didn't explain that very well but I'm sure you know what I mean.

    That said, what about for those of us with MUCH less (or I should really say, 'more') than desirable figures? If I went out in a bright color I would look not unlike a Jelly Belly jelly bean....
  4. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    But black is not the only non-bright color! The blue velvet gown Laura made worked well not only in her picture , but also on the Bostonian she sold it to.

    My ex-partner and I did come close to the 'blending problem' with our legs on video in a few situations with the moderately dark blue lycra gown we made her, but there was a enough color difference to visually assign upper body bits to the right partner.

    In contrast, the problem I had watching the black gowns at Yankee is that there just wasn't anything in the couple that filled my expectation to see a ballgown. I probably could have accepted both partners in black warmup outfits more easily than I could mentally identify these 'right shape, wrong color' objects as ballgown-clad ladies.
  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Are there ways to work the lines (of the garment, not the dancer) so as to have a slimming effect without having the blending-in-with-the-guy problem that dark colors might cause? I guess that may depend on the shapes of ballgowns that are in style. :? Or perhaps it's better to get a gown not quite on the cutting edge of the latest fashion, if it's more flattering to a generous figure? *shrug*
  6. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    What do you mean by "designed to hide the man's back line"? I am curious 8)
  7. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Cut or even padded to conceal the lower back arch that might result from trying to force a particularly close contact with your partner.

    I'm curious if the tailsuit from Saturday night is suspected of being a member of this class? It looked looser in back than some of the budget import (and homegrown) suits our team has, but that's hardly saying much.

    (Pet peave of mine: guys who maintain lower back arch when their smooth partner is 10 feet out of contact)
  8. robin

    robin New Member

    What's wrong with black? I've seen some fantastic black dresses in competitions. I've also seen some bad ones, but i've also seen bad white dresses and bad luminous yellow ones.

    I think black can work very well on certain types of dancers. Of course there's a risk of "not being seen", so for a "quiet" partnership it's probably not a good idea, but I've seen people who looked incredibly classy in black (admittedly, usually with a lot of stones on the dress...).

    It probably just depends on the style of the dancers. I'm pretty sure I've seen Alessandra (as in William Pino and Alessandra Bucciarelli) in a number of black dresses. While she *always* looks good I think that a black or dark or possibly red dress work really well with the kind of passion and intensity they show in their dancing. It would maybe look less good on someone who is more playful and floaty in style, where a light colour might work better ...

    I can only find one picture of Alessandra in a completely black dress:
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    While I think the above example is a bit of a problem, it's not quite as black a dress. Not only the stones, but the open back - one of the big problems to my eyes is that she has a head, a back, and two hands - but no arms.

    It's possible that the open back plays an important role in offsetting an otherwise black gown. But with a smooth couple, you will often see the lady's front in a way you wouldn't in standard, and if that's all black we're right back in classic problem territory.
  10. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

  11. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    But with a a more sensible color choice, you only really notice the lack of stones when you put a simple dress next to a walking Swarovski advertisement...

    Even something as simple as a red practice skirt worn over a matching leotard can often dominate a floor, especially if none of the stone bearing dresses are as well thought out.
  12. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    As a man, my primary objection to black dresses is how they make us men look. That effect works on us, too, you know!

    Plus, they break up the same nice lines emphasized by a good tailsuit.

    The one time I saw a black dress actually work in Standard, it was on the partner of a man with, frankly, an ugly leg line - a strong zigzag from belly to butt to knee to heel to toe. The black dress broke up the line, allowing them to place a couple places higher, albeit with a relatively inexperienced collegiate panel.
  13. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Or a mid-back arch or any other distortion the gentleman may have in that area. Most tailsuits do this by being loose, and as a result, they also make the man look wider in the waist than they might.

    If you watch the men on a typical Standard competition floor today, many will look heavy or even fat - sometimes to the point of pregnancy! That's because they are "belly pushing" - forcing their bellies forward to maintain contact - and the tailsuits are cut to fall straight down in the back, filling it in so they look fat instead of arched.

    Chris, I'm not sure which tailsuit you mean, but I think nearly all recent tailsuits are cut this way.
  14. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I would think that someone who is certain to get personal attention from any tailor he chooses patronize would receive a suit cut to fit his actual needs, rather than a standard cut with built in compensation for the compromise habits of joe average dancer.

    But I do think some degree of looseness is necessary no matter what the guy's posture is like. My most recent tailsuit (which is actually almost a year old) is very form fitting - probably too form fitting as I gained pound or two after making it. The next one probably will be just enough looser that the front can 'float' a bit, rather than being for all effective purposes buckled on. Hopefully this will also solve the problem of the transition from fitted back to free-floating tails. (Actually, I was supposed to get the computer/sewing table cleared off today and start working on a mockup of the canvases for a new one... but somehow that never happened)
  15. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I will definitely never wear a black ballgown! :lol: :lol: :lol:
  16. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I think you may be mistaken. Based on my experience with half a dozen tailors, dance and otherwise, over the years, they generally take the attitude that they know everything and their customers know nothing about what style is best. If you want a different style, you have to go to a different tailor. Maybe they each only know how to cut for one style, I don't know.

    Personally, the only tailsuits that I've seen, even on world champions, that I've liked well enough to try to find out who made them were the ones that Marcus Hilton wore. Someone told me that it was a Savile Row tailor whose suits started at $5000 - and this was over a decade ago. Even some world champions might balk at paying five times the normal price for a tailsuit, no matter how elegant it looked!
  17. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    But I would think that a suit cut for a slim gentleman with room for back arch would basically be the same as one cut for a guy with a bit of a belly. That would imply a standard add-on to some of the measurements. But if the client in fact kept his back fairly straight, I would think he'd complain that the suit was too big in front, and insist that it be taken in at the sides.

    I seem to recall that the video on that other ballroom discussion site of someone from Ashmore measuring a client includes a comment that they probably won't need to pad the back for him, or at least not much.

    Interesting... perhaps he was shopping around for a while, as the suit with Hilton's name inside that I got to examine had a few labels which seemed to hint that it was made in Japan.
  18. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I don't. I think the distinguishing feature of that style, that Arthur Ashmore actually advertises as "hanging straight from the shoulders rather than following the line of the back," is that it's cut differently in the back, not just the front. Specifically, it does in fact hang straight down from the shoulders, rather than following the lines of the back - following the back would result in a slight concavity between shoulders and hips, even on someone standing with a perfectly straight spine with no back arch at all. Without that concavity in the back, the "straight from the shoulders" cut can't retain a concavity in the sides, either.

    To put it another way, I think the response to your posited customer complaint would not be to take the suit in at the sides, but to cut it away more at the front. Taking it in at the sides would also result in concavity in the back and would be tantamount to an admission that the "straight from the shoulders" cut is wrong.

    I will admit that the "hanging straight from the shoulders" cut has been very successful. While those tailsuits often look badly cut - for example if the man develops more or less back arch than when he was fitted - judges tend to be much more forgiving of bad tailsuits than of bad dancing, and those tailsuits are very good at hiding a back arch from even very experienced judges.
  19. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I guess I'm thinking that it should be possible to make a suit which still hangs from the shoulders, but follows the underlying body a bit more - not fitted, but not a black academic gown either.
  20. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Yes, Savile Row is the creme of British tailoring. You can get cheaper suits on Savile Row but, they are 'off the rack' (are not often available - specific tailors - but still cost a lot) rather than made to measure. James Bond bought his suits from Savile Row too :wink: :lol:

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