What’s the big deal? It’s only a costume right?

Nope. It’s not just a costume. It’s a major part of the presentation. In dance ministry, I think that the costume choice is as important as the music and movement choice.

Costume mistakes can pull down the validity of a program. I just got a call from a dance leader a few weeks ago. A dance was pulled from a worship set because of costuming. The pastoral staff was not comfortable with what they saw(and the problem wasn’t the movement). Don’t get defensive about this issue. Just remember that dance ministry is visual. Listen to the leaders above you. Get wise and think through the following tips:

1. Be more conservative in attire that you think you need to be. There are people in the congregation who have not been exposed to the arts. As a leader, that should not make you afraid but it should make you careful when you choose your costumes. Keep beauty in mind as one significant aspect of what you choose because beauty helps people to enter into worship and experience an important quality of God’s character.

2. A costume can easily distract the congregation (especially men) if the garments are not loose. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about the stuff that most people don’t want to talk about. If she has a large bust, kindly tell her that she needs to find a bra that ‘locks and loads’ her bust (no dancing bustlines). Another red light comes on in the area of costume size. Men and women both have perceptions about the size of clothing they want to wear as opposed to what size they really are. In SonLight we wear a size bigger than what we normally buy. I’ve also seen inappropriate undergarment colors. You can’t wear a white dress with a black bra. And consider how a costume will appear with lighting effects. Don’t make a dance you present ‘revealing.’

3. Realize that color communicates meaning. Black is usually not the best choice for most dances. Your dancers might like it (“It makes me look skinny”). Black should be used to communicate dances dealing with Satan, death, evil, grief, etc. Purple, orange, blue, green, white, gold, silver, red, and pastels can all be used for a dance. Just make sure that your choice is conceptual to the song or text. Check with your church/ministry setting as to the decorative colors on site. Incorporate the two together if you can. Typically, the more modern the music style, the more pants (for the ladies) can be chosen. When dresses are preferable, use softer, lyrical song arrangements. Men, even professional dancers, are always best in slacks (with a percentage of stretch material in the garment that you buy).

4. Buy washable, no iron fabrics that allow for ease of movement and ongoing use. Whether you sew your own costumes or order them, use materials that don’t distract others from seeing the movement message of the song. Washable velvets, crepes and synthetic fabrics are all good choices. If you are lucky to have a church budget to buy costumes, build up a costume closet that has colors and styles that will work in a variety of settings.

5. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to choose worship attire. Pray about costume choice as soon as you have a new ministry project to consider. If you have to order costumes or props(flags, ribbons etc), they usually take several weeks to arrive. If you order online, make an initial personal call to the company to see if the item/s you have ordered for a presentation are in stock.

6. I’ve often used simplicity to guide my choices. As a rule, simplicity neutralizes costuming distractions so that on-lookers can focus on and worship Jesus during a presentation.

7. Don’t get swayed by dancers who might be well-meaning but who may not really understand the reasons for the importance of ministry attire. “Let’s wear this” or “let’s order that” sometimes reflect self-serving reasons for costume choice. Look at the costume options that you have for each dance and listen to God’s leading when you decide what to wear for ministry presentation.

In the process of selecting costumes for a visual presentation of the gospel, never forget that you must choose costumes based on God’s standards of worship and holiness. It’s an awesome responsibility threaded with joy and great blessing. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).