Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 8
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The costume for the modern dances is a very important feature. A gown that is stiff or bunchy in its lines and does not fall softly will make even the most graceful dancer seem awkward and uncouth, and no amount of skill in stepping intricate measures can obviate the ugliness of a pump slipping off at the heel in the pretty dips or twirls of the dance.

The plaited skirt of soft silk or chiffon, or even of cloth, is by far the most graceful to dance in, and the one which lends itself best to the fancy steps of these modern days. Therefore, while fashion decrees the narrow skirt, the really enthusiastic dancer will adopt the plaited one. A clever woman may, however, combine the two by the use of a split skirt, carefully draped to hide the split, and a plaited petticoat underneath. Thus when she dances the skirt will give and not form awkward, strained lines, and the soft petticoat, fluffing out, will lend a charming grace to the dancer's postures.

The openings in a skirt of this sort can be fastened with tiny glove-snaps, so that on the street the wearer may appear to have the usual narrow costume, while at the same time she has a practical one for the daily thé dansant.

The dancing-petticoats of the year are really lovely, and are quite a feature of the dancing-costumes at Castle House. Some are of crêpe de Chine, some of plaited chiffon with straight lace ruffles on the bottom, or tiny rosebuds as trimming; they should always match the costume and the stockings. Dark stockings showing through a filmy petticoat and a split skirt are very ugly. Under these petticoats the dancers are wearing the new combination of brassière and silk bloomers, finished with ruffles of lace or sometimes ending quite plainly at the knee. These, too, give full play in the various steps.

Of course, for some dances you may wear an ordinary skirt and blouse or a narrow afternoon frock. The Tango may be danced in the narrowest of skirts, because the feet are always close together; the Maxixe needs but a little more room, while the One Step and the Hesitation Waltz, with their longer glides and more intricate steps, require the regular plaited effect of which I have spoken.

Clothes are really a great aid to the woman in dancing, for the sweep of her soft skirts, the charm of her frock, lends her a grace that a man must inevitably lack. Often a man who dances far better than a lady will be considered only mediocre, while the lady who is properly dressed is applauded for her skill.

The waist-line in a dancing-frock should always be high enough to eliminate the harsh line of the hips. It need not necessarily be up under the arms, but it should be high enough to have a fullness over the hips so that one long, graceful line extends from the bust down to the ankle. This lends a supple ease to every movement of the body and tends to improve, from the artistic stand-point, the various measures of the dance. Added to this, the blouse should be loose—and in speaking of the blouse I mean especially the sleeve. Tight sleeves are too binding. Often the wide-armhole sleeve draws awkwardly when the arm is outstretched to meet the partner's. Don't fasten the blouse down too tightly, and be sure, in selecting one of the transparent, filmy little affairs now so much in.vogue for dancing, that you can stretch your arms right above your head without difficulty. If you can do that, the blouse is suitable for the thé dansant.

As to material, of course, it must be light. Velvet and such fabrics are too heavy, despite their beauty, and, what is more, they have a habit of wrapping themselves about one's feet at the most inconvenient moment, making it almost impossible to move. But all these precautions as to the outward gowning are wasted if you continue to wear the long, stiff corsets decreed by fashion when she dismissed our hips and other curves. No amount of grace, no amount of clever training, and no amount of the knowledge of the most intricate steps will help you to dance charmingly unless your corset has “give” to it and allows you to move with supple ease and comfort.

Personally I use and recommend a special corset made almost entirely of elastic, very flexible and conforming absolutely to the figure, which at the same time it supports. It is known as the Castle Corset, and is designed especially for dancers. Many corsets are now being brought out, however, with elastic in place of whalebone; and the late word from Paris that we may again display a waist-line and hips allows even the fairly stout woman to don shorter and more comfortable “stays.”

As for shoes, two things are required of them. They must be comfortable, and they must be fastened on securely. Sometimes I wear dancing-slippers fastened with ribbons, sometimes I wear high boots of flexible leather reaching to the knee. But for the average woman the prettiest footwear is a pump with a moderate heel, fastened about the ankle with ribbons which cross the leg several times. This gives the impression of the Greek dancing-sandals, and also accentuates the slenderness of the ankles.

The hose should, of course, match the shoes, unless one wears stockings to match the gown and patent-leather dancing-slippers. In speaking of hose, it may not come amiss to say that the new styles of stockings, with elastic tops that hold them up snugly with the aid of only a round garter, are much better to dance in than the looser hose that require garters suspended from the corsets.

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Modern Dancing by Vernon and Irene Castle Chapter 8

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