This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
(Another article I have shared with Yehoodi – thank you for having me as a guest commentator for the ILHC broadcast!)
Wonder Woman wears a belt that creates a very prominent focal point for her outfit. Now, imagine Wonder Woman in a Lindy Hop competition. Imagine that with each swingout, the belt moves just a little bit to the right as a result of her movement and her lead’s contact, and then more to the right, and you begin paying attention to where the center of the belt is going instead of her dancing. By the time the spotlight is over the belt is almost halfway around her back, so that she no longer looks like the Wonder Woman that hit the floor at the beginning of the comp – she looks like a hot mess, shirt and skirt askew, having been pulled a little bit along with the belt.
I saw this happen in almost every competition at ILHC 2012, especially during the multiple Lindy Hop prelims on Saturday afternoon with multiple dancers. I also saw bra straps come out during spotlight dances, skirts that were too tight so that they either inhibited movement or rode up on the dancer’s body until there was room for movement, and shirt tails that came out of the skirts (or trousers for the gents). But the belts were the most egregious – wide swaths of leather, elastic, and metal making an orbit around the waist of so many dancers it was an epidemic.
Why is this so bad? This is the INTERNATIONAL LINDY HOP CHAMPIONSHIPS, the Olympics of our dance, if you will. When you have reached this level of competition there are certain expectations of presentation because you want people to focus on you and your abilities, not focus on something falling off your outfit or costume. You will be on YouTube for the world to see as one of the best swing dancers in the world. There is a level of professionalism that is expected at this point in the competition and a level of presentation that is higher than just wearing street clothes as you would wear them on the street. The visual distraction of a wardrobe malfunction and the accompanying anxiety of the viewer as the malfunction occurs is not the desired result in any performance – what if an Olympic ice skater had a bra strap fall down in the middle of a routine? I would wager that the television commentary would be less about her performance and more about whether or not she was coming undressed.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a focal point.
This problem is easily addressed, but requires some planning:
MAKE SMART CHOICES
When you are buying clothes for dancing or deciding what to wear in a competition, make good choices. Don’t wear clothing that inhibits your movement – make sure to do a motion test on your clothing, can you move your arms and legs in the way that you need to in order to effectively dance the way that you do? Buy clothing that fits you and is secure on your body – clothing that is too big can get caught on things or fall off, make it harder to find points on your body that need to be found by your partner, and, if large enough, can create drag that can dull your movement, either physically or visually. Don’t have too many straps or appendages hanging off that might get caught in something or accidentally grabbed. You get the idea – you want to be beautiful and interesting, but also efficient.
DO A DRY RUN
As someone who has had a wrap dress come untied in the middle of a spotlight, I can not stress enough the importance of doing a dry run. Before you dance in an outfit in a competition, please take that outfit for a spin on the floor at a dance prior to the competition. I promise that the wow factor of a new dress is completely lost when something goes wrong with the dress. There are things you can’t even anticipate that could happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
SECURE YOUR CLOTHING
Safety pins are your best friend. Plus, safety pins are usually in plentiful supply at competitions if you forget your own. Every belt that rotated this past weekend could have been secured to the shirt, dress, or pants of the wearer.
I mentioned this to someone and they were afraid of putting holes in their belt, but the secret is that you don’t put holes in your belt – with the elastic belts (which were most of the infractions this weekend), you simply gather a group of threads from the inside of the belt with the pin, then pin it to your garment. Do this in at least two places. If you are worried about piercing your belt, garment, or whatever, then don’t wear it. Seriously. Find something else to wear or find a something that you can secure. This is more of an issue with larger belts or belts that have prominent buckles or decoration. Skinny monotone belts can probably slide by unnoticed from a distance.
The security doesn’t end with belts. I pin stray bra straps, especially when I am wearing sleeveless garments. I pin necklines to my bra to make sure they don’t move. I pin shirts to my underwear or bloomers when I am wearing skirts or that rare pair of pants. I have even pinned my dress, slip, and bra together because the centrifugal force of the weight of the dress would pull it off my shoulders. At any given time I have 2 to 8 safety pins holding my outfit in place for dances.
Ultimately, you don’t want to have to worry about your clothing when you are competing, you already have enough worries. You also don’t want the audience to worry about your clothing, you want them to see your amazing dancing. This goes for any competition, not just ILHC. Make sure that the focal point remains you, that your clothing enhances your dancing rather than inhibits it, and that you project the polished look of a professional dancer, regardless of your division or level.