Well-maintained dance costumes help you and your parents get the most from your investments. They can be handed down to younger siblings or re-purposed for the next season. And at the very least, a particularly special dance costume can be kept as a memento of hard work and achievement that can inspire young dancers.
You took time and care when the dance costumes first arrived. Take the same time and care after all the recitals and competitions are over for the season as you prepare to store them and help your parents learn how to do so — they’ll thank you for it. Here’s a simple five-point process you can share with your dancers on how to best care and store for their dance costumes.
1. Clean it. Spot cleaning may be enough at some points during recital season, but it won’t do for long-term storage. Any stain or lingering body odor will only entrench and worsen with time. The trick with cleaning a dance costume is that different fabrics need to be handled differently. And of course, dance outfits with rhinestones or appliques have their own challenges.
While it takes the most time, it’s hard to go wrong with gently hand-washing the garment in mild or cold water using a mild detergent. If you want to machine wash a costume, first do your research to find out what temperatures and detergents are safe. Never dry clean your dance costumes as the chemical processes are too harsh.
2. Dry it. Even the slightest bit of moisture will turn to mold or mildew and ruin your costume. It must be 100%, bone dry before it gets stored. First, press out the excess water between bath towels; don’t wring it out. Then you can hang it to dry — and don’t forget — no wire hangers or you’ll get rust stains! If it’s a very heavy costume dry it flat on a sweater drying rack so it doesn’t stretch out.
3. Steam out any wrinkles. Is this step strictly necessary? No, but it’s a good one because the longer wrinkles stay put, the harder they are to get out later. Steam them out; don’t iron. Then make sure to let it dry!!
4. Wrap the costume in a protective layer. You always want to put the outfit under a breathable cover, so it doesn’t gather dust. If you’re hanging the dance costume, a cloth garment bag works well. Don’t use a plastic garment bag as that will trap air, which will turn into moisture over time. Pure cotton or muslin is best. If buying lots of muslin garment bags gets pricey, purchase muslin pillowcases Simply remove enough stitches or cut out a hole on the closed end for the hanger head to go through. Padded or wood hangers are best. If you use plastic, make sure it doesn’t have seams on it which can tear at the fabric.
If you’re storing the dance costume in a box wrap it in acid-free tissue, which you can find at any office supply store or big box store. Check the size of the tissue so you buy enough to be sure it completely wraps around the costume.
As with drying, it’s best to store a heavier costume flat so it keeps its size and shape (it won’t stretch). Whether hanging or lying flat, try not to fold the costume in any way. The creases won’t be pretty.
5. Store it. You want to store it in a dark, dry place. Most closets are designed to be just such spaces. Ideally, place the dance costumes in areas of the closet where they aren’t going to get moved around a lot.
Storage bonus tip: Don’t overlook the shoes! Spot wash and dry. Use shoe shapers, so they keep their shape. Dance stores have plenty of options. If you’re feeling old school, you can probably find some lambswool somewhere. Store in a shoe box.
Going the extra step for your parents
If you’re going to prepare a dance costume storage tip sheet for the parents in your community, share it with customized dance labels for their kids’ costumes. These are the little details that can set your dance studio apart.