Tips For Your Costume Closet

 

Once you’re organized, you’ll be ready to practice, right? … right?

Starting a brand new year of dance in a brand new city, the need to re-organize and prioritize has been especially strong for me in 2019. This desire to apply the “new year, new you” adage to a dance life can be pretty overwhelming, whether you’re looking at revamping your personal practice, your training goals, or a full fledged career.

I wanted to write a blog post about starting my new life in Kingston, but I thought I should keep it simple and dance-focused, so we are starting with the most basic (yet often most necessary) area in need of revitalizing. Few areas of a dancer’s life reflect our state of mind and level of energy more accurately. It’s care and maintenance is the foundation of all New Year’s resolutions. It is the sparkly maelstrom that we all have to face at some point.

My dearest dancing friends, I am of course talking about The Costume Closet.

Costume Closet

When I was packing up to move, I took that opportunity to get rid of all the “stuff” that I really didn’t need, and that had somehow survived the closet cull for years. My selection process was obviously helped by the fact that I was moving, and I really didn’t want to carry boxes of sparkly garbage with me across the country. Sorry Marie Kondo, but ALL of the shiny things bring me joy! So my criteria was this: If I haven’t used it, thought of using it, or even really thought about it at all in 6 months or more, it was time to part ways. Letting go means being honest with yourself. This is the grand truth of life, and not just closets.

Getting rid of about half of the tangled pile of “I’ll deal with it later” felt amazing, allowed me to reflect and re-evaluate, and by the end I had whittled myself down to what I think is a rather spartan collection. Everything is high quality, in good condition, and ready to be used.

So what did I do, and how did I do it? It went something like this…

Do I Really Need It?

What each dancer would consider her barest necessities can really vary, but the idea of purging down to that point remains the same. What do you need, and what will you truly use? This may also lead you to some deeper analysis of yourself as a dancer. When you come across those old costumes, you have the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve come from and how much you’ve grown, and that can sometimes help you say goodbye to the past… and to 30 pounds of broken costume jewelry that you swore you’d “craft” with later.

Could It Be Loved Elsewhere?

Perfectly good costumes & adornments don’t have to be thrown into the abyss. Sometimes we place a high emotional value on certain things because of the memories we made when we used them. So if you have well-loved items that will never be used by you again, why not try to find someone who would like to use them, and make new memories with those items? It can be easier to let go of our trinkets and baubles when we know that the life of that item isn’t over, in fact it is beginning anew with someone else. What about giving one of your unused pieces to a fellow dancer who doesn’t have something like that in their collection? If it’s in good condition, you could donate your item as a raffle prize. There are many ways for your unused items to continue their life of sparkly service elsewhere. Give them a chance in someone else’s hands.

How Should I Store What I Keep?

Your organizational needs really depend on what you are keeping, and how you use those items. Since the bulk of my costume closet consists of heavy, full costumes, I prefer to fold my skirts, and stack my bras “standing up” with the cups inside each other in a single file line. This prevents the skirts from stretching over time by being hung, and prevents the bra cups from losing their shape as they can do by laying them flat and stacking them. If you have had issues with moths or mites in the past, definitely store your costumes in airtight containers, and use cedar or lavender in your closet to repel critter activity.

I prefer to roll my veils and store them on a shelf, rather than hang them up as I used to do. I find that this helps the thin and delicate silk fabric keep it’s integrity, and prevents harsh lines from hangers or flat folding. My cymbals are kept in individual bags to keep them organized and protected, and those bags are gathered together in to one big zippered canvas bag that used to contain 5kg of rice. My antique fabrics, collectible adornments, and flatwork are kept in airtight containers.

I would advise keeping all your bits that match that costume (arm/leg bands, hair bands, etc) with that costume. You could put the smaller pieces in a bag of their own and safety pin it to the skirt so everything stays together in your closet. Organizing your pieces by costume rather than by item category (ie: all arm bands together, all earrings together, all hair pieces together) will save you the time and effort of digging through a bag looking for the right piece for the costume you are wearing that day.

You could sort your practice scarves by type (sequins, coins) or colours. Coin or fringe scarves stored with sequinned or net scarves may need to be placed in baggies of their own so that they don’t tangle. If your scarves get a bit damp after dance class and won’t handle weekly washing (come on, we’ve all had that lower back sweat), perhaps you’d prefer to hang them after class so that they can have air circulate around them. If you’re a dance class fashionista and you love having a matchy ensemble for the studio, you could always put your outfits together like full costumes and store matching pieces together. Practice gear can be treated with just as much care as those $1200 costumes!

But What About All These Random Bits?

Many of us like to keep old show posters or tickets, programs, fliers, etc. Admit it – you’ve got one of those bags/drawers/shelves/files with a bunch of old fliers from the early 2000’s that you haven’t dealt with yet. You do. Don’t lie. Every time a belly dancer lies about being more organized than she is, a rhinestone falls off her favourite costume. It is known.
Get yourself a binder with plastic sleeves, or an old photo album. Keep just one of each item you want. Arrange your souvenirs in the book, and recycle the extras. You really don’t need that pile of leftover programs from a show you did 7 years ago, but you can still show future generations what a badass you were.

What About All My Sewing? And Music?

Another blog post for another time, my loves. Sewing rooms are monsters requiring special care, and digitizing your old CDs is a separate project all together. The one tip I can offer today: Don’t store these things with your complete, ready-to-be-used gear. Keep unfinished projects separate, and don’t toss those CD’s just yet…

Costume

Now that you’ve kept what you need, appreciated your keepsakes, properly stored your gear, and set yourself up for success, you’re ready to be the organized dancer you always wanted to be!

Cleaning your costume closet won’t make your hip drops hotter, or fix your flimsy footwork. The purpose of cleaning and organizing our space is not to avoid other kinds of work, it is to prepare our work space as best we can so that we have everything we need to be successful in our endeavours.

A clean practice space and an organized costume closet are equally important to any dancer who knows that the space they inhabit reflects their state of mind. Get organized!

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