Makeover Mondays: Costume Cleaning Tips

Makeover Monday: Cleaning Tips for Costumes

If you’re anything like me, when you got your first costumes you experienced some confusion on how to properly care and store them. While you will find just as many tips as there are dancers, below are some of my tried and true methods to keep costumes new and fresh.

Chiffon Veils and Skirts

Perhaps the easiest ones to take care of. You can throw most of them into the wash on delicate cycle (with like colors) and air dry. Don’t skimp on fabric softener, it will allow for the chiffon to smell fresher longer before it goes back to that polyestery costume smell

Silk Veils and Skirts

If they have been properly treated you can throw them in the wash as well. Check with your silk dyer to be sure. Basinah’s Bedouin Bazaar as well as many other dyers offer this. While most of my silks are treated like this I have not built up the courage to actually try this. Instead I often will take my silks and throw them in a closet with an incense burning, careful not to burn the silks! This will give them a smell like the incense so be sure you like the smell. You can also febreeze them if they have been treated to prevent dye from running.

Hard Bras, Belts and Embellished skirts

These are perhaps the trickiest. You can send them to the dry cleaners but you run a risk of them shrinking on you. Now you can never be 100% sure how a costume or fabric will react to your cleaning methods so always test on an inconspicuous spot first. What I have found to be the best method is spot cleaning and often. I take some slightly diluted detergent and a tooth brush and gently scrub linings paying special attention to underarms, back of neck etc. When scrubbing be sure to do on a towel or paper towel to prevent stones from scratching on surface. Once I have given all costumes a nice toothbrush scrub I let them sit for a few minutes while I either prepare a rinse or the washer, depending on how thorough I feel like cleaning. I will then either rinse my costumes with the toothbursh or I will submerge in some mildly soapy water and let sit.

*Note on submerging bras* Check how the bra and belt are made, some cheaper Egyptian costumes are made from cardboard and will fall apart i submerged. Higher class costumes or costumes built over street bras are usually fine.

If your bra is padded, remove pads before to quicken drying time, you may consider replacing them too if they hold a lot of odor. I pad with pillow batten so I can replace it regularly without breaking the bank for expensive pads. They are also less damaging. Be careful of silicone pads as they can puncture when sewing your bra and spill oilly silicone all over your bra!


 box fan bra drying

box fan bra drying

Now it is time to dry. My favorite method is to lay my costumes over a pocket fan with a towel underneath to catch water. Close lines work just be sure surface is free of dirt and you will be able to watch your expensive babies dry while they are outside.


Deodorzing Tips

Sometimes a certain costume will just not smell nice even after a bath. Some materials smell unpleasant and some hold body odor more than others. To boost the cleaning power of your wash and to extend period of not washing try any or all of the following tips.

- Vodka spray will neutralize odors, flavored vodkas, as long as no dye is added will deodorize and add a nice smell. My favorite is vanilla vodka

- Enzyme Pet Cleaners such as Nature’s Miracle will attack odor causing bacteria and eat it up. I spray my costume linings lightly with this after every wear.

-Febreeze is tried and true though not as effective IMHO another great spray though for in a pinch.

-If none of these work I have also heard of using carbon for fishtanks, fresh kitty litter and other odor absorbing grains in the costumes though I have no personal experience with this.

General Tips

- Lay your costumes out to air out after shows before storing.

- Windex your rhinestones to restore shine and remove buildup from sweat and the environment

-Inspect your costumes after every wear and catch repairs early, one string loose in the beadwork or fringe can quickly destroy a costume

- Whenever possible, don’t drive in your skirts or belt. Remove your belt while driving or sitting and hike up fringe skirts to prevent pressure that will lead to beads breaking.

- Don’t throw costumes around, treat them with patience to avoid snags and scratched stones.

- Buy or make cheaper versions of chiffon skirts for outdoor or restaurant performances and save your expensive skirts for parties and shows.


About Author: Lauren is an international bellydancer who hails from classical dance. Besides belly dance she also performs Bollywood, hula, samba, salsa and ballet. Currently she is based out of South Florida  but she is available for bookings in performance and instruction internationally.  When she isn't busy performing she is working on her Ph.D. in Anthropology at University of Florida.