Boys' Irish Step Dancing: Solo Costumes

Figure 1.--Boys' solo costumes usually include a intricately embroidered sash worn over the shoulder and falling down the back.

More experienced dancers have solo costumes, although the girls pay much more attention to this than the boys. Girls of course discuss their solo dresses endlessly with each other, their teachers and their mothers. The boys are less concerned with such matters, but like the girls, for championship competitions no longer wear the school costume. Their costumes are not nearly as elaborate as the girls, but their blazers might have a little embroidery and the sash they wear over the shoulder can be quite elaborate. The girls when they tire of discussing their own solo dresses also discuss the boys' costumes.

Solo Costumes

Boys who reach the advanced level of competitions, no longer wear the school costume. They are allowed to choose an individual costum. Almost always boys at the higher levels choose to perform in kilts. The basic costume is esentially the same. The major difference is the color. Most boys choose rather muted colors in comparison to the bright colors often chosen by the girls. Usually there is no embroidery on the jackets, but a few of the younger boys whose mothers are more influential, might get a jacket with some embroidery in Celtic designs on the sleeves. Usuakky the most elabloate iten is the back sash worn over the shoulder. This can be heavily embroidered.


There are very significant differences betwwren the boys and girls in their approach to solo dancing costumes.

The Girls

The girls and their mothers angonize enlessly over their solo dresses. Typical concers include:

Just wondered what others think... I am seeing more and more school dresses that look like SOLO dresses to me, (Paneled skirts, shinny materials, rhinestones etc.). My daughters school has a fairly traditional looking school dress ( I think, circle skirt, chainstitch embroirdery on chest skirt front, around hem, and at cuffs). I like the traditional look for school dresses, (although admitedly, our school dress is NOT one of my favoirtes--but oh well).

I saw some truly hideous solo dresses at the last feis I went to, they were brand new and straight from Ireland. I thought they were the ugliest things I'ld ever seen! I mean....Orange with black lace over it, wild wild print materials, (like neon multicolored tie-died looking stuff) about 15 diff. colors...they were totally overwhelming. It was a relief to see a few girls in a nice simple velvet solo dress with a recognizable embroirderd pattern on it. WHEW! Maybe I'm just a stuffy old geezer but! Where is this going to stop?

Figure 2.--Serious cmpetitive dancers almost always wear a kilt costume. Some schools, however, do not insist on kilts.

The Boys

There is generally much less discussion by the boys of their solo costumes. They may discuss the matter with their mothers who often seek some guidance from their teachers. The boys do not, however, set around and discuss colors, embroidery, jacket length, and other such matters among themselves.

The boys more lackidasical attitude does not stop the girls, however, from discussing their costumes. Some representative comments include:

Personally, I think more colorful costumes for the boys would be great! The guys' costumes are so... BORING compared to the girls' curled hair, crowns and HUGE solo dresses, while the guys just have on a plain shirt and a kilt or pants... BORING! I think it would be fun for guys to get to wear more "interesting" clothing - just no lace, sequins or flourescents, please.

Figure 3.--A few boys have embroidery on their jackets, but nothing like the fancy embroidery worn by the girls.

I agree...the guys could use a little extra color. But most of them are so turned off to Irish dancing that if they thought they had to wear neon embroidery and lace and sequins, they wouldn't even consider it! I have seen some embroidered jackets and cummerbunds, and they are mostly very nice and simple. Let's keep them that way--an oasis of simplicity in a riotous swirl of neon and sequins and lace!

If you take a look at the Celtic Image web page (the company from England) you will see a section on cumberbunds and jackets. There is a picture of an interesting jacket. It is short (only to the waist), black, and has bright embroidery on the back, sleeves and lapels of the jacket - take a look - I kinda like it! I think that boys absolutely could wear something like that at a feis. Let's put some color on those guys!

Christopher Wagner

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