Custom making ballroom dresses in China?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by tuxedosam, Aug 9, 2006.

  1. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    Musique, and everyone else in here, have given great advice. Just to give a little background, I have never ordered a dress from Rainbow Shui (or anyone else, being as I'm a guy ;) ). But being 5'5" with a 10" drop on suit measurements, pretty much everything I buy off the rack has to be altered/tailored to fit properly, so dealt with this a lot. Also, my mom designs and makes ballroom costumes (and alters costumes made by other people).

    Few things I've picked up, both from personal experience, and from that of others. A lot of this will be repeats of what has already been said, but trying to bring it all together in one place and add my .02.

    First, labor is huge part of expense of any ballroom costume, always will be. Looking at rhythm costume friend has (believe it was a Jordi), and some my mom has made, you're talking anywhere from 20 (tends to be bare minimum) to 40 gross or more of stones on the dress. Every one of these has been individually glued to the dress, by hand. This is after the initial labor to design dress, fit it to you (not just to your body, but to your personality and dancing style, though this of course only applies to custom dresses made locally by costume maker who takes time to do custom pieces individualized to dancer), design the stoning layout, and everything else. Yes, proper fabrics and swarovski crystals cost more than cheaper options, but the labor is what is going to kill you. So it is certainly possible to get a costume cheaper by going to a labor market where price of labor is noticably lower than here in states. This is actually a big things in bespoke (custom-made) suits, too. They face some of same challenges that we do in ballroom world though.

    First, is that if at all possible, you want to be there working with the maker, rather than trying to communicate over phone/mail/internet. This is unlikely to happen for most people, but is still the ideal (can do it with makers here in states, but then you're paying for labor here).

    Secondly, be very specific on material, including being willing to supply it yourself if you aren't satisfied with what they can get. If you don't use proper material, dress won't hang right on your body, the skirt won't flow right, and the stones won't look right. I've seen a dress made with inexpensive stones that had swarovski crystals added to it to add additional stoning (client's choice, not the seamstress in question, who suggested going with all one type of stone or all the other). As woman turned on the floor it was blatantly obvious where the swarovski stones were and where the cheaper ones were. The swarovskis shone out like a spotlight as she did her turns and light hits them. So I would definitely spend the extra on swarovskis even if you're ordering a dress from China. Make sure to clarify stones and fabrics being used BEFORE she starts making dress, not after.

    Third: Make sure to get measurements right, and get professional help if need be. This was rule when my mom used to(and still does, though not as often) bridesmaid dresses for people coming in from out of town, who would only be in town for week before wedding, so just enough time for a final fitting, and it applies even more for a dress that is going to have to come from Hong Kong or similar. You will save yourself a world of hassle if you make sure you have the measurements right in the first place. If you're not sure exactly what maker means in measurements she's asking for, ask her. Clarify these things BEFORE she starts working on dress (or tails, or latin shirt, whatever), not when you get it in mail and are trying to adjust it afterwards.

    Fourth: Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want before you go to the maker. Be willing to listen to her advice, particularly if you've seen their work before and know that you like their style, but always better with situations like this, where yo'ure tryint to communicate over thousands of miles, and over a language barrier, to have clera idea of what you want (ironically, if working with a local maker, I suggest almost opposite, to be very willing to listen to the maker and hear what they suggest). Pictures of examples dresses, specific colors you want (again with examples if possible, etc), will make life a lot easier (and this is taken almost word for word from advice I'd give and have received on getting bespoke suits in Asia. This is one of cases where same rules apply).

    I can't give particular advice on what to ask for in a dress, as I don't claim the knowledge on that. others in this thread have specified that well (body suit, etc). I will say that no matter how well you get these dresses done, always a good idea to have local maker/seamstress for alterations. This is nothing against Chinese makers, but refers to any costume you're ordering from someone thousands of miles away. i've seen items ranging from chinese dresses to custom one-off dresses and shirts from Randall and Jordi, all that needed to be altered by someone on hand, who could actually see how i fit on the body in question and make the necessary adjustments.

    In regards to RainbowShui in particular, my opinion is still kinda waiting on this one. I believe my teacher was wearing RainbowShui for at least her smooth dress at last competition, maybe Rhythm too. It was alright, good looking dress, I'm not sure I would call it a costume. But i also didn't get really close look at either of them, as I wans't competing, just watching. Also, the rhythm one definitely could have used more stoning or decorations of some kind, and stones on there were rather dull. This certainly doesn't mean RainbowShui can't do better (or that teacher looked bad, but she's one of people who can make most anythin look good :) ), just feedback on what I've seen. At least two more students should be wearing RainbowShui dresses at our October competition, as they were talking about it last week, so I will have a more informed opiinion then.

    I don't know if any of that was any help to anyone, but I hope so.
     
  2. Denise Marion

    Denise Marion New Member

    Have you ever tried renting a dress?

    Ballroom dresses can be really expensive because most are custom made and have a LOT of rhinestones on them. Many people simply just don't want the commitment of such an expensive item, especially if they are only going to where it once. Many dancers are instead RENTING the dresses instead of buying.
     
  3. jenniegirl

    jenniegirl New Member



    hi, im wondering if you know the websites for the good costume makers based in china. like shi dai or romantic. i tried looking on the web but couldn't find any.. please let me know. thanks!
     
  4. jenniegirl

    jenniegirl New Member

    i have made costumes in china before, it didnt turn out too good. of cos, there are a lot of different makers in china, check out their price range, if its too cheap to be good, u know what to expect.. if they charge cheaper than what european costume makers do but the range is still nearer, then they should be the better ones..
     
  5. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    You probably won't find any for things like a tailor shop... it's just not really their way or part of their approach to business. These folks are working long hours at their machines making garments, and so why have a web site? Even in the US you'd be hard pressed to find a large number of web sites for your average tailor. The Chinese are great at copying designs and as an earlier poster said, they can copy just about anything you want. Unfortunately often styles and tastes differ on details (like how tight a collar on a dress shirt for a man should be even given a measurement), so you have to be very explicit when requesting what you want.
     
  6. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    After having gone the same route, while the quality CAN be good, for any type of dance wear, I've found that it's only logical to get a tailor who specializes in dancewear to make it. There are numerous little details and issues which all contribute to a great garment that simply won't be given attention if the tailor doesn't understand what's involved in making a piece of clothing "danceable." As China isn't a major ballroom dance hub in the world, your likelihood of finding an ideal tailor in the country itself is slim, given the number of tailors there are total.
     
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Not quite sure this is an accurate statement. China has a Mostrously Huge dance industry. It has a big "pro-am" and "showcase" culture and some geared to competition. Lots of these women are having lots of dresses made on a continual basis. They never want to wear the same dress twice. So some one is making LOTS of dresses over there.
     
  8. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Good point Larinda, but I was mainly talking about competitive dancing. In other words, I don't recall any major competitions being advertised for China. (But then again, maybe I just missed some!) At any rate, I was trying to contrast the huge number of tailors willing to make garments with the likely tiny number who would specialize in professional-looking dance attire.
     
  9. Laura

    Laura New Member

    In which world? The number of Chinese dancers at big comps like Blackpool and the UK grows every year, and their dancers are placing very highly in these events. Plus, the sheer number of dancers ranging from adults who do it every day for exercise (in place of tai chi, for instance), to hoards of kids doing dancesport in both private and state-run schools, is staggering. Heck, I was at a private dancing school in a rather backwater city in China a few years ago -- it was January, the studio was completely unheated, the temperature was hovering around the freezing point of water, and still about 100 kids showed up daily for lessons and practice.

    Someone (probably several someones) in China is making very good gowns, but it isn't (in my opinion) Rainbow Shu. I bet part of why it's been difficult to find the web sites of the good gown makers is that the sites are going to be published in Hanzi (Chinese characters), so you're not going to pick them up with a web search done in English.
     
  10. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    Suspect that will change as they realize what kind of market there is here. That's been a rather recent development with bespoke men's tailors in China and HK, they're all starting to get english websites made up to reach the American and european customers.
     
  11. Fouette

    Fouette New Member

    There are also a growing number of international caliber competitions in mainland China. Two off the top of my mind are the Shenzhen Open and Beijing Star (I believe there's one in Shanghai as well) - both feature international panels and top dancers in ballroom and latin, both professionals and amateurs. Laura is correct in saying that there are massive numbers of kids in state-run dance schools; a competition in Henan province is easily the size of Blackpool, if not larger, and most of the competitors are kids/youth. Moreover, as Larinda points out, there is a huge pro-am industry in Hong Kong, where many top professionals make a sizable percentage of their annual income.

    Regarding dresses, I've heard of a number of dressmakers in the southern part of mainland China that are very good - apparently, all the top competitors in China go to them for their gowns/latin dresses. However, I don't have the specific contact information for them...only heard of them through the grapevine. While I'm sure they can benefit from an English website, a lot of these dressmakers have enough demand for their services in China alone, and expansion may not be currently at the top of their minds.
     
  12. Musique

    Musique New Member

    Are we talking about the same country? Unexpectedly (to some people), those folks work long hours at their sewing machines, yet still found sometime to build websites. Though not in English.
    www. timesdance.com.cn

    Sorry that you were not informed when they changed their approach to business.
     
  13. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Nice web site...! (too bad someone forgot to tell them that it shouldn't take 2+ minutes for the intro to get to the main menu with no way to skip, unless I just missed the button) Speaking of which, what is that beautiful song--it's so familiar...?

    Musique, we ARE talking about the same country, but not the same company, as I've obviously never heard of this one. This is a great example of what I'm saying is not really very common. Tell me, in your past visits to China, did you find most tailor shops advertising nice web sites like this one? The ones I visited certainly did not, though it has been a few years ago since I last visited.
     
  14. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    For the couple of you saying "huh?" to my previous posts about China not being a major ballroom dancing country, I'd like to clarify that I'm taking into context the population of the country. Okay, there are a few top dancers placing, and some great websites. Compare this PER CAPITA with other countries, and you're likely to find that it's quite small in comparison. Did you forget that China has 1.3 billion people, and we're talking about four or five top couples, and a handful of speciality tailors?
     
  15. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    I went to the blackpool site and for 2006 found that in the pro standard there were 16 out of 250 couples who danced for China, with about 7 couples placing in the top 100 on average.

    It's amazing how many Japanese competitors are at Blackpool--112 couples out of the 250 listed were Japanese. Amazing!
     
  16. It's the theme from 'Somewhere In Time' by John Barry. From the movie of that name.
    It is beautiful ... sometimes I listen to it and wish it would go on for hours.
     
  17. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Thank you Kimberly!! And welcome to DF!
     
  18. Thank you Josh. K
     
  19. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    The Japanese couples don't have comparable visa issues.

    I don't think that participation as a percentage of overall population really means much of anything. What matters is critical mass of participation in a given area to really get something going. The US is a huge country with a large population, but our world-visible competitive ballroom scene is confined to just 3-4 metro areas.
     
  20. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I agree, especially since "participation" is being measured by attendance at a competition. Again, there are more dresses being sold by Chrisanne in China than aywhere else in the world. The market over there for gowns is monumental, regardless of whether they have top world pros or not.

    So the dress making industry there must be well and alive to be able to clothe all of these women. I think we are sidetracked by the rainbowshui people into thinking that is what is being marketed there. I find it hard to believe that the Chinese women I know would ever bother to even sneeze at rainbow dresses. They are much pickier, appearance oriented (sorry) than that. The status of these women is directly announced by their costumes, their pros, and the number of shows they get to perform.

    And if one were to simply go by what is being sold on ebay, well then there must not be a single dress maker in America. So where are Randall, Maria, Dore, Lorie, Lenique, Sinista, and Donna's dresses coming from?
     

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