Strictly Come Dancing – Sewing The Dresses

strictly-come-dancing-dresses

Every year when Strictly Come Dancing arrives on TV I say to myself, I really must organise a sewing interview. And every year I fail. Until today! The wonderful Gerald of DSI London allowed me to visit the thumping heart of the Strictly costume department. Turns out it’s in Surrey.

Creative director, Vicki Gill (as seen on It Takes Two), pattern cutters, seamstresses, diamante experts and a new apprentice turn round outfits in – gulp – three days. Tired just reading this? You should try attaching 8,000 diamante stones to a dress. And, oh, the dresses…

strictly-come-dancing-dress

red-skirt-hem

I spent an afternoon with Gerald and his team, learning all about the garments. Did you know that they source their two-way stretch lycra from Italy, that the laces come from Austria and the polyester is flown from Japan? That everything is bespoke dyed so that each detail in an outfit is correctly colour matched?

trims

It takes a 60-strong team to turn these outfits round week on week and they have over 400 components in stock at any given time. That’s some stash!

I asked the chief pattern cutter, Teresa, what her most challenging brief was. A rip off! When one outfit is hidden beneath another, to be revealed during the dance.

mens-wear-strictly-come-dancing

Their head of mens’ outfits, Mike Delicata, told me that he’s often in the building at 7am. These guys work hard, but the results are exquisite.

red-dress-and-diamante

When making outfits for Strictly Come Dancing, DSI work with a range of mannequins adjusted and padded to the dimensions of each dancer. The dresses are constructed in Surrey, then any final fitting adjustments take place at Elstree.

Fortunately, their high-quality lycra is forgiving so even if contestants lose weight, the dresses remain impressively fitted.

karen-mannequin

During my visit, there were shelves and shelves of gorgeous supplies to drool over.

sequinned-fabric

rolls-of-lycra

It was my privilege to peer behind the velvet curtain of the Strictly Come Dancing costume team and see first hand what goes into these outfits. This is haute couture meeting performance wear in the most glamorous and practical ways possible. I’m almost tempted to start hand sewing feathers to Italian lycra. Almost…

Are you a fan of the show, and has it inspired your sewing? Who do you want to win in 2016?

With thanks to Gerald and DSI for their generosity and kindness.

dsi-dresses

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29 Responses to Strictly Come Dancing – Sewing The Dresses

  1. amcclure2014 says:

    I love the dresses. I’m watching It Takes Two costume edition with Vicky Gill as I write this. For some reason I’m not enjoying this series quite so much as usual and don’t have a favourite just yet. I wish I could dance like even the worst of them! Lots of hard work and it takes guts to put yourself on the line like that.

  2. Ann Madison says:

    I haven’t seen the show, yet. I enjoyed this post and the included eye candy. Thank-you. Now I am going to see if I can watch this show in the states.

  3. Ros says:

    I have a Strictly inspired dress! Stretch velvet dark red bodice with trim and then a feathered knee length skirt. It makes me feel like Lisa Riley doing the salsa every time I wear it.

  4. looloolooweez says:

    This is amazing! I can’t imagine how much time/effort all those costumes require. And your photos are lovely, too.

  5. Teresa says:

    Oh how I envy you having this opportunity! I just love the Strictly outfits and am in awe of the skill of the designers and dressmakers and can only imagine the fabric and notions they are able to choose from! I’ve really enjoyed your post, thank you.

  6. Emma Gibney says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing! My mind had boggled anytime I considered how they get the costumes and just presumed they were from a large premade wardrobe. Such amazing work. What an enviable trip!

  7. This is amazing, so good to see. I love all the costumes and I’m so intrigued how they are made. Excited for strictly Saturday now! Thank you for such an interesting post.

  8. I love the show. I love the costumes and would love a peek behind the scenes.

  9. maryf1958 says:

    Great post and a fascinating insight. Thank you!

  10. Clémence says:

    The photographs in your post are absolutely stunning!
    So much hard work behind the scenes, thank you!

  11. Kathryn Evans says:

    I have no words – I am both jealous, impressed and delighted! That white skirt with the red embroidery would have been up my jumper and out the door!

  12. that’s incredible. these outfits are so technical. It’s why I love costuming; so many more constraints and challenges to test one’s mettle!

  13. Lesley says:

    My 3 year old runs upstairs and puts on a dress as soon as the strictly music starts. We then have to do a dance, stand in front of the judges for comments and then run upstairs for a chat with Claudia. Saturday nights are a real work out in our house so thank goodness I don’t also have to make her a new dress for every Saturday

  14. stitchedupsam says:

    Your comment about attaching 8000 diamantes to a dress brings back memories. Many, many years ago my sister and I did artistic roller skating (think Torvill and Dean on wheels!) and I made our outfits. I can still remember the joy! of handsewing thousands of sequins onto a lycra dress, two or three at a time so that the dress still stretched.

  15. Lee says:

    A lovely read. Isn’t it saying something though, that all the fabrics used come from outside the UK?

  16. Josephine says:

    Thanks for this incredible insight into the famous Strictly wardrobe. It wouldn’t be strictly without that 2-way stretch lycra. I just could not deal with the stress of having to make an outfit in just 3 days! Eeeek!
    http://www.craftingcountry.com

  17. Michelle robertson says:

    Holy cow you have lived out my dream, I love strictly for the dancing obviously, but mostly for the fabulous outfits.x

  18. Jane says:

    Aw your dream has finally come true Karen, I know you’ve been longing for this for years! I’m very envious but also overjoyed that you got to see it all up close and personal. I think Danny and Ore are the best dancers this year (that jive!) but of the two I prefer Ore probably because he cries as easily as I do! I also like watching Daisy because she’s soooooo beautiful.Xxx

  19. Karen says:

    OMG well jel! 😄

  20. sewandsnip says:

    What a fantastic chance to see all that. Having just finished my daughters wedding dress (which I only handbeaded a small piece & it took me ages!) I can’t believe they manage such a quick turnaround. Haven’t watched the show the last few weeks so not sure who’s still in

  21. Jayne Winser says:

    My favourite thing about Strictly is the costumes, loved reading about how they are made. They always inspire my sewing, especially the petticoats 🙂

  22. esewing says:

    What a treat to get an insight into how the fabulous costumes are made , great photos , my favorite is the beautiful colours of the fabric stash !

  23. Vanessa says:

    Fantastic post! I’ve always wanted to get a look behind the scenes on this show. What happens when they’ve been worn? I can’t imagine that kind of turnaround with such tight deadlines!

  24. Katie says:

    Good god, I am so jealous. I tune into It Takes Two every Thursday for Vicki’s costume bit – she’s awesome, and it sounds like a seriously fun job!

  25. With two small competitive ballroom dancers in the house I’m very familiar with the retail side of DSI, but it’s fascinating to see this part of the operation. Ballroom costumes are a true work of art and the construction is remarkably tricky. Such a skill!

  26. pippaknight says:

    Omg I am so jealous of you. I have spent many an hour drooling over the lycra on the dsi website. Once day I will sew my own ballroom dress with it…
    I’m not sure I would have been able to do the tour without trying to sneak some supplies away…

  27. Toya says:

    Sooo jealous! We love the show.

  28. I love the dresses they see just gorgeous!

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