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How To Make A Costume On A Budget

Pole performers and competitors know how expensive our tiny little pole costumes can be. When I first started competing and performing, my costumes would cost me close to $100 dollars a pop for not-so-great costumes. Not to mention the cost of shoes. Now that I have been consistently competing and performing, I spent less than $10 on unique pieces by using a few simple guidelines.

1. Buy generic tops and bottoms to decorate

You don’t have to buy the best pole brands to perform in. In fact, I would recommend not buying the expensive outfits if it is going to make you hesitant to decorate them. It makes me queezy thinking about slicing or gluing a new pair of $50 pole shorts or tops for one of my performances, so I opt for buying cheaper bras and underwear.
There is nothing wrong with getting tops and bottoms outside of the pole world. Retailers like at Target, Amazon, or Victoria’s Secret are some of my favorite places to shop for pole basics. For something a bit more delicate and sexy, there are plenty of adorable lingerie sites that have awesome pole acceptable pieces like Yandy that have sets for as low as $10! Just make sure that they comply with whatever venue rules the show has in place.

2. Invest in Reuseable Basics

Reusing pieces is key to a healthy wallet for any performer. Redecorating, accessorizing, and sewing pieces is an excellent way to get more looks out of a singular piece.  To get the most out of reusable pieces, investing in muted colors like nudes, black, grey, and white. I know that I personally wear a lot of dark colors, so I have a few high quality black pole tops and bottoms that I like to reuse as the base of many of my costumes, like the black hoodie and bottoms pictured above. Also, items like contacts can be a good investment for anyone who frequently does creepy or dark pieces. Just make sure you keep them in good quality to be able to use them over time.

3. Borrow or buy from friends

Sometimes your friend has that perfect accessory for your character or emotion. Ask them if you can borrow it! Just be kind and don’t abuse it and make sure to return it! Sometimes, people are looking to sell a piece they don’t use anymore, which is a great way to save on cost and shipping. Plus, you are able to see how it fits before committing to an online purchase.

4. Get crafty

Pole is such a specialized sport that it can be difficult or expensive to get the perfect costume. Don’t be afraid to get crafty! There are plenty of ways to build on to clothing items such as sewing, hot glue, and E6000. Whole pieces, rhinestones, fabric, and glitter are easy add-ons to any costumes if you get a little creative! Hand dying either a whole costume or small accessories is also an inexpensive way to complete a competition outfit! For the outfit above, I used a black top, black bottoms, and bought feathers, fabric, and rhinestones to put together this saloon girl look.

5. Buy rhinestones in bulk

Rhinestones can be a costly decorative item, but they are essential for making stage costumes pop. One of the best ways to save on rhinestones is to buy them in bulk on websites like Amazon, especially if you use a particular color a lot. You can also go halfsies with a friend and split a bulk order of rhinestones! You’ll get plenty to share.

6. Hit up the dollar store for props and accessories

You never know what you are going to find in dollar stores. What I like about them for costume preparation is that I can find at least something that will fit a certain theme. For my costume at Dance Filthy USA, I went with the ideas of “pink” and “lollipops”, and ended up finding plenty of things that both inspired me and that I was able to use for my costume at the dollar store. I just had to get creative.

7. Use makeup to for emphasis

Not all of us are makeup gurus, but makeup can be the difference between setting the mood/ character and having seemingly no concept at all. This is especially important for those times when you are using reuseable, generic costume pieces. Makeup can set the feeling for yourself and the audience when all you have to give is face.

8. Sell, exchange, and lend pieces of your own

Some of us are crafty and great at making pieces that others covet while others of us just have costumes that remind us of a performance we hate. Rather than burning it, see if you can get some dough or an exchange in costumes for your next performance. Other people will love having something that’s pre-made, and you’ll have room in your budget and closet to get something new!

9. If you are going to spend some $$$, buy from small or local crafter

I’m a big supporter of buying local when I can, so if I am absolutely set on getting something specific, I try to support my crafty friends. For example, I had these bada** plaid shorts made by my wonderful friend Abby White for USPDF. It supports their small business by both funding their efforts and getting them more attention for their services. It also give you the flexibility of not being limited to stores or your own level of crafts.

10. Let dancing set your tone

Ultimately, your performance it’s self should illustrate your performance, and the costuming should be secondary. Your costumes and props shouldn’t distract from the magic that is you. I’ve seen so many beautiful costumes and concepts that have gotten in the way of an otherwise great performer as well as people using their costumes as a crutch without fully performing the concept. Remember that you are the star of your piece, not the costume you have on. Costumes for pole events don’t have to be high dollar if you have a little creativity and planning. Don’t be afraid to experiment and practice putting together your outfits, but if that isn’t your thing and you are willing to spend some money, consider supporting small businesses and friends who are costume pros.
Bailey Elizabeth
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