Once upon a time, shopping for Tango dresses online was close to impossible. If we traveled to Tango Festivals, Marathons and special events, you could easily find vendors and their collections of dresses and it was easy to try on and purchase them on the spot. Yet finding dresses online was usually a horrible experience: Slow and poorly developed websites made it frustrating to navigate and you had to fill out an online form to request a particular style. You never got a checkout cart so basically you sent the form and waited until the seller contacted you with the total owed.
We’ve come a long way!
Nowadays, thanks to social media we’re exposed to more sellers and designers who offer Made to Order dresses online- And there seems to be something for everyone.
Of course this also comes with a different kind challenge: How can you make sure you’ll love what you purchased?
1. FIND YOUR MATCH
We all envision entering the dance floor in the most beautiful dress as all eyes turn in awe and you just glide around, eyes closed in a warm embrace, yes? The same feeling of awe must resonate when you find your dress online. The best shops will already have distinct branding and uniformity to their collections and all you have to do is match their style to yours. Here are a few more tips:
- Choose a shop that carries a wide range of sizes. If you notice a shop only carries sizes Small or Medium it’s a clue that there is lack of tailoring expertise.
- Avoid requesting a shop to create something they don’t normally make like a performance dress when they only sell salon dresses or vice versa. You’ll set yourself up for failure working with a shop that is not familiar or just doesn’t want to sell a particular silhouette.
- Don’t compromise with quality. It might be cute and inexpensive but watch out for reviews on poorly made garments or garments that are priced too low to the rest of competitive shops.
2. REACH OUT AND ASK QUESTIONS
Contacting the shop is the best way to find out if they have fabulous Client Relations. I personally love clients who contact me with questions prior to placing an order. By the time the order comes through, I already have an idea of what they are looking for and it’s way easier to meet their expectations. This is also a great opportunity to get a feel of the shop’s communication practices. Hopefully, the shop will reach out if they have questions themselves without much delay to your order. Other things to think about:
- It’s totally okay to ask the shop for suggestions on sizing, silhouettes and colors if you’re having a hard time deciding on a product. I love to brainstorm with clients and offer different options they may not have thought about before reaching out.
- If you’re in a rush it’s best to get their current processing times and shipping options. If I know ahead of time the order is needed by a certain date, I can adjust my production lead times accordingly.
- Find out about post fittings and alterations. Made to Order dresses are often not refundable but may be shipped back to alter through virtual fittings. If a client receives a dress that needs further adjustments, I don’t mind getting the dress back to further work on it.
Ultimately, the shop wants you to come back for more business.
3. GET TO KNOW A SHOP’S SIZE GUIDE
Size charts are defined by each shop’s brand so your size 8 might be someone else’s size 10. Standard sizing has been replaced by Vanity sizing when it comes to street wear. Size charts are by far the most important piece of information you need before you place an order and yet it’s also the most often overlooked. We have to remember that Tango apparel is ultimately considered dance wear. Dance dresses have to hug certain parts of the body to remain in place while moving, so size charts will tend to run true to size or even run smaller. The good news is that online shops that offer Make to Measure services will normally use your measurements to create your order, but the size you order will help determine where you fall within their own chart. Below are more tips to help you order the correct size:
- Check for conversion charts if you’re ordering from a shop overseas.
- Order the size according to their Size Chart, not the size you’d normally buy in street clothes.
- If you’re in between sizes, always order up a size. This is most important with shops that only carry stock. It’s easier to take in a dress than let out.
- If you’re Petite or Plus size always contact the shop and find out if they’re able to accommodate your measurements.
Which leads me to this…
4. LEARN YOUR EXACT MEASUREMENTS
With all the confusion that comes with sizing, it’s no wonder that many people looking for a Tango dress will opt to select the size they usually wear without really knowing their own exact measurements. If you plan to have a dance dress customized it’s imperative that you forward at least your bust, waist, hip and height measurements. Stretch fabrics are very forgiving and making a dress 1/4″ bigger or smaller is not usually a big issue. Yet, dance dresses that use woven fabrics and require zippers, button ups or especial closures must use exact measurements for an ideal fit. My shop started offering Performance dresses about 5 years ago with easy pull up styles and boy what a difference it made to have exact measurements – even with the stretch fabrics I use!
It’s not uncommon for many clients to have their own tailors who can make further adjustments to their purchases online. I find this a fabulous idea since it turns out to be less expensive to have something made online than to have a tailor create something from scratch. Still, many dancers don’t have this option and it’s always best to forward as many measurements to the online shop and avoid any more cost to the dress. As you collect your measurements, keep these in mind:
- Measure yourself preferably in undergarments or shapewear in the middle of the day. Your waist line will usually expand as the day progresses. We normally dance in the evening anyway, so that will probably be your true measurement as opposed to early morning before you eat.
- Be honest with yourself and forward your current measurements. Too many times do I hear clients say “I plan to lose 10 lbs” and hope the dress will fit in a few months.
- It’s okay to request that your dress not be snug. Not everyone wants a form fitting dress and I totally get this! Let the shop know you’d like some “ease” around the midsection so you don’t feel like a sausage after a meal and glass of wine before dancing.
- If you have a large bust (D or larger) make sure you know your exact bra cup size. You may need to forward more measurements.
- Speaking of large busts, consider asking the shop to add pads or to raise the back to cover the bra line.
- Are you short or long waisted? This is something the shop needs to know when crafting your dress specially on performance dresses that include attached panties. You’ll need to know your girth or torso measurement.5. PICTURES ARE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
Shopping for a Tango dress online is often times more difficult than shopping for fashion wear. You have to rely on small indie shops/designers who don’t have big budgets for professional models, photographers or photo equipment and sadly can’t show off their creations to make sales. When I started selling on a Marketplace, I had no models much less a photographer so I had to rely on my dress form, my SLR and outside lighting in my patio. Today, online shops must have amazing pictures to sell their creations successfully. After I finally set up my own website and branding, much of my budget went (and still goes!) into profesional photo shoots to show off my collections. Unfortunately we rely on awesome pictures for you to make that purchase. Here are more handy tips to consider:
- Pay attention to images that show close up details. Zoom in on the fabric, trims and seams to see how they finish their garments.
- It’s always a plus when the model is photographed in movement not just in pose. This will help you know how the dress moves while worn.
- Read their product descriptions and fabric contents in detail. A reputable shop will have detailed descriptions of trims, stones and other important closures.
- Follow on social media to find videos not included on their website.
- Request more color swatches via Email if you need to see colors not pictured.
Remember to support your favorite Tango indie shops
Back in 2013 I pioneered exclusively into online sales. My mission was to provide a fabulous online shopping experience to the Tango dancer of any size. Designing online for Tango dancers is a very small niche that requires a combination of complex dance dress construction and fabulous client services. It’s still an evolving market and it goes way beyond sewing cute Tango dresses as a hobby. Women who buy Tango dresses online are major supporters of their dancing communities and indie designers. Once they find their favorite shop, they’ll usually become a loyal client.
We love you!
As dancers continue to shop for Tango dresses online, shops will need to better understand their clients’ fundamental needs in order to have a successful shop with clients that keep coming back for business. Ultimately though, it’s up to you to find everything you can about the shop before you place your first order. Hopefully all these suggestions will help you narrow down your options, and find the perfect Tango dress for your special event or better yet – Find your forever Tango shop online and never let them go!