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to Use Elastic Straps on Skimpy Dance Costumes Securing a minimally covered costume typically allows for two options: sheer (or presumed sheer) mesh fabric or genuinely uncovered skin with straps. If you'd like to use a mesh fabric instead of flesh, you're in luck! Mesh is very in vogue on the red carpet and it's a great alternative for giving the illusion of bare skin in dance costumes. If your desire is to have uncovered skin, just like our bridge example, there are certain anchor points that need to be secured by a strap of some sort. Those points are generally in line with the top, middle and bottom of an actual brassiere as well as the point where a strap holds up the cup area of a bra, on the front. A neck-strap can then either attach at the back of the bra, or as a ‘halter-strap' going around the back of the neck. If straps are needed to keep a costume up, they can match the garment and become an integral part of the design. Adding rhinestones, beads, studs or chains to straps can easily enhance the costume; if designed well, these decorative straps can greatly add to the visual flow of a costume. Aside from the distraction that ‘nude' elastic straps (that rarely even accurately match a dancer's actual skin tone) can cause, the elastic that attaches one part of a costume to another part of a costume can also create an unwanted focal point. The pulling of the costume causes a peak or point and, when viewed from a distance, all you will see is the straining of the fabric. How does our brain process this? It causes a distraction from the lines of a costume. The worst distraction is when a bra-top ends mysteriously at the side of the body near the underarm, defying all laws of physics.
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know that I have issues with the over-use of "nude" elastic straps on dance costumes. Why do I dislike them? Because, to be frank, they are a lazy way to deal with the physics of creating wearable women's dance costumes. It shows a lack of well thought out, strategic designs and, often, they aren't as "nude" as they should be. Just as mismatching or poorly crafted straps can destroy a costume, straps made of thin elastic strips that supposedly "match" the dancer's skin can have the same negative effect. I'll admit, science class was never my favorite, but physics definitely plays a major role in costuming. Gravity, inertia, and tension all factor in to creating a well-designed garment. Did you know that mathematics and physics were actually huge factors in developing the modern brassiere? Howard Hughes designed the underwirepush-up braJane Russell wore in the 1943 film,"The Outlaw". Hughes, an industrial designer, adopted modern technologies to raise the contour of the bosom.Modern bras, in a way, resemble a 1930's suspension bridge design. A suspension bridge is all about balancing tensions with cables,(i.e. straps) to give an aesthetically pleasing design profile while supporting the weight of the structure. A bra needs to provide sufficient Vertical Tensiontocomfortablysupport gravitational forces of the bosom's weight with shoulder straps, and Transverse (sideways) Tension (side straps) to support lateral forces (a side-to-sidetwisting motion). Additionally, in some cases, a Cantilevered structure may be used to lift (push up) the bosom. Construction is key when creating costumes for an adult woman's body. The bodice must cover the bust area, show just a hint of cleavage (but not so much that it will create a distraction if the costume shifts too much), and remain secure throughout the performance. So why do costume makers keep doing this?I assume that it continues to be done for one of three reasons:
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"it has always been done" (2) dancers continue to request it for the ‘open back' look (3) designers cannot create a decorative strap that would be visually attractive in its place I don't typically mind the elastic straps that anchor one bra-cup to the other or the strategically placed elastic straps that hold a costume together at the back waist to keep a nice deep ‘V' line. Wide set sleeves also require a little reinforcing so that they don't fall off the shoulder. In this case, an elastic strap across the top of the shoulders is also useful and not distracting. Without these strategically placed straps, the costume would not work and, usually, if you squint your eyes these costumes look fine. I'll conclude by leaving you with one piece of advice, dancers: challenge yourselves (or the designers of your costumes) to creatively incorporate your straps into the design of your dance costume. Don't settle for "nude" straps and don't just tack on random fabric so your costume doesn't fall off! Use your straps as an opportunity to add to the design and lines of your already gorgeous costume. Maybe you, too, will now be more attuned to good strap design. Perhaps you will think about suspension bridges the next time you marvel at how those skimpy costumes actually stay up on your favorite "Dancing with the Stars" dancer! (Submitted for November 2014 issue of Minnesota Dancer) © Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.