Show time stress, stress and MORE STRESS!!

Show time stress, stress and MORE STRESS!!

There are many stresses that build in the lead up to a show and each rehearsal seems to add more to the to do list!  The scarcity of that perfect rehearsal – but then everyone’s perspective of perfection is different.


However, the frustration of the:

My daughter can’t make it she has a party!

We booked a holiday now so can’t do the show!

Where is the show?

Times and Dates even though they have been given numerous times!

I forgot!


Why is it everyone doesn’t think it as important as me? Yet if I give a crappy show, they will go elsewhere – so WHY not commit – end of!!!!


Because – the age old saying – nobody cares as much as you!


Everyone has so much going on in their life that the show is NOT their priority.


So how do you get around it?  Let’s think of a solution!  And I am afraid to say – there is no golden nugget on this one.


18 years of shows have taught me a few things and year in, year out I still have the same problems as you all.


My top tips are:


  1. Communication! Big style! Repeat letters, send reminder emails, condense lots of information into smaller reminder emails/letters. Speak, post about it and generally keep communicating.


  1. Deposits and confirmation know who is doing it and get answers and deposits.


  1. Deadlines – and stick to them!


  1. Preparation, the more prepared you are the easier it is to deal with the emergencies!


  1. Organisation, what can you do months in advance? What can you do weeks in advance – anything that you can help yourself with to take the stress out of show week. Do it!


My members of access to lots of extra information, it is a gold mine of business modules an entire library of advice and videos.  Plus an amazing discounts to certain companies.  The cost of the academy is currently £10 a month but it is going up in August!  So now is a great time to get involved.


I am covering the foundation basics in the UK’s first convention dedicated to the business of dance.  So if its your terms and conditions you are struggling with, or understanding your breakeven point or even learning how you can run your business better, then check out the convention – it is only on early bird discount until March31str 2017. For more information check out The Den Academy.

For more top tips, advice, mentoring and coaching, check out the Dance Den







Costumes can be the biggest bug bear and stressful nightmare of any show!  The list of things that could go wrong, just absolutely does not bear thinking about.  It is unfortunately fairly standard that somehow with every show, no matter how experienced, organised or pre-arranged you are there is always some way you either end up with stock, faulty goods, too many accessories or worse down on a costume, or it doesn’t fit or the quality is not there and breaks!

Seriously – if you have ever done a dance with umbrellas!  Ok – No 1 if you haven’t done one – don’t! No 2 if you have done one, you will never do one again or need 10 years in which to recover from the possible thought of ever doing one again!!!

So costumes sort of fall into the same brackets as props – we need them, they have a tendency not to be as described ‘on the tin’ and you cannot account for the ‘people’ factor!

The ‘people’ factor as I like to call it is – well pretty much everyone!

People – in the companies that supply the costumes not doing their job or making a mistake on the order and sending 1 instead of 10!  Or keeping a seriously low supply of stock and then finding when you come to place the order having measured, priced up, charged and received payment from the parents, the company are then out of stock and it won’t be arriving for another 6 weeks! #missedtheboat

People – parents who a) don’t read and promptly lose the letter, meaning they haven’t got a clue what to order, what they are paying for or sometimes even why!  B) Don’t commit to the show, therefore leaving you with a decision to order or not to order – that is the £30-£40 question!!! C) complain when said items arrive, don’t fit and are not to quality c) every teachers nightmare – they arrive are perfect, fit and are given out in time for the dress rehearsal – only to be told it has been lost!!!!!

People – kids – now before you think I am off on a rant about kids, ok let’s be clear they are kids!  They do not understand the fuller implications of standing on the frill on the dress causing a rip!  Or tugging at a zip that doesn’t quite flow, or making a batman cape out of a jacket.  Or even that it would be helpful if not necessary to actually put the costume back in your bag when you take it off so it doesn’t get stood on by the next child!  The people factor in here is the unknown, yes we can educate them – in fact it is crucial and yes it gets easier the more shows they do, but you will always have 1 who thinks it’s funny to use their £60 tutu as a wig!

People – YOU, yep you are not escaping this!  A dance school owner is not perfect – sorry!  But yes we make mistakes on ordering, sizes, numbers, costings – you name it we have the possibility to make a mistake on it.  Now with everything else going on with the show, admin, marketing organisation, tickets and that endless list of jobs in the lead up to a show – we could be forgiven for getting something wrong; but you know we won’t because we will go out of our way to make sure that every child that gets on that stage has a costume and feels good in that costume, and yes that means extra hours of organisation.

People – I will mention here the amazing people that have our back when it comes to costume – those few who answer the phone to you knowing full well you are about to ask them the impossible!

Moving on from people and onto YOU and how YOU can help the people help YOU.  (wahhh!)

This comes down to organisation, deadlines, communication and preparation.  Here is your 15 step guide to Chaos free costume ordering.

  1. 9 months to a year in advance you should have an idea of your show, theatre booked and so on. It is at this point you should be having an idea, or get inspiration for your costumes.  Research where they are likely to come from, so if you are planning on getting tiaras from China, then make a note to allow yourself more time to order.
  1. When you research, if you have teachers / choreographers ask them for their input they would appreciate the added creative input and it is their dance so they probably have a vision for how they would like it to look. Then put together some ideas or a mood board for them, things YOU know you can get possibilities within the price range and then you can get what you want nailed down.
  1. You then need to put in deadlines for you to work too - Things to think about:
  • Deadline of teachers / your decisions on what you want
  • Deadline of sourcing / pricing costumes
  • Deadline to inform the parents
  • Deadline to get payment from the parents
  • Deadline for your to order
  • Deadline for you to have your costume parade / try on

TOP TIP – whatever those deadlines are, bring them forward by at least 2 weeks!!!

  1. Measure and ask! Get measuring early, you can add on for growth – remember you can take a costume in or up but you can’t add on!  If you have parents measuring, give them strict instructions on ’how’.  Ask the students what they feel comfortable in.  In the current trend of hot pants and cropped tops, maybe your class won’t feel comfortable dancing in them, so ask how your students feel about a short dress or a tummy showing – this will guide you on your decisions.


  1. Get some samples or order an item to check sizes and quality, it is worth noting that a lot of companies have a return policy, whereby, they take a % of the cost as a re-stocking fee. Please read the terms and conditions and allow this in your budget.
  1. Do you really need to use 15 different places to get your costumes? The more places you use the more time you will need checking sizes, problems, issues – different postage costs, minimum orders and so on. Try to make your life easier.
  1. If you need to match colours, with some companies you can ask for a sample swatch, so you can tie in your accessories and so on.
  1. Keep a size chart and a database of your ordering companies. This way year on year it will get easier to know who does what, what sizes they have and what their true fit is, reminders of delivery and minimum orders and so on, so when it comes to 1 year later and you need to order again it is all to hand.
  1. Keep all your orders in 1 file, separate to your show file. Each separate element of the costume needs its own page.  For example a jazz routine may have a hat, braces, bow tie and shirt that you are sourcing for the students, each one of those 4 items need a separate sheet.
  • What the item is
  • Which dance and class it belongs too
  • Colour
  • Where it is sourced from
  • Delivery time
  • Delivery costs
  • Price to you
  • Anticipated numbers (these will need to be confirmed later)
  • What your % profit to add on is
  • What your price to your customer is
  • Also include your workings out, so later on when you go back to order you can double check and increase if necessary based on any changes in your order numbers.

It would also be worth adding in file separators and keeping all the items ordered from 1 company together, regardless of the fact if they are parts of different costumes from different dances.  When you come to order, you need clarity of everything that needs to be ordered from that 1 company, you cannot go back and add on things you have forgotten – to the companies you are ordering from, especially the big ones this would now be classed as a new order with another postage charge.

  1. 100% numbers!!!! Ok this is the biggie. No matter what you do, confirmation and so on, you do really need 100% numbers and payment before you go ahead and buy thousands of pounds worth of costumes.  Remember those deadlines from earlier – this is where the payment deadline is crucial.  After that date, make the costume fee non-refundable!  That way anything that you order is financially covered, there will be the occasional drop out, but you need to be clear from the outset, that costume fee is non-refundable past that date.
  1. As they arrive – check them! There may be things on back order or not counted correctly, it’s hard to correct these things days or weeks after, so double check on arrival.
  1. Enclose an information pack with the costume tips on storing, how to sew the elastic on, where sequins need to be sewn; how the hair should be and where the accessory is placed. All of these questions from your parents are answered in advance, which means you will receive less messages, less questions and a lot less stress!!!
  1. Bag it up! Get some bags, label them up or write on the child’s name on them then and then wait for ALL elements of the costume to arrive.  Don’t start giving it out in bits, you will lose track of who has had what.  Keep it all together in 1 bag, and then you know if a child is absent and hasn’t received their costume because theirs will be the only bag left.  This also makes it easier for you teachers to help distribute!
  1. Costume parade, you may call it something else, but this is basically a chance for you to look at the group or individuals in their full costume (minus makeup and hair) this process, however you name it has a number of benefits:
  • By seeing the costume as a whole you can tell if it is missing something
  • By having the parade a number of weeks (at least 2) in advance of the performance you force the parents to get all the elements such as tights, undergarments, extra ribbon and so on well in advance of the show. You also force yourself to get the costumes ordered and sorted early.
  • If it is missing something you have time to source, order and it you have allowed for delivery time.
  • If there are elements that are not working you have time to change them.
  • It gives you an idea of how the whole show is going to look
  • It can also highlight any potential quick change problems that you might not have anticipated
  1. Costume Manager – if you absolutely cannot cope with the stress of costumes you may want to consider getting a costume manager. Now there are absolute major positives to this, but also major negatives.


  • You don’t have to deal with the stress of costumes
  • You can focus and frees you up to work on the dances and all the other organisation
  • The Costume Manager (CM) will measure, source, price up, order and deal with any of the parents and companies in regards costume
  • You will save hours and hours and hours or time and sleepless nights!
  • They can be there during the show to help with any problems


  • You will need a job description and clarity of how much creative decision she/he has over the items
  • You will need excellent communication between you both
  • You will need to manage and pay them
  • Your budget will need to cover their costs
  • You will need to cover their parking / travel expenses
  • You will need clear working hours as to when they need to be in class to measure, see any problems – ie a dress being too long to dance in! Remember they won’t have choreographed the dances so they don’t realise that the girls being lifted can’t wear a certain material or they will slip – clarity and communication
  • It will be like hiring an employee – granted a project based on, but you will need to lead them.

What this 15 steps doesn’t cover is budgets and pricing and that is a MASSIVE element of costumes, however follow the steps above and I am sure you will find getting your costumes for your next show – relatively stress free! I say relatively – there is always 1 in every show that is destined to drive you nuts!!!

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