How to Design an Irish Dancing Dress

Written by sylvia cini
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How to Design an Irish Dancing Dress
Modern Irish dancing dresses take many forms. (Irish dancers image by kryptajuliett from

Dancing is an important art form in many cultures because it preserves regional stories and folk music. Irish step dancing has gained a global audience for its visible difficulty and aestheticism. Performances such as "Riverdance" and "Lord Of The Dance" offer a glimpse into the trove of steps and styles that form this rich cultural tradition. The production of costume dresses has become a large part of Irish dancing since the mid-1900s.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Coloured pencils

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  1. 1

    Draw the outline of the dancer's body. Trace the body shape from a photograph or use a blank paper doll template if you cannot freehand the design.

  2. 2

    Sketch the silhouette of the dress, expanding the outline where the material stands out on its own. Pay attention to the fullness of the bust and skirt. Determine the length of the dress at this time.

  3. 3

    Form the top of the dress including the sleeves. Decide if the dress shall have straps, sleeves, a halter or no supportive structure. Consider the style of dance that will be performed. Sleeves offer the most modesty and support.

  4. 4

    Note the fabric choice and colour in the dress. Cotton and velvet are often used, and green and blue are prominent colours.

  5. 5

    Add embroidery and borders. Sketch accessories such as belts and matching headbands.

  6. 6

    Draw close-up views of details, such as embroidered hems.

Tips and warnings

  • If you've chosen to design your dress in the style of an Irish solo dress, you need to draw a close-up of the skirt panels. Solo dresses usually have a full A-line skirt formed from six to eight decorated panels. Don't forget to plan for movement. One option is to leave the panels separate like fingers.Look at Irish dancing dress shops near you and online to get ideas for your design. Knots, scalloped edges, spirals and triangles are popular elements in custom designs.
  • Don't be inflexible. When you show your design to a seamstress, listen to the comments offered. Price, time, difficulty and practicality will all be issues to consider. Select a seamstress that is willing to work with you, but never forget that she is the expert. Defer to her wisdom and experience.

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