Fitting issues: Dancer mis-alignment

Authors: Susan Gowin and Ann

Reading chapters 1 & 2 of “Body Alignment & Posture” will help you understand what is happening here.

(Susan received these photos from a mom making her first dress. She emailed them so we could see her problems and offer some help. We are using these pics with her permission. I want to be clear that I am in no way maligning this dancer…all my comments are factual observations based on what I see in the pics. Her alignment issues are NOT her fault.)

Every dress that we make at Feisdress, be it a custom solo or a school dress, is made to fit each client. (For one school account, I do make the dresses to fit looser than a solo dress because the parents are concerned that the dresses have plenty of room to grow…there is plenty of room to let them out, but it made the parents of the first few that I made for the school nervous that they fit so well to begin with. They wanted to SEE that there was room to grow into before any alterations had to be done. Have to admit that giving the dancers dresses that are a tad too big goes against my grain, but it is what they want.)

Back to the point…since I make the dresses to fit, I alter the Feisdress pattern accordingly. I take my initial measurements with the dancer in a relaxed, though straight, stance. Every once in awhile it is obvious that the dancer has a completely different way of standing when in front of the judge waiting to dance, so I will ask to see the “dancer posture” that they use. When it is drastically different than their normal posture, MOM and I have a discussion about that and how it will affect the fit of the dress, so which body does she want me to make the dress for? We do discuss the fact that most dancers cannot maintain an exaggerated posture while dancing to the same degree as when they are standing still. However, it is surprising what dancers can accomplish when they set their minds to it. So, which body to fit? And if we decide to fit the more exaggerated posture, how do we fix the issues that WILL pop up when fitting a pattern to the body?

Here we have a dancer in her dancing pose. Extremely exaggerated posture, very misaligned as indicated by the space between the back of her body and the door behind her.
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Side view.
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Notice the creases and pulls…
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When dancer raises her arm, it gets worse. The teacher in me is screaming bloody murder, right now!
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Ideally, the body should align straight down from the ear. Obviously not happening here. So, what IS happening? Considering the relatively balanced look of the dancer’s head (her chin is not jutting or lifting, which I have to say is extremely unusual with a posture like this), I am going to hazard a guess that this young lady has been told to lift her chest, pull her arms back and press her shoulders down which throws her entire upper torso back and down. The rest of her body has responded by counter-balancing so she can stand up: her lower ribs are jutting forward while her sacrum juts back putting her pelvis into a major tilt which causes her to sway her lower back tremendously. The front of her body is over-extended while her back is shortening to a huge degree. The side seam of her bodice should be on the blue line in the pic below…notice how far off it is.
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In terms of the bodice pattern, we must first understand that the side seam on the bodice does not divide the body into even sections front and back. There is more on the front side than the back side, but it should be a straight line. It is not straight here because of the dancer’s posture. We must address this. But this is only the beginning.

This pic of the mock bodice was the initial pic sent…sleeves are in. The commentary that follows was the process with which the fitting problems were assessed.

Pic 1: The dancer is in her “standing before the judge” pose.
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A: This should lay flat with no bubble here. Cutting the neck lower may eliminate this. There is too much fabric between the base of the neck and the bustline.

B: The shoulder/neck seam is too far back. Notice it is curving. You might consider moving it forward – this may help that bubble at the throat. You don’t want the seam to show from the front so having it back a bit is ok. Play with it.

C: There is something wrong with the sleeve cap. The sleeve shouldn’t be pulling back like that. The way the line starts straight and then angles…could the shoulder seam be too short? Actually, it looks like the sleeve cap does not have enough room…too short and/or not wide enough.

D: Side seam is angling towards the front – you need more room in the Front bust.

Pic 2: (Line A was originally a reference line on the crooked picture. I have straightened the pic and am using A to indicate the neckline problems.)
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A: The shoulders are too angled so the bodice is coming up too high on her neck. Caused by the pulling of the sleeves.

B: These wrinkles indicate pulling – something is too tight. But just looking at the picture, the upper chest is plenty wide, even too wide. The pulling is coming from the sleeves…the cap is not high enough, maybe not wide enough. Take the sleeves off .

C: I think this extra here at the sides is coming from the back because it is all hiked up. You need to fix the back before you try to address this.

Pic 3: Now sleeves are off…some things solved so the sleeve cap is one culprit in the fitting issues.
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A: (This is a vertical line for reference.)

B: neck is being dragged down by shoulder. See C.

C: Her left shoulder is lower than the right. Is this real or a momentary thing? If real, get a shoulder pad for that side. This will help the line and fitting the bodice. You can see it is even affecting the fit of the neck.

D: (This is a vertical line for reference.)

Pic 4: Sleeves still on.
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A: The back shoulder width is too wide in this pic. This is because of her exaggerated dance posture. Notice in Pic 5 (which was taken after the sleeves were removed and there must have been a conversation about her posture) that this extra fabric has been filled up with wider shoulders.

B: In this pic, this should be the actual blade width.

C: If the basted line is supposed to be her natural waistline, the back is way too long. Probably by 2”. This is the waist as marked on the mock bodice which should actually be marked…

D: …here on this line.

Pic 5: Sleeves off. Notice how the bodice fits better now, but there are still issues.
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A: See how the neck doesn’t fit the same in the back? Is that a sewing mistake? If not, she may be throwing one shoulder farther back.

B: (This is a vertical line for reference.)

C: You can see here again that her left shoulder is lower. Why?

What this all means to a dressmaker: since you have a dancer with posture issues, you have to mentally start looking at the dress in segments and fit it that way. The front of the dress is totally separate from the back – you are no longer trying to fit her all the way around. You make the front fit, then you make the back fit and THEN you put the sides together. That is why taking separate measurements front and back is so important. You cannot measure around the waist and figure half goes to the front and half to the back. It does not work that way. And the more exaggerated the posture, the worse it works. You are essentially trying to fit one dress on two totally different people. There is no way it is going to look good on both. This is a difficult situation.

This posture also causes a couple of other problems:

1) This posture causes the dresses to either be too short in back or the dreaded skirt problem called the “Duck BUTT!” The simple fact that the dancer tips her pelvis as much as she does will mean that the skirt back, if cut to the same length in the back, will look shorter. As the dancer become vested in moving in this mis-aligned place, her rear-end WILL GET BIGGER. Now add in overdeveloped gluteal muscles and that skirt will be even shorter AND it will flare out at the back, hence the “Duck butt” appellation for the dress. Take this into consideration when dealing with misaligned postures and obviously overdeveloped bottoms: make the dresses longer in back for the tipped pelvis (or don’t worry about it if your TC wants them to be shorter in back), and change the pleat fold lines to be closer to the back center seam to get rid of the duck butt.

2)If your dancer likes to yank her shoulders back, your dress may very well start to bell and the hem will protrude forward. There may be as many ways of fixing this as there are dressmakers, but my approach so far has been to take the skirt a bit higher into the side bodice seam. This has alleviated the problem.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 06:08:00

    Thanks so much for this last post. I must admit, the other two where rough going for the harried dressmaker. My daughter is not the one pictured, but I’m at the same point of frustration with my first mock bodice. I’m using these photos to show my daughter how her posture is effecting the bodice.
    Also, I realized that her school dress, constructed like a solo, doesn’t ALLOW her to assume the same exaggerated posture she uses in her practice outfit and when being measured–it’s too tight across the shoulders but doesn’t pucker or pull like the muslin does. Perhaps using a strong fabric for the mock-up will help remind the dancer to assume a more aligned posture?

  2. Anonymous
    Oct 21, 2007 @ 10:35:00

    Wow, such a useful and insightful analysis of bodice and sleeve problems. Thank you for going to all the work to do it. I’ll keep this problem in mind, and perhaps take more measurements for the dress I’m about to start.


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