Do you remember signing up for your first ballroom competition and finding out how much costumes cost? Holy cow, talk about sticker shock! The quality of the fabric, type of rhinestones used, quantity of rhinestones, and the country the dress is made in all factor into the price, with some designer gowns getting upwards of $5,000. So, if you are like me, and you can’t rationalize paying that much for a gown, here are some tips on finding more affordable costumes.
- Negotiate with vendors. Try to visit costume vendors in person at competitions. When you establish a personal connection they are more likely to agree to come down on price. I absolutely loved a dress I tried on at a recent competition and it fit me perfectly; in talking with the owner she agreed to drop the price by more than 20%.
- Join a buy/sell group on Facebook. I found a fabulous latin dress lightly used from a pro for only $400. Even if the seller lives in a different state or country they may agree that you can pay to try it on before committing to buy it. You can watch the posts of dresses for sale or you can be proactive and make a post explaining what type of dress you are looking for – “Looking for a red standard dress for under $2k. I’m 5’6” and a size US 4.” Because many of these groups have sellers from around the world be clear about the currency and what country’s sizing you a referencing (ex: “US size 4”). “Ballroom&Latin Dresses for Sale” or “Ballroom and Latin Dresses for Sale” are both good groups.
- Buy plain dresses and stone them yourself. This is time consuming but can be a good option if you are crafty. Be sure to factor in the cost of rhinestones before you go down this path. Two options for unstoned dresses are Miari and Chrisanne Clover
- Find a vendor who make beautiful, good quality dresses at relatively “lower” prices. There are some great vendors like Dance Wear Works who sell new dresses for $1,000-$3,000. If you take good care of the dress you could sell it after a year or so at a good resale value. In theory, you could buy a $3,000 dress, wear it 4 times, and then sell it for $1,500. Just know that sometimes you may try to sell a dress for more than a year before you find a buyer.
- Another affordable website is www.venusdancewear.com I ordered a standard dress from there and have a few friends who have ordered from them as well. You send in your measurements and get a custom-made dress, most of which are $400-$800. You can pay more to upgrade the stones to Swarovski.
- Borrow a friend’s dress. Ask your dance friends if they have a costume they would let you borrow or pay to “rent” for a competition.
- Follow your favorite vendors on social media and watch for sales. Many of them do Black Friday sales and/or an end of year sale. Dore and Classic Ballroom Elegance do an end of year sale. Aida dance shoes, Chrisanne Clover, International Dance Shoes and DSI London typically run sales on Black Friday. So plan ahead and be ready to buy your new shoes/costumes around those big sales.
One option I would warn you against is ordering online from China. Many sellers post images of $5k dresses and offer it for substantially lower prices (like $250). The image is NOT what you will receive, they are saying they will try to make a copy-cat dress for you that looks like the designer gown. However, oftentimes what you get in the mail will still look quite different – I once ordered a standard dress with what looked like a peach colored skirt and what I got in the mail was bright orange! And the quality can be rather poor.
What other sites or tricks have you found for getting more affordable ballroom costumes? Comment below!