Irish Dance Costumes

Black Velvet 4-Piece Dance Ensemble For Adult Dancer

watermarked-Rika Fukuda Dress 02

I got this very thorough and detailed description of a black velvet 4-piece dance ensemble from my lovely adult dancing friend Rika Fukuda from Japan! I remember seeing Rika dance at a feis in Vienna and loved how the dress looked on her. It had a very unique style and was so different from anything we would commonly see in Mainland Europe – it was elegant, traditional-looking, not at all overdone – just very beautiful! Thank you so much Rika for taking your time to participate in this project and offering your description, memories and photographs!

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Original description on the 2nd-hand dress website:

Very Practical, Eye-Catching Dance Ensemble!

Well-made, one-of-a-kind adult size 6-8, fully adjustable, 4-piece solo outfit; Made of very heavy black velvet with silver/gold detail. White satin backing on silver detail makes it “shimmer” under the lights. Suitable for a wide range of ages, early teen to adult (was worn for competition in the adult division; always placed well). Real, professional monogramming”

Name of the designer/name of the maker:

Clara Malkerson

Owners (current and previous ones, if bought 2nd hand):

Current: Rika Fukuda

Previous: Clara Malkerson

Countries of ‘residence’ the costume has had:

Current: Japan

Previous: USA

Description of colours, fabric and designs used:

Black velvet ensemble (vest and wrap skirt with a shawl and head band) accented with silver and gold. Sadly, the original shawl with Celtic cross embroidery has been damaged when Clara was ironing it. But she has kindly made a black and gold reversible swag type satin shawl instead.

Measurements:

Chest: 87.5 cm

Vest length (at the back center seam): 45 cm

Skirt length: 49 cm

Year the costume was made:

2000/2001

Events / places / countries / feiseanna / shows the costume has been worn at to date:

At Vienna Feis (2012 and 2013), Japan Feis (2016), and Fukui St. Patrick’s Day event (2017)

The story of how the costume came to the owner’s possession:

In 2011, an idea to take part in my first feis appeared in my mind when I was almost 50 years old. I decided to go to Vienna feis in the next year and started looking for something not awkward for a gray-haired Asian dancer on 2nd-hand dress websites.

And then this ensemble came up. It has been designed for a taller dancer, but Clara, the owner/designer/maker said it would not be very funny on a short (5 feet) dancer although the skirt would fall around the knees. I thought a knee-length skirt was just right for me, so after sending/receiving a lot of emails, the ensemble has come to my place.

I bought a black satin shirt at a shop, adjusted the hook of the skirt, and that made up my entire attire (I have never used the head band though, sorry to say. It does not stay on my head).

How wearing the costume makes the dancer feel like / impacts the dancing:

It is a highly practical attire. It is light and easy to dance with. It can be rolled up and put in a bag when traveling.

I also like that it was designed to wear with a store-bought (hence machine-washable) shirt. It keeps me cool, and it allows me to choose colour/fabric of the shirt.

I think it looks humble, yet it gives me some effects on stage.

Any detail of interest / special fact about the costume:

From Clara’s email:

An interesting little fact is that the material came from a friend of a friend who had a fabric sample book company and they would have the leftover fabric from the bolts of fabric they rolled out to make the books. He allowed me to go in and get whatever fabric I needed from this leftover fabric (huge pallets of it!) to make my dress along with some other dresses I helped make and design. I believe the fabric was actually a heavy upholstery. I was in love with it the minute I laid my hands on it. I then took it to a local embroidery shop. It was great fun and I’ll certainly never forget it.”

Any other story the writer is prepared to share:

I sent emails to Clara reporting how I danced in her ensemble with photographs. How wonderful we are still in touch after nine years I have bought it!

Rika Fukuda, 2020

Photo Credit:

  • Costume Photograph by Clara Malkerson, with kind courtesy of herself and Rika Fukuda
  • Feis photographs taken at Vienna Feis 2012 and 2013 by Feis Photos / with kind courtesy of Rika Fukuda 

(2020-012)

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