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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lind

The Genesis of a Skating Dress

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

I recently had a student ask me why I liked constructing these big elaborate bows to go on the gifts that I give over the holidays, I smiled and said, “Sweetie, it’s all about the packaging!” That same skater is a new student of mine at the juvenile level and we had just begun discussing music and costuming for the upcoming season. This article is for her and other skaters and parents like her who want to know how to create their perfect skating costume. How to get started? What is important? Where to go for the dress? What will the process be like? And some of my secret tips for looking your absolute best!

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

- Coco Chanel

In this article we will look step by step at the creative process I followed in helping to design and create one of my skater's competitive dresses from this past season. Because I am a skating coach and season after season am constantly looking for new ideas for dresses, one of the absolute best, life saving tricks I've come up with is to have a "Dress Inspiration" album on my iPhone and laptop. I've used Pintrest boards before as well but I find having an album frees me up to finding a much wider variety of inspirations. If I see a dress in a store that I think has an interesting cut, take a pic! Following a couture show in Paris fashion week on my newsfeed, screenshot! See a beautiful color combination in a bouquet of flowers, saved for later! Don't limit yourself! I find inspiration from fashion, nature, art, Halloween costumes, museums, you name it. Sometimes it's just an element, like a color or a cool sleeve but SAVE IT. You never know when you'll be needing some inspiration!

PRO TIP: Create a "Dress Inspiration Album"

Where to go for your skating dress:

The first step in figuring out where to go for your costume is determining your budget. Skating dresses can range anywhere from $250 to well over $10,000. Don't be scared! I've found that some of the most beautiful costumes come in at well under $1,000 and will make your skater look and feel like a million bucks! (I'll share some cost saving tips later in the article!)

If your skater is pre-juvenile or below I'd recommend going with something "off the rack" and making alterations or adding embellishments if necessary. This is because at that age, they will likely be growing and moving through dresses and programs quickly. Your money can be better spent elsewhere. Simple dresses can be found on for around $100. Many high end dressmakers including my friends at sell unbeaded versions of their work for anywhere from $175-$250. With some rhinestones, creativity and some E600 glue you can have yourself a really nice costume. If your skater is juvenile or above, I'd recommend going with something custom.

Designing the dress:

The first thing I do is think about the music. What styles would make sense with it? What cuts would look good on the skater's body? What colors will work on their complexion? I'll go into my dress inspiration album and form a style sheet. Then I'll try to put a (very rough) sketch of how I'd like those elements to fit together using a premade template.

Creating the dress:

I have had the very good fortune of having a long standing relationship with Cheryl Downs of Freida B Skating Apparel. Cheryl made my own competitive skating costumes and since then has handled my students' costuming needs with professionalism, patience and true passion in her work.

Once everyone has approved the the general concept and design, the next step is the skater's consultation. My skater will go for a meeting with Cheryl and they will look over the style sheets I've created. She sometimes will suggest some changes or send my skater back with swatches of fabric so we can see what the color looks like on the ice. Most of our communication happens over text or email with a lot of pictures but on occasion I have stopped into Cheryl's shop if we have a lot of dresses going on at once. After we've decided on fabric, Cheryl will go ahead and make what we lovingly call the "potato sack dress." This dress is made to be too big so it can be properly tailored. We determine the skirt length and placement, check the fit and just generally make sure everything is hitting how we want it to.

Next comes one of my favorite parts, Cheryl will create a mark up of embellishments. This step gives us a chance to sort out what will look best on the dress without making any permanent changes. (Note: at this phase we decided we didn't like the green hand painted vines and chose to eliminate that element.)

PRO TIP: Using appliques and cut up lace can create a textured, luxury look without having to use as many expensive rhinestones.

Next, Cheryl sent me a photo of the dress with the embellishments semi attached and some minimal stoning. This allowed us to make any final alterations before gluing embellishments into place. In a testament to Cheryl's patience, it was at this point that I recognized that I didn't want to see a white underskirt. I'd also asked to have the belt redone in white opal stones instead of clear crystal and moved some of the lace off of the bottom of the skirt. 😬

Ever the professional, Cheryl didn't disappoint! After sending a few pictures of different colored stones and appliques, the next step was the finished product!

In conclusion, the best advice I could ever give you is this: Remember that the purpose of all of the time, money and effort put into a dress is to make the skater wearing it feel special! Skaters perform their best when they feel good about themselves and this stunning custom creation from Freida B certainly accomplished that!

“What is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” - Yves Saint Laurent

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