Style On Ice - Part 1
- Fabric Choices & Colours
Frances McMahon, ACT
As the mother of a talented ice skater, and an adult skater myself, it goes without saying that there are lots of costumes to be made for technical and artistic competitions. You will save lots of money if you make your own, and have the added pleasure that your costume is unique and custom made just for you! So without further ado, here's a few tips for getting that professional result:
Start simple! Kwik Sew have produced a sewing guide titled "Swim and Action Wear" by Kirstin Martensson. Master patterns are included, and the instructions are clear. Please do not cut the master pattern! Trace the pieces you require with polytrace. Start by making a simple leotard, then a leotard with skirt attached. After all, that's what a skating costume is!
Fabrics must be "two way stretch". This means that it will stretch all ways; lengthwise, crosswise, and diagonally (the "bias"). The degree of stretch is important. If you get 10cm of fabric and stretch it out, the stretched out length should be around 17cm. Most fabrics stretch one direction more than the other. Be aware of this, as the instructions should clearly indicate to lay the pattern on the fabric with the "greatest degree of stretch" a certain way. The only instance where you can use a non-stretch fabric such as chiffon, is for a skirt. It will need to be attached to a "V" shaped waistline, and needs some gathering to avoid ripping. Best to leave these types of fabrics alone, until you are more experienced.
The really fun part is choosing your fabric! With such an overwhelming assortment of dance and costume fabrics out there, where do you start? Most of us are pressed for time, so go online and browse the fabric shops! Colours and textures on your computer screen may not be accurate, so ask for a few swatches to be set to you . Most traders will be happy to oblige. Don't throw away those samples! Keep them in a folder, and write down the cost, type of fabric, and the place you got it from. That sample of pink holographic lycra may not suit your technical, but it may be perfect for an artistic costume later on.
You get what you pay for. Cheap fabrics always look good until you have to wash them! Expect to pay around 20 to 40 dollars a metre. That sounds a lot, but you will only need around 2 metres for the basic designs. Higher-priced fabrics are far easier to sew with and will hold their shape. That said, if you are a beginner sewer, then cheaper fabrics are a good choice for starting with. Beginners should definitely start by making some practice wear before moving on to competition wear. Cotton lycra is ideal for this.
As a personal preference, I love the stretch velvets. Ice rinks are chilly, and velvet adds a touch of warmth, as well as soaking up sweat more efficiently than lycra. However, there are more varieties and colours of lycra available. Prints, holographic, plain, sheer, matte, sequinned. I'm drooling already!
Now what colour should you choose? This is the time to use your ears not your eyes. Listen to your music. Is the mood sombre, happy or jazzy? Brilliant magenta doesn't go with moody Rachmaninoff. Huge stripes and dots may suit jazz, but may not successfully go with Swan Lake!
Sombre and muted colours don't look good under rink lights. Brown, beige, certain greys, mustard, "rusty and dusty" colours should be avoided. Clear colours look stunning! Reds, blues, violets, white, icy pinks/blues/greens. For the moodier/ darker music, why not try black, navy, forest green or deep violet?
Keep in mind your natural colouring. There's a great book out called "Colour me Beautiful" by Carole Jackson. Strongly recommended! You will have great fun finding your natural "season", and by using the colour swatches provided, shopping is ten times easier. My daughter is a "summer" and had her heart set on wearing black. Black is too draining and harsh for her colouring, so I suggested a light pink. Bingo! She was delighted with the results and all the compliments received!
Small and intricate prints should be avoided. Prints will optically merge from a distance and the effect will be lost. Keep it simple. Use no more than three separate colours (unless you are playing the part of a rainbow!). When using two or more colours together, look at the contrast between them. Pale blue next to pale green won't have enough contrast to "pop". A light tone next to a darker one works better.
* Sheer fabrics and stretch laces can be tricky to sew. Sheers tend to roll easily, and I've never found a stretch lace with enough stretch! Wait until you are more experienced, which won't be long, as once you start sewing, you will never stop!
- Frances McMahon