For some, the thought of buying a ballroom dance costume online is outrageous. For others, it is second nature. The first thing to be aware of is that there is a range of different ways to buy ballroom costumes online, as well as there are specific DOs and DON’Ts that come with them. You can chose to save money and involve sellers that are exclusively operate online, or use online technology to save some travel when buying from your favourite designer. The options are there, so let’s look at them.
1. Custom made costume based on a large catalogue of designs available, or based on your own sketch.
The cost can start at $300-$500 US for costumes with a limited number of Korean stones, but rarely go above $1200 US. All dresses are made from scratch based on your measurements. Many of these retailers are in Asia, and production and shipping may take 6-12 weeks depending on where you live.
DO – Make sure you are absolutely accurate with measurements you send them. They will typically make the costume based on whatever they received, even if it’s unclear. If you mix the arm and leg measurements, no one will clarify, it will just come like that. That said, if the measurements are accurate, the fit is often remarkably good.
DON’T – expect the quality of material NOT be the “Top of the Line”. The garment may look great on it’s own, but if a cheaper fabric or stones were used, the difference will be obvious next to a better quality garment. Some retailer will offer high quality stones at an extra cost, but rarely will there be a choice in the quality of the fabric.
Also, don’t send them a picture of another designers dress for an exact copy. Inspiration is fine. Copying is just tacky. I would say, this type of purchase is a good option for a beginner who is not sure about making a big investment.
2. Online Costume Retailer, that offers “Off the Rack” options.
Some have stones, but most are just fabric that can be stoned afterward. In other words, you’re getting a garment that might not have been made for dancing. The quality generally aligns with the price and can be quite good. The major risk here is that there is no personal uniqueness. Someone might be wearing the costume you bought and stoned, as an un-stoned evening dress.
DO – Buy from quality retailers with clear return and exchange policies. Pay close attention to the body type of the model. If you don’t have the same body type, you will not have the same look.
DON’T – Don’t rush if you see something that you love. It is not always obvious which items will be around for a while, and which will sell out quickly and never be replaced.
This is a good option for dancers on a tight budget, who are creative. Unique accessories and innovative stoning can add to the uniqueness of any costume.
3. Facebook Groups and other Private Ads
This type of online costume selling is mostly made up of private seller, selling their own stuff. If you know the seller, have seen the costume on the floor or are in the same city to arrange a try-on, you are in a much better position.
DO – Ask a lot of questions, as long as you are not rude (private sellers may just cut off communication with you if they don’t like dealing with you)
DON’T – Don’t expect your money back if you purchased and then didn’t like the garment. If you do not know who you are dealing with, you do not know how they’ll deal with you.
This is a good option between people who know each other, or when you can see and try on the garment.
4. Online Companies that Rent / Sell Previously Owned Garments
You can browse their websites, select a few that you like, and they will send them to you to try on. You then keep what you like and return the rest. Whether renting or buying (Of course, be sure to check their return policy first), most offer full online transactions. The range of prices to buy can go from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the original cost and quality of the outfit (and occasionally some unrealistic expectations of the previous owner). The range of prices to rent also varies, but is typically about $300 for 4 days.
DO – Have a backup if you are looking for something for a particular event. It may not always be clear from the pictures and description that the previous owner had a DDD upper body or was under 5 feet tall.
DON’T – Don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about the size, fit, and quality before you even arrange a try-on. It will cost you some shipping fees to try the garments, and while generally nominal, it is still a cost and could unnecessarily waste your time.
Renting is a great option for dancers who are easily bored with their look, and are fairly average in size and build. You might still need to alter, since the previous owner may not have been “average” built, but your odds are better. It is also great for buyers who have trouble knowing what they want before they see it. Some beautiful and unique gems occasionally appear on these sites, and most will tell you who the original designer is. A great example of an online source that sells previously owned garments is Dancewear Seller. Check them out and see if this option is for you.
5. Your Designer of Choice – who might be several thousand kms away, but will still work with you online.
When visits on location are inconvenient, many designers will work with you through online communication structure (emails, social media, etc.) and exchange pictures, sketches, measurements and even mail material samples, if necessary.
DO – Make sure you are serious before starting this process. If you cannot come to an agreement, that is fine, but be mindful of designer’s time. Communicate through that you are just browsing and will never buy.
DON’T – Keep a garment that does not fit. The best option is to arrange a meeting at a competition that you both are attending, and do a fitting there. If that is not possible, make sure that you can send it back for any alteration. No costume is finished until it fits.
This option works best for designers who you worked with (or, at least spoke to) before. When they know your size, build, taste and budget. Keep in mind, that most designers also have a “consignment” section of already existent garments that may fit your size and personality, should you choose to go with a more “on a budget” option. I’ve dealt with Doré Designs before, and would recommend them for that option.
In short, online is neither good nor bad. Smart shopping, realistic expectations and reputable vendors make any type of purchase better. Period.