YPAD Advisory Panel Member, Tiffany Prout-Leitao , has had many years of experiencing costume measuring, as both a dancer and studio owner. Tiffany shares with us her experience and guidelines for efficient, confidence boosting costume measuring.
For most dancers getting costumes is the most exciting day of the year. Some students ask the first day of class, “Do you know what our costume is? What song are we doing?”, as they anticipate this from the beginning. But, for some students this is a very stressful time, as many stand infront of the mirror in judgment of themselves. I was one of those kids. In high school, I developed body dysmorphic tendencies, so being measured was a very stressful time for me. I stood, waiting to see the numbers. Even though by society standards I was a thin girl, I didn't see that in the mirror. Most kids who have issues with their size, weight, and certain parts of their body suffer silently. As a result of social media and the internet, our kids are becoming more body conscious at a younger age. Proving why it is so important to make conscientious decisions when selecting and measuring for costumes.
As recital season is approaching, the time has come to measure dancers for their costumes. As this time of year can be stressful for dancers and teachers alike, we have compiled a few helpful tips we use at our studio to help make costume measuring simple:
- Post the costume measuring dates on your Studio Calendar to let dancers anticipate measuring!
- For younger dancers, explain why and how you are measuring them. Try to use an assistant or older dancer to demonstrate the process.
- Always ask children, “Can I measure you?” or “Are you ready?” allowing them to be in control of their own body and lower nerves. You can offer to have the parent measure the child, while guiding proper measuring.
- Wording can make a difference. Don’t use “too big” or “too small”, as those words can trigger. Instead, you could say, “This costume needs to be a little longer on you, let’s get something that is more comfortable.”
- Do not make comments about their bodies. For example, if a child asks, “Am I bigger than last year?” your response could be, “Oh my goodness, you’re growing so much! You’re getting taller, that’s fantastic!”
- Do not let the kids see their recorded numbers. Remember: Beauty is not a measurement!
- For group measuring, face the dancer away from other people. For pre-teens and teens, it may be better to measure them individually away from their peers, so they don’t feel self-conscious.
- A size can make or break a dancer’s psyche. Costumes are not made to fit every body type perfectly. Handing a dancer a costume that is a larger size than what they normally wear in street clothes, takes them to a negative emotional space. To help with this, place stickers over the size on the bag and use it to write the dancer’s name on them. The size remains inside the costume, but it is not the first thing staring them in the face. See below for our fun and inspiring label templates!
- Once the costumes come in and the dancer’s try them on, ask each one how it feels. You can ask them to dance in it to be sure the costume fits properly (not riding up or falling down). Make it a point to notice… do they wrap their hands around their waist because they are self-conscious? Do you see their shoulders roll forward instead of standing up with pride? Are they not dancing to their fullest ability in the costume? These are the small nuances that kids are going to do instead of saying that they are uncomfortable. If you notice this, ask them if the costume is comfortable and how it makes them feel. This will prompt the child to tell you what they are really feeling. It might mean exchanging a size, adding better straps or adding a piece of fabric, but it is our job as educators to make these kids feel happy, confident, healthy and safe.
- When selecting your costumes, choose styles that will flatter every body type in your group. When a dancer feels confident, they will dance with confidence. When the costume, choreography, music and concept comes together, that’s when the magic happens.
Today’s children are inundated with images on the internet and social media. They are constantly comparing themselves to other people, trying to fit the typical mold. It's important for them to see other dancers that look like them and they can relate to. Dancers come in all shapes and sizes, all ethnicities, all abilities. They have braces, glasses, unclear skin. It's a part of growing up. I'm really proud of Curtain Call for going forward with a costume line and book that has appropriate costumes for all of our kids; not just the stereotypical idea of what a dancer looks like. I can show a costume from Curtain Call and my dancers see someone like them.
Being a Y.P.A.D. (Youth Protection Advocates In Dance) Certified educator and having a certified staff has helped with our whole costume process, as my team has the proper training and tools to make the best decisions for our dancers.
Tiffany is the Owner and Artistic Director of Center Stage Dance and founder of the non-profit Center Stage Outreach Team. She has performed and taught throughout the United States, Europe and China. Tiffany is an award-winning jazz choreographer who has done numerous industrials, commercials, television shows and has worked with several national recording artists. She is on the Advisory Panel and a certified Y.P.A.D. (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance) educator and adjudicator, an organization dedicated to stop the exploitation of our youth in the performing arts. Tiffany is a Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Certified instructor whose goal is to ensure that dance is accessible to everyone. As a dance educator for over 25 years, Her mission is to create a safe, healthy and happy dance environment and pass on her passion for dance and life to the students of Center Stage.