Everything You Wanted To Know About COSTUMING

Much like a Picasso, many people can view the same Irish dance costume very differently. To some they are a beautiful work of art and to others they are a cultureless mash-up of over-the-top pageantry.

For girls, there are two categories for Irish dance costumes: school dresses (aka team costumes or class costumes) and solo dresses. Boys wear black dress pants with a shirt and tie in either scenario, with the choice of color and style ranging once he hits the Prizewinner level.

Goggin-Carroll has changed the look of the official school costume over the years so there are presently three styles in existence. There is: the navy blue velvet, the navy blue gabardine with Irish knot work, and the navy blue silk dresses affectionately known as “Worlds” dresses because they were created for of our teams which performed at the World Championships several years ago.

Beginners and some Advanced Beginners don’t need to worry about official costuming. For them, a simple dark skirt and white blouse is all they need for competitions. A plain navy headband to keep back the neatly brushed hair is the only required accessory too. In fact, there are costuming rules within the Irish dance organization stipulating that Beginners may only wear a skirt and blouse or class costume.

Dancers in Advanced Beginner can progress to school dresses as they become available. Goggin-Carroll has a division of the parents network (The OIDA) to assist with costume rentals, but ultimately, Barb will be the one to provide advice for getting started with costuming.

It is possible for dancers at other school with a less disciplined program to have solo dresses as early as Advanced Beginner. This can occur for a couple of reasons. Their school doesn’t have any team costumes and/or there are none available in the size of the child, their teacher doesn’t get involved with the ‘extras’ of Irish dance (costuming/shoes/wigs) so the parent thought an advantage could be had by having a solo dress or, the dress is being worn temporarily while an appropriate dress is sought. Don’t panic if the other dancers’ dresses seem better looking to you or your dancer. The judge is not interested in flashy costumes – they are interested in good quality dancing.

Generally, Barb will let you know when it is time to start looking for a second-hand costume. Dancers with wins in Novice, showing promise to soon move to Prizewinner will be invited to start looking. Custom-made dresses at the Novice/Prizewinner levels are not ideal for a few reasons but mostly because you will get a better quality dress for what you will pay for a custom-made dress; something you won’t truly realize until it is time to put it up for sale.

Don’t be alarmed at the cost. With some smart second-hand shopping, proper care and a bit of luck with re-sale, it’s not that bad actually. Dancers in Prelim and Champ should be looking to designers from Ireland and the UK such as Gavin Doherty, Siopa Rince, Geraldine Taylor, Celtic Star and a few others. Before booking anything, ensure you speak with Barb and Ryan for their input.

Finally, be aware of the recent ruling that dresses may be no shorter than the midpoint of the back of the thigh.


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