How to Care for Dance Costumes Like a Natural

You’ve received your new dance costume, but caring for it is a little bit over your head? Maybe there are sequins and rhinestones, and you’ve never had to deal with clothing that needs to be performance-ready at all times. We have you covered with our guide on how to care for dance costumes.

Prevent Issues with your Dance Costume

The first thing to know in how to care for your costume is how to prevent issues, which could cause significant cleaning. When you have a performance scheduled, keep in mind the following:

Avoid tanning immediately before a performance.

If your studio or team expects you to have a tan, be sure to plan for your tanning session with enough time to dry appropriately. Try to schedule it a day or two in advance to be on the safe side.

Use a Clear Deodorant and Sweat Pads

Deodorant and sweat stains are the pits, but especially on costumes with intricate detailing. Stock up on some disposable sweat pads, clear deodorant, or deodorant wipes. Here are some of our favorites:

Clear Deodorant:

Deodorant Wipes:

Sweat Pads:

Avoid perfume and hairspray while in your costume

Chemicals in hairspray and perfumes can dull the costume. Skip the perfume all together on performance days. If your dance number requires hairspray, trying to do your hairstyle before putting on your outfit.

Use Cover-ups

How to Care for Dance Costumes - Dance Recital Gifts.com
When not performing, wear a cover-up to protect your costume.

When warming up, or waiting around for their turn to dance, be sure your dancer wears a cover-up over her costume. Preferably something that has a wide neckline or can be buttoned up. This is to avoid messing up hair and makeup. It can be as simple as dad’s old shirt, but if you want something with a little more pizazz, check out these cute dance cover-ups on Etsy.

Avoid eating and drinking in costume.

This goes hand in hand with wearing a cover-up. If at all possible, try not to eat and drink while in costume, but if you have to wear your cover-up to avoid spills and messes, landing directly on your costume.

Avoid wearing your costume outside of approved uses by your studio.

Lastly, don’t wear your costume in unapproved places. It’s always best to check with your studio if you want to take pictures of your dancer in costume on your own, but each outing in your costume is another opportunity to wear and tear.

 

When Should I Wash and Clean?

You should spot-clean on the day of the performance as needed and if you have a set of shows within 2-3 days of each other.

A good wash and cleaning should be done if you have several days in between appearances or at the end of the season for the number and costume.

 

How do I Spot-Clean/Get Stains out of my Dance Costume?

Spot-Cleaning and removing stains usually require no more than a towel, a gentle cleanser, and elbow grease. Cleaning stains is a regular part of how to care for dance costumes. Remember, before using any type of cleaning product on your costume; you should test the spot in an area that is not as visible. If there are no adverse reactions to the fabric, you should be safe to apply it directly to the stain and rinse with cold water when possible.

Here are some of our favorite spot-treatments:

For Sweat Stains:

For a quick fix on sweat stains, mix one-part alcohol to three parts water in a spray bottle and pat dry.

For Makeup:

It’s a good idea to carry a pack of baby wipes for quick fixes like lipstick or Try Fels-Naptha laundry soap.

For everything else:

Forever New Stain Remedy Gel in your dance bag or Dr. Bronner’s Soap at home (Peppermint is our favorite but check out their UnScented as well). 

Washing Your Costume

Washing your outfit is a crucial part of how to care for your dance costume. We recommend hand washing whenever possible, but we also have some tips if you absolutely must use machine wash or dry clean.

Hand Wash

Cleaning by hand is the best option for costumes with embellishments like sequins, as well as materials like spandex and lycra.

Start by washing one garment as a test in cold water and a small amount of gentle cleanser like the Dr. Bonner liquid soap mentioned above or Forever New’s Laundry Detergent. If you pre-treated with a spot-cleaner, be sure to wash the costume inside out. Don’t soak the outfit or leave it unattended – this could cause the color to bleed.  Be sure to rinse the soap out with more cold water. 

Washing Machine

If you’re wondering, “Can I put my costume in the washing machine?” the answer is yes. Still, again it’s not the preferred option, and to prevent color bleeding, you should make sure to immediately remove your costumes as soon as the cycle is complete.

Start by placing your costumes inside-out in a laundry bag like the one recommended below.
Add in one of the gentle cleaners from above. Like hand-washing, you want to pick a wash cycle with a cold water setting. A majority of washers have a delicate or gentle cycle that would be ideal.

Mama’s Laundry Talk explains the delicate cycle like this:

The delicate cycle uses a ‘slow/slow’ combination, meaning that the wash cycle uses a slow or lesser degree of agitation and the spin cycle uses a slow spin to extract water from laundry.

A delicate cycle usually lasts between 4 and 7 minutes during its actual wash cycle.  By using a ‘slow/slow’ cycle, the agitation and abrasion on the clothes is greatly reduced and offers a certain level of protection for some fabrics.

How to Care for Dance Costumes: Don’t Go with Dry Cleaning.

Avoid dry-cleaning if possible. The typical process uses a lot of heat and can cause some significant damage to your costume.  If you absolutely must dry-clean, be sure your dry cleaner has prior experience in handling delicate outfits with intricate embellishments. We highly suggest not sending costumes with rhinestones or sequins out to dry clean at all.

 

Drying Your Costume

Let’s talk drying your costume. You may have noticed that we don’t want to use heat to wash your garments, and the same is valid for drying. Avoid the temptation of the dryer machine.

Instead, keeping your costumes inside out, use a white towel to roll the costume and gently blot the water out. You may need to use multiple towels, but if you can pick the costume up and see no water dripping, then you’ve done enough. Lay the costume flat on a dry towel or hang it up in an uncrowded area to finish air-drying.

If you need to get rid of wrinkles, a steamer is your best friend. While you can use an iron on low heat with a barrier to protect the costume, we only suggest that if you are a seasoned ironing pro as its easy to leave burn marks behind.

If you don’t have a steamer in your performance arsenal we recommend this one:

 

Storing the Costumes

Rule # 1 for storing your dance costumes – make sure they are completely dry. Putting away outfits that are still damp is a recipe for growing mildew, mold, and smelly odors. Hang your costume in a breathable garment bag and avoid plastic bags, and wire hangers as they can trap odors and weaken your costume. I like this garment bag for its two handles and pocket to store costume extras in:

Place the garment bags in a room or closet that is dark. Extended exposure to sunlight can fade your costumes.

If your costume is heavy and you are afraid that it will stretch on a hanger, place it in a rubber storage bin as flat as possible.

Finally, be sure all zippers, buttons, and catches are fastened before storing.

In conclusion, it’s not hard to care for your dance costumes as long as remember that they are not as durable as everyday clothing and need to be treated a little more gently.  Whether you are getting ready for your dance recital, storing them for another time, or getting ready to sell your costumes, these tips should keep your outfit in excellent shape.