dancesport

Washing your ballroom or latin dress often feels like risky business but this feeling can be amplified if your dress is covered in feathers. Many questions arise when the dreaded feather is placed upon a dress.. Do I wet the feathers? How can I avoid them? If they do get wet is that it? Is the dress dead!? Well never fear as I’ve created this blog post to help answer some of those very questions and also to help shed a little light on getting your dress back to squeaky clean. I’m currently wearing a feathered dress and have worn a few other feathered dresses in the past too. Some of my previous dresses had the whole ballroom skirt covered in ostrich feathers. Expensive and fragile! Back then I learnt that if you wet the feathers the dye in them RUNS. I also learnt that if you have two different tones of feathers on one skirt (ie. light to dark) and you dunk them all in a bath, the darker dyed feathers will most definitely run colour into the water/lighter feathers hence leaving you with one medium-ish colour all over. #LIVEANDLEARN. So nowadays I go by the motto of ‘keep the feathers dry’. It’s easier said than done I know, but with these 5 simple steps hopefully you should be able to get the job done 🙂

Before I start I just want to say that if at any stage you happen to get any feathers wet then that’s it. The dress is good for the bin. HA! Joking! Seriously don’t stress. Think of a little birdie having a bath and remember it will dry back to it’s fluffy self so all is good! I just don’t recommend fully drenching the feathers ie. stuffing them in a bath and letting them swoosh around in there. That could be asking for trouble! But alas, if any do get wet, wait until Step 4 and just hit them with a hair dryer and they will floof back to normal in no time.

Step 1:

If you have any feathers on the sleeves or floats like I do, try and waterproof them. I like to grab a plastic bag and pop both floats in there and either tie the bag in a knot or secure with an elastic band just so no water can accidentally splash in. You can do the same for any other feathered parts on your dress if you like but if you are dealing with a large, multi boa-ed skirt like I am then I wouldn’t really bother as it won’t all fit into one bag. I just choose to leave the bottom end of the skirt hanging off the basin (see photos below).

Step 2:

Wash the torso, sleeves, leotard and as much of the skirt as possible as normal in a tub or sink. If you want to see my previous post on how to wash a ballroom dress then click here to get a bit more of a detailed version. I mix luke warm water with some normal washing liquid and I spray Vanish Oxi-Action (pink bottle) directly onto the dress on areas like the under arms and the leotard and I attack any tough stains with the Vanish soap bar making sure to really work it up to a lather using my hands and rubbing the material together old school washing style! These two products are my go-to’s for washing ballroom dresses and I would not even attempt to wash a dress (properly!) without them. In Australia you can get them from any Woolworths or Coles and I imagine they are quite easy to find in any country 🙂

Step 3:

Drain away the dirty water and refill the sink/tub with only cold water and give the washed areas a good rinse. Not only does this help to get rid of any excess product still left on the dress it really helps to re-harden any glue that may have softened in the warm water. After rinsing, drain that water away and squeeze out any excess water in the dress.

Step 4:

Now, normally I would say to chuck the dress in the washing machine for a good old spin cycle but spin+feathers=drama. We don’t want no drama. So instead grab a towel and give the dress a bit of a towel dry before wrapping it up in the towel and transferring it to somewhere out of the way. Lay the dress out flat on top of the towel. For the sake of the photos I had the dress and towels on carpet but I did move it afterwards to a tiled area so that my carpet wouldn’t get wet hehe. Let it stay there ’til it dries enough to be hung up. DO NOT hang the dress straight away as the weight of the dress when wet will be too much and will stretch the material leaving you with a saggy, ill-fitting dress… Not hot.

Step 5:

Once the dress is dry, check for water marks. A watermark is when the water has run down the material and left a puddle like mark once dry. Generally with this satin material I have on my dress it is prone to water-marking. It’s a pain in the butt dealing with water marks I tell ya! But I think I’ve figured out the answer! Don’t try and spot clean/dry the water marked areas as this will just create more of the same. Trust me, I’ve tried. Instead you will have to re-wet the entire area that is marked. For me its the whole skirt. I did this by filling a squirty bottle with a little bit of vanish spray and warm water and completely soaked the whole skirt. I then took a towel and slightly dried it off before hitting it with the hair dryer and drying it completely. This will take away ALL the marks and should leave the material looking clean and even as if it were brand new 🙂

And there you go ladies! And gents if you’re watching 😉 Hopefully your outfit looks (and smells!) brand spanking new again. Its a love/hate relationship I have with washing my dress. I hate doing it because it can sometimes be a mission but I always love the feeling of putting on a fresh, clean dress at the start of a competition. I wouldn’t recommend washing your dress too often as the material and stonework should be treated with care and to wash it over and over could be damaging. Instead, to keep your dress going in between washes, I really recommend buying some Febreze Fabric spray. It kills nasty odours and germs and leaves your dress smelling like flowers. If you have any more questions or would like to see a post on something in particular please feel free to hit me up in the comments below! I’m always up for new ideas!

Love, Rachelle xx

There are a few grooming pre-requisites that any female ballroom dancer should be aware of before heading into a dance competition. Some things are obvious (no crinkly floats or skirts!) whilst others may not be so obvious. I travel to major competitions all over the world and nowadays I see its pretty common to get hair and makeup done by a professional but what about the other important factors that go into creating the finished product? Ballroom dancing is a highly visual and highly perceptive sport/art so if you want to do well not only do you have to learn how to dance but you have to make dang sure that you look the best on that floor too! The learning stuff I can leave to your teachers as it’s not so easy to give a dance lesson through a blog (I could try? Joking..) but I thought maybe I’d help a sister or two out by sharing a few things I find important on a competition day. The best thing about most of these factors are that we can ourselves control them and therefore put forward our best 🙂

1. Dress + Shoes:

When going into a competition I think these two items are probably most important (thanks Captain Obvious you say!) but I don’t mean just ‘having’ these things but actually the quality, the fit and the look of them. Obviously the style and cut of the dress is your own personal choice but some things to make sure of are that the fit of the dress is right, the colour is appealing and that the stonework is professional. Find yourself a dressmaker you can trust! Also make sure that once you have your dress that it is always clean on comp days, fake tan and makeup all over your beautiful dress is not a good look.

Shoes are an important one for me but maybe that’s just because I’m a bit of a perfectionist! I feel that the shoes should make the feet look elegant and beautiful because they are where a lot of judges’ eyes will most likely be at some point. Therefore, dirty old shoes are a not a go-er. Just imagine if you were going to a ball… would you wear a clapped out pair of dirty, worn out shoes to go with your amazing new ball gown? No? Well its the same thing on the dance floor! If you can, try to have 2 pairs of dance shoes; one for practice and one for competitions. Also, if you dye your shoes to match your dress then that’s taking professionalism to the next level my friend! Hands up who wants a DIY tutorial on dyeing dance shoes? Let me know in the comments box below!

Last quick thing to mention on this topic is smell. I go to too many comps where my gag reflex is triggered. Tan makes us not smell pleasant and coupled with intense working out, tight-fitting dress materials and closed in shoes with no socks it really isn’t a flower party. Invest in some Febreeze, wear deodorant and smother yourself in lovely perfumes. We want to knock the judges off their feet when we dance past them because our dancing is THAT amazing, not because we smell like an old spice pantry.

2. Fake Tan

Fake tan is pretty much a must for any ballroom dancer. It’s horrible and leaves us looking like Oompa Loompas in public for many days after the comp but unfortunately there is no getting around it. In my 20 years of dancing I’ve only ever seen one (Yes, ONE!) girl not wear fake tan to an event. That chick was ballsy and had the most beautiful porcelain white skin and was going for what looked to be a 1920’s type vibe. So it was for an effect to help with her statement but even that didn’t last for long.. 2 or 3 comps maybe? Then she was back with the rest of us, tanning up a storm. I have a blog post on tanning which you can find here but mainly for grooming sakes make sure your tan is even, not too orange or green in colour and don’t wear too much! Over tanning is probably worse than not wearing any tan to be honest. I’m very fair naturally so I never have the problem of being over tanned but I do feel that ballroom gals can get away with being a lot less brown than the latin ladies. I only ever really wear one or two coats of tan these days (my latin days are OVER!) plus I feel that having darker hair can let you get away with wearing less tan too. A tip I like to do if I do have a fair bit of tan on is to still keep my face a shade or two lighter but apply a deeper colour around the perimeter of my face so that my face still has light to it. If you match your whole face to the colour of your skin not only will you look like a carrot but you will lose your features too! Getting patchy tan after doing too many comps in a row? Buy yourself some exfoliating gloves, scrub it all off and start again girl.

3. Nails

sns-nails
SNS nails 🙂

Ah nails, it pains me to say this but ev-e-ry thing counts on that dance floor and sometimes it comes down to the most tiniest of details, especially at the highest level. It may sound super pedantic to say that even our nails need to look groomed but hey, that’s dancing for ya! I really don’t like wearing acrylics, I have done for soooo many years because my natural nails are short, weak and don’t grow so acrylics helped my hands look more lengthened and elegant. But that stuff is really bad for your natural nails. Nowadays I’m trying out SNS which is basically a dipping powder containing 5 different kinds of Vitamins and Calcium which help to create healthier nails underneath. It has no odour, uses no primer and requires no UV light to set. Unlike acrylic and gel it prevents damage to your real nails but feels just as strong and durable. Also unlike shellac, you are still able to have the help of tips initially to get you started with some length until eventually your real nails grow long enough on their own. If you are lucky enough to have long natural nails just make sure they looked manicured and maybe slap a bit of colour on them too!

4. Hair + Makeup

This one is a little bit of an ambiguous topic but there are a few ‘guidelines’ I guess that can be followed. Hair should be sleek using gel or hairspray to get a smooooth and shiny finish. Big, boofy and loose wedding type hairstyles don’t really hit the mark. The hair should be so tight that when you move your head the hair does not move, any wobbly bits need to be sorted out and there should be absolutely no flyaways! I did a low bun tutorial with my gal Rachel Macintosh a while back linked here where you can kind of get a vibe for just how sleek I mean when I say sleek. I mean like LEGO. Like rock hard. Get it? The ponytail part of the hairstyle should be pulled so tight that you feel like it’s giving you a facelift and any decorative parts and the bun should be pinned in a way that you cannot see the pins. Headpieces can be cool, just make sure they tie into your dress otherwise it can tend to look like a bit of a random after thought.

Makeup should be clear, should bring out your features and should complement your overall look. I like to look at my dress and start to conceptualise a vibe I want to portray and allow the make up to reflect that. For example recently, I’ve been wearing quite a simple, black, timeless and bold looking dress so have tried to also keep my makeup along those lines. I’ve made an emphasis on a porcelain, full coverage base, kept with neutral browns and whites on the eyes paired with some black to give it a bit more edge and a retro 50’s glam red lip to finish. I do often rock this look but that’s what I feel most comfortable in and you do have to also feel your best on that floor too! If I was wearing silver or something more blingy then maybe I would add some glitter and some highlighter etc. So remember, it’s so important to have a clear image of how you want to look because if you aren’t clear enough to portray it, the audience/judges won’t be able to read it.

I hope some of these things helped, I am forever learning new things along the way and that’s whats so great about dancing! It’s always evolving and changing 🙂 Who knows, maybe one day none of these thing will be important! We might all be dancing around in jeans, with no fake tan and our hair out flying everywhere.. you never know!

Love, Rachelle xx

 

 

 

 

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Ok, so I’m assuming that if you’re looking at this blog post then you are interested in a few sneaky tricks on what to do when your drain is blocked. No? Oh wait sorry, wrong blog! Those tips are for my other website gunmetalgreyplumbing.com (not a real website). You must be here for the Comp Day hacks? Yes? Well, quit farting around and let’s get straight into it then!

If you are a competitive Ballroom Dancer then you would be well aware of those “Comp Day Feels”. They are indescribable feelings that only one dancer to another dancer can relate to. Put simply there’s dry mouth, butterflies in the tummy, hairspray in every orifice, fake tan smell and (many) toilet moments. Too far? Sorry it was I know, but you know it’s true! There is just something about Comp Days that are so different to any other normal day and there really isn’t another way of recreating those vibes to prepare yourself. Some of us can be jittery messes on the day and others out there (me most of the time) play it a little too cool, hiding the fact that we are actually scared shitless behind an overly playful exterior. But no matter how we play it, Competition Days are always a massive energy burner not just from the dancing but from all the hype that surrounds it and that’s why I thought of a few pre-comp hacks that will hopefully take a bit of unnecessary stress away.

Firstly, the dress. The hot, crinkly, mess of a dress that has probably been left abandoned since the last time it was used. Now I’m not speaking for everyone out there but my dresses can definitely get on the crinkly side, especially when I have to squeeze two of them into one carry-on suitcase! At the moment my skirts have around 300 layers of material which means ironing out the wrinkles is not an option. But nor has it been for a while if I’m being honest! I’ll get to that in a minute but first I just want to say I’m not a believer in the whole “hang your dress in the bathroom and the steam from the shower will smooth it out” situation. Been there, tried that, set off a fire alarm in my room/the whole Bed n Breakfast and had to apologise endlessly to all the people out the front of the building in their pyjamas afraid of catching on fire. Plus, after all that commotion AND steam, my dress was still no better off! So yeah, I haven’t had much luck with that and I think it’s a bit of a myth really.. but if you’ve had luck with it I envy you! Actually no I don’t, because my hack is all I need 🙂 I came about this idea a few years ago when I had a dress with its skirt and float’s made out of Lamé material (very expensive, shiny type of material for those of you wondering!). Steve (the professional iron master of the partnership) was beginning to tentatively start ironing the skirt on the lowest setting when all of a sudden, the iron melted the skirt. Not ideal. We put the old hotel iron away and I decided to try to use a hairdryer on it instead and BOOM!! Seeya later wrinkles. It was smoooooth and silky and amazing. This dress had been shipped from England, so she was like, really wrinkly. Since then its been something I do on all my dresses and it works an absolute treat. I’ve tried on a variety of materials too, ranging from pearl chiffon to crystal organza and all work fine. The best thing is you can even take the hairdryer to the comp and do any touch ups when you get there! I just recently gave this idea to a World Professional Finalist after I had been watching her struggle for 10 minutes with her steamer trying to work wonders on her floats and she was extremely grateful! We got the job done in no time!

Next up, why don’t you try to pre-make your own isotonic drink the night before? All those unfortunate “feelings” I mentioned previously equate to one dehydrated person! Put a bunch of dancing and sweating on top of that and you will quickly feel like your running out of steam. So it’s important you get those liquids in without pumping yourself full of sugar from pre-made “energy” drinks. Steve is rarely seen in the kitchen but if there is one time when you will find him there it will be on a Comp Day where he will be whipping up a LARGE isotonic drink for us to take to the competition. It really is as simple as:

  • water
  • 2 lemons
  • salt
  • coconut water

Before I start, I’ll just tell you that I don’t have exact measurements for this drink sorry as it’s mostly about playing with the ingredients to find something your taste buds enjoy. Generally we buy a massive bottle of Evian (the biggest), transfer about half the water to our tummy’s or another empty bottle, squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons, bang in a pinch of salt, and then fill up the rest of the bottle with coconut water. Very specific I know 😉 haha. We just try to taste it as we go along and see what it needs more or less of. If we are travelling and don’t have access to all of these ingredients (who wants to buy salt on a weekend away?) then we have a simpler version where we mix fruit juice (I love any mango versions), water and coconut water into a bottle. Not only are they delishhhhh, but they are so much better for you than those sugary lolly drinks! Remember it’s really important to replenish those lost electrolytes!

Finally are a few key items that we always TRY to make sure we pack beforehand so that we aren’t left stumped at the competition.

Nurofen Gel- This stuff is my JAM! It works wonders on inflammation and targeting pain and is quick, easy and scent free! Sorry Deep Heat you may be good but you make my nose bleed. I love using it on my knees if they feel a little niggly after I’ve danced (aarrhhh.. every damn day! haha I kid, I kid. But seriously..) and always keep it close by for quick application on my neck and shoulders incase Tango was a little bit… rough 😉

Safety Pins- An obvious one but it’s crazy the amount of times I’ve had guys come up to me at a Comp scrounging around for pins! That number ain’t going to just magically levitate in positions guys! Pack some spares just incase you or a friend needs them! We usually attach a bunch of them onto Steve’s suit bag as it is literally at every. Single. Competition.

Clear Contact and Scissors- I mean this one is optional I’d say but most guys these days like to cover their paper back numbers in clear contact. This way if there are any unwanted sharp elbows that happen to fly by then your number is covered! It’s a perfect option for those times you have to wear the same number for many rounds or days (Blackpool). The scissors are also handy for those occasions when you get your number and its the size of Australia. Sometimes the back numbers these days are HOOGE so if you can cut around it neatly without chopping off any important info (sponsors/name of the comp) then I’m sure it’s ok 🙂 Just note that not all comps these days have paper back numbers! Most comps in Australia these days provide numbers that are now made out of material.. so contact isn’t necessary!

I hope some of these hacks help to eliminate some stress on your next Competition Day! But as for those nerves/butterflies.. just pray that they never go away because as long as they are there, it shows that you care! #POET *drops mic and leaves room*

P.S To all my Aussie dancing buddies competing in the Australian Dancesport Championships this weekend; GOOD LUCK! I will see you there or I will see you on a another time 😉

Love, Rachelle

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So, you get your new ballroom dress, wear it a few (or more) times and start to get that sinking feeling that it might be time to give the ol girl a wash. Washing your gown for the first time can be a fairly daunting experience; what if all the stones fall off? Will the colours run together? what on earth do I do with it now it's soaking wet?!! But, not to worry as I have washed many a dress over the years (friends dresses included) and this is how I like to do it 🙂

wash-ballroom-dress
Time for a wash!

First of all I recommend you get your hands on some Vanish Oxi Action fabric stain remover (pink containers). All of the pink Vanish products are fine, I've tried the powder form and the spray but prefer the spray as I can target problem areas. This stuff is like liquid gold for washing dresses. Lipstick stain? see ya later. Fake tan marks? bye! This special product was recommended to me from my previous dressmaker in London who had told me she once used it to get a red wine stain out of a white dress! So yeah, no more needs to be said... it's a miracle worker.

febreze-vanish-oxiaction
Febreze Spray + Vanish Oxi Action

Here's a little list of what you will need:

  • Vanish Oxi Action (powder or spray)
  • normal washing liquid of choice
  • bathtub or large sink
  • washing machine (please don't stress about this and just keep reading!!)
  • gloves (optional)

Lets get to it!

  1. Ask yourself the question do I want to wash the whole dress or just do a spot clean? If it's just a spot wash then still follow the same instructions but only do so with the parts of the dress that need washing. I personally don't opt for spot washes and prefer to wash the whole dress at a time as some materials are prone to water marks. In saying that though I've also had great success with some spot washes when the dress isn't really that dirty. You don't want to over-wash your ballroom gown.
  2. Fill your bathtub/sink with lukewarm water (not too hot, or you risk the chance of melting the stones right off your dress! #notideal). Add in a tiny amount of washing liquid and either spray the Vanish on problem areas or put a small amount of the powder into the water. I would probably use a tablespoon in a sink or a few table spoons in the bathtub. Just try to go easy on the washing products as no one wants a crusty dress for the following comp!
  3. Put the dress in the water. Go on, get it in there! Now you can work on getting out the marks (if any) and just give the dress a general scrub. I usually do this by rubbing the material together and do this until it's clean. Give the dress a good swish and squeeze and then drain the water, holding the dress to the side of the tub.
  4. Once the water has drained, refill the tub with cold water ONLY. This cools the glue under the stones and rinses any excess cleaning product out of the dress.
  5. Now, up to you but I like to put the bodice of my dress into a pillow slip for protection before I then put it in the washing machine. Once its all squeezed into the washing machine set it to spin on low or if you can put it on a gentle spin cycle.
  6. Try not to freak out while your dress is spinning a million miles an hour...
  7. Pull your dress out of the machine and WA-LAH! Brand new dress 🙂 I like to hang it out to continue to dry, if your skirt is extra heavy you can place it over a chair to dry so that the weight of the skirt doesn't pull on the bodice.

In between washes I like to use Febreze fabric refresher which kills bacteria and really helps to keep the dresses fresh! They have so many different flavours and are really great for when you are travelling and don't have the time/space to wash your dress. I just spray it onto the areas needed, leave for a few minutes and then pat dry with a towel.

Hopefully some of these ideas helped you! I've tried this same method with all my dresses ranging from velvet to silk and its always worked out fine. I would take care with feathers though.. when I've washed dresses with feathers I tend to do the spot wash method and if you do happen to accidentally get some feathers wet the hairdryer works a treat in getting them back nice and fluffy 🙂 Also, don't be afraid of the spin cycle, it really is the best thing to get rid of all that excess water so your dress will dry so much quicker! Just be sure to pop your machine on a gentle cycle or on a lower speed spin.

silver-dress-embody
My dress sponsored by Embody Dancewear

If you have any more questions or queries please feel free to comment below 🙂 All my beautiful dresses are sponsored by Embody Dancewear.

HAPPY WASHING!

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