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Irish dancing dresses are often truly gorgeous. They gleam with sequins, come in all colors, and combined with the wigs and tiaras, make the dancers look like princesses. The Irish dancing dresses play a crucial role in the contest. Not only does a girl’s appearance count towards her grade, the right dress can help her dance better on stage.
There are many factors to consider when buying a dress: color, patterns, the fabric’s weight, and current fashions. A group of girls at the United Irish Counties Feis in Yonkers, N.Y. shared what they want in a perfect dress.
“The colors have to go with your skin tone,” said 15-year-old Ryan Ashley Moran. “You look for the color and style that works for you.”
“Especially at the major competitions, where the stage is huge, the lights can wash you out,” friend and fellow dancer Kate Carey said. “And if you’re younger, you go for a cutesy dress. If you’re older, you want something more regal.”
Girls need to ponder over the design, shape, neckline and length of a dress, especially since Irish dancing involves so much physical exertion. Heavy fabrics can cause discomfort, and a pointy neckline can poke you. In the current trends, it should reach four inches above the knee. A dress shouldn’t be too long, or too short, and always keep within the traditional style.
“The higher level you are, you want a dress that’s ‘wow’,” explained Simone Rodriguez, who recently competed at the Worlds Irish Dancing Championship. “You have to have the ‘it’ factor, so a judge looks at you and thinks, ‘she’s a really great dancer, and I want to look at her.’” Simone added, “I look for a pretty design, with not too much glitter, but shiny.
“I look for money,” her mother said. Dancing dresses, when new, can cost more than $3,000.
Children and teenagers grow quickly, which means there’s a flourishing market in second hand frocks, which parents sell for about half the original price. The dresses for the higher levels are really expensive. As girls get older, the dresses get most costly.
Despite the costs, for a dancer, the dress has a special importance. “It’s almost like a wedding dress,” says Brigette Nieson, from Connecticut, whose 12-year-old daughter competed at the UIC Feis on Sunday, June 14. “It’s a morale booster and a major thing for confidence for the girls. They’re all so very different. And each dress seems more beautiful than the one before.”
Irish dance dresses on display at the United Irish Counties Feis