MY OUTLOOK: Jennifer Blackerby Irish Dance Dress Designer
How long have you been making Irish dance costumes?
I started making them for myself ten years ago and started selling them not long after.
How long does it typically take to make a dress?
The whole consultation, design and production process takes about three to six weeks. Actual production is usually around a week.
How many dresses do you think you have made?
I think around 200. About 50 of those were made in 2015.
What makes them unique?
A “solo dress” is worn by an Irish dancer who has earned the right to wear it by achieving a high level in competition. Each solo dress is different, there isn’t another dancer in the world with the exact same costume!
What must go into an Irish dance costume?
Each dress is customized with a unique set of designs, garment patterns, embroidery designs, fabrics and colors.
Are there any meanings behind the patterns on the dresses?
Often yes! We sometimes incorporate designs that are special to each dancer. Last fall we made one that was based off the dancer’s grandfather’s tattoo, it had Celtic knots inside flames.
Do you make any dresses for yourself?
Yes, I typically make myself a new dress once a year.
How did you get started in creating Irish dance costumes?
I started dancing as an older teen and couldn’t afford them. I learned to make them because it was the only option if I wanted to continue dancing.
What is your favorite part about making them?
Definitely the rhinestones! Designing would be a close second.
Have you always been a seamstress? Do you sew anything else?
When I was younger I didn’t want to have anything to do with sewing! I only learned so I could make Irish Dance dresses. In the last few months we have also started making figure skating dresses.
What are some things that an Irish dress costume must have?
One of the strange things a solo dress must have is a cape. Traditionally, this was a shawl. But trends have evolved to the point that it is just a large patch over the dancer’s bum.
Learn more about Jennifer Blackerby at www.jenniferblackerbydesigns.com.