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The Strictly Come Dancing dresses

Many of the glamorous outfits are made for the BBC by DanceSport International. Here designer Vicky Barkess reveals some of the secrets behind the spangles

The Strictly Come Dancing dresses

Last year's winner Alesha Dixon, resplendent in her dance-off gown with partner Matthew Cutler

Many of the dresses we make are
never worn

We start working in July and make most of the 14 dresses for each of the 14 women (seven celebs and seven professionals) which they wear for their couple dances. The dancer with the fewest votes in the first show will never get to wear her other 13 dresses.
Once the series starts we make more for the group performances
We find out the theme on the Monday or Tuesday and we need to have the costumes ready for the dress rehearsal on the Friday, which can be as many as 14 extra outfits. It is possible to turn a dress around fairly quickly, although normally it takes three days. Eighteen of us work on the dresses on an industrial estate in Croydon, South London. We make many of the men’s outfits, too.
Dresses sell for around £1,600
The price depends on how many Swarovski crystals have been applied. The dresses are both hand-sewn and machine-stitched, but all the spangle is added painstakingly by hand. The BBC hires the dresses from DSI and then we sell them to performers, competitors and cruise-ships acts.
Some dancers need gentle persuasion
Most celebrities aren’t used to wearing skimpy garments, so we break them in gently. As they grow in confidence over the series, and lose weight, we start to slash their costumes. Natasha Kaplinsky was particularly worried about the short hemline on her jive dress, so we had extra fringing handy in case. She didn’t need to know that, of course.
The mics can be a nightmare
Dancer Karen Hardy’s mic lead came loose in the 2006 series and caught on the fringing of her dress. It then got tangled up with her partner Mark Ramprakash and they had to stop mid-routine. Still, you could never ban fringing from ballroom dancing, even after a disaster like that.
Everyone on the show loses weight
Surprisingly, even the professional dancers, so we take measurements throughout the series. Last year Letitia Dean, who is petite anyway, lost an awful lot of weight by the end.
Dancers go commando
Each dress has a leotard as a base. There’s no need to wear underwear, but some performers prefer to. We have to be careful there isn’t a nude base, though, because it can look like the dancer isn’t wearing pants!

  • Strictly Come Dancing will be shown on Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One starting from 20 September


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