One does not simply practice to be an Irish step dancer; one must shop as well! But where to begin? And how much is really needed, and at what level? If you are just starting out, the list of supplies seems endless. But, in reality, many of the items listed on this page are for dancers who either compete a lot, or are in at least advanced beginner.

Now, as everyone knows, Irish dancing is all about the feet and legs. That's where the movements take place, and that's what the judges look at. So you'll need the right shoes, socks, supplies, even medical aids, as this is also where the injuries will occur. What is good? We recommend:

Soft shoes, etc. Hard shoes, etc. First aid, etc.
Blarney or Antonio Pacelli ghillies Super Flexi hard shoes Curaid Blister Band-Aids
Extra long and short black shoelaces Black elastics (sold at vendor stands) Medical tape
Long poodle socks Black permanent marker Ace bandages
Plenty of sock glue to hold them up Black duct tape Ankle and knee braces
Yellow wrap tape
Bengay or Flex-All
Heel lifts and arch supports
Instant ice-packs
A good sports ortho doctor!

For years we have purchased from Fays Dancing Shoes (914-237-1435), and we have never been disappointed. Patrick takes phone orders (with a credit card) and mail orders; he also attends many feiseanna in the Eastern and New England regions. Other shoe vendors include:

For the first several feiseanna a dancer attends, she can simply pull her hair back from her face with a half- ponytail. After a while, though, she will probably want her hair to look like everyone else's - curled.

Curling Hair In the "olden" days, we always curled hair. Spike curlers (purchased from Irish Treasures) are the most popular because they're the easiest on the girls' heads during sleep. Plus, they attract a lot of attention in the none-ID world! Curling hair, like anything else, gets easier over time. Click here for my technique for curling hair. 

Wigs While there may be nothing nicer than natural hair, there is nothing more convenient than a wig! We are so happy with them. I allowed Katie to get a wig much sooner than Kerri, because Kerri's hair was perfect for curling. We used to have people ask us if Katie's hair was real when she wore a wig, and people ask us if Kerri's hair was wig when it was natural! There are plenty of wigs for sale out there, but the best we've seen are the ring-curl style (make sure you get one that can be recurled). The wigs stay on with bobbi-pins and clips. Long hair can be pulled up with elastics, or braided and pinned up. The circle hatboxes can be found in Sears, Wal-Marts or Christmas Tree Shops, to name a few stores. Wig vendors include:

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Broga Rince Wigs
Celtic Curls
Feis Head
Irish Dance Shop Wigs
Kerreen O'Connor
The Red Ox Wig Info
Youngblood Haircutters

Make-up Once a dancer has reached championship level, no matter what the age, makeup is a must. This is another area of controversy in the ID world. Many people believe that the little girls (and there are champions as young as 8 years old!) are being dolled up and make to look too old too young. My humble opinion is, if the dancer WANTS the make-up, and she is in champions, let her! (And if she doesn't, or if she is in solos, then don't make her.) It's only a feis, not school or the mall, and besides, she'll get lost on the stage without makeup. Don't most girls like to dress up and be like the older girls? Isn't this one of the most wholesome activities for your daughter? Isn't she being mentored by older dancers? Then this is a very appropriate time to let her look the part.

Headbands and Tiaras Some of the dressmakers also include headbands with the dresses. In this photo, all the girls except Katie have a headband that matches their dress. Katie was borrowing Kerri's tiara for this competition, but she liked it so much, she purchased a tiara just like it, but silver.

Tiaras and other hair supplies can be purchased from some of the companies listed below. Or, you can purchase them at feiseanna, as many vendors attend regularly.

The dance costume for a beginner is most likely going to be a plain skirt and white shirt. Our new dancers compete in a red skirt and white shirt. School dresses are most often the first dress a dancer will get. Our school arranges this; most of the girls are able to get a secondhand school dress the first time around, but if there are none available, they also provide the name and phone number of the dressmaker.

However, there is nothing like your first brand-new solo dress, custom-made just for you and your American Girl Doll (doll's dresses made by Marg). There is a lot of controversy in the ID world right now about when a step dancer should get her first solo dress. 

My humble opinion is that there is nothing wrong with a *simple* solo dress for a dancer of any level. However, if the school dress is pretty enough, use that up to prizewinner: it's cheaper and you never have to worry about looking inappropriate.

The dance costume for a beginner is most likely going to be a plain skirt and white shirt. Our new dancers compete in a red skirt and white shirt. School dresses are most often the first dress a dancer will get. Our school arranges this; most of the girls are able to get a secondhand school dress the first time around, but if there are none available, they also provide the name and phone number of the dressmaker.

Some dancers, however, really need the psychological boost a solo dress can provide in the lower levels. My daughter Kerri sure did; once we got her a solo dress in advanced beginner (after 2 years of dancing), she started placing every feis. Katie, on the other hand, who was destined for champions from the start, received her first (used) solo dress in her first year. Katie used to get a new one with each milestone (moving into preliminary, moving into opens, qualifying for the worlds), but at her present level, we now get her a new one every 18 to 24 months. Kerri will get a new one if she ever chooses to move into preliminary.

Here are lots of links for dress makers, the dressmakers' message board, and other links about costumes. (Some of these sites have to be viewed in IE, not Netscape.)

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An Rince Mugain
Celtic Art
Celtic Artwear
The Celtic Dancer
Celtic Flame ID Costumer's MB
The Color Weaver
Colours of Ireland
Dance Again Pre-Loved Dresses
Dance City
Dancewear Fabric
Dancing in Celtic
The Emerald Pointe (for material)

HYENA Silk Fabrics
Irish Dance Dresses
Irish Dancing Solo Dresses
Irish Threads
Isle of Innisfree Designs
Knot for Keeps
Lindasfarne Designs
Lowland Design
Paddy Kelleher Designs
Paul Keith (UK)
Second Chance Dancewear
Shirley Capon, Australia
Siopa Rince
Step About Dancing Dresses
Threads of Green Irish Dancing Costumes

Silk and gabardine are quite popular now. Although some people state velvet will never go out of style, we only saw one velvet dress at the Worlds. Likewise, the geometric designs are all the rage too, but there are still plenty of dancers with Celtic designs, weaves, and stories on their dresses. The demand for solo dresses is so intense that if you find a used one that fits for the right price, buy it!

Here is a picture of Katie trying on a dress in Toronto. We almost bought it (it's lovely, isn't it?), but it was not quite a perfect fit, and Katie also really wanted geometric designs. Note the sleeves and the cape, however; this is where a lot of the focus is these days. These colors are bright, which is also popular now. 

This is Katie's newest dress, which she designed. It is a one-tone yellow silk blend with geometric designs. We purchased the shimmery material (top and sleeves) and silk in Toronto. Check out our Irish Dance Dresses page for more photos!

Some dance dresses do not come with the rhinestones already on them, so you might get to put them on yourself (that is how Katie's is above). You can get the *right* kind of rhinestones and electric setter from Creative Crystal, Rhinestone Guy or Fire Mountain Gems. If you need larger shaped rhinestones, try a shop that makes wedding dresses; don't bother at a material or craft store, as the ones sold there will be cheap-looking and not made to be adhered to silk or velvet.

What else will you need for the dress? Here's a list! These supplies can be bought just about anywhere (see the links below).

  • Bloomers
  • Tara brooches or Celtic pin (optional)
  • A dress bag large enough to hold the dress without crushing it
  • A cover-up
  • Ribbon or yarn and a plastic number holder
  • Safety pins (big and sturdy ones)
  • Bobbi pins (the big ones)

There are plenty of on-line vendors for Irish dance supplies as well. Here's a list guaranteed to get you shopping! 

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Antonio Pacelli
The Ceili CompanyŽ
Celtic Curls
The Celtic Dancer
Celtic Daughters
Celtic Dream
Conway's Irish & Reel Dancing Accessories
Creative Crystal
Dance Again
Dancing in Celtic
Fays Dancing Shoes

Emerald Key
Head for the World
Hullachan Pro Dance Shoes
Hullachan Australia and New Zealand
Hullachan Europe
Irish Dance Shoes
Irish Dance Shop
Irish icons
Irish Steps.Com
Irish Treasures
Kerreen O'Connor Ltd.
Rutherford Products
The Red Ox Irish Dance Shop

Want the items laid out in a list? Here ya go!

    • Ghillies
    • Black shoelaces
    • Hard shoes
    • Black elastics
    • Poodle socks
    • Sock glue
    • First aid kit
    • Black marker
    • Shoe shine
    • Black duct tape
    • Wig box
    • Wig or spike curlers
    • Tiara or headband
  • Bobbie pins
  • Scrunchies and hair elastics
  • Hair spray
  • Make-up
  • Dance dress
  • Bloomers
  • Dress bag
  • Cover-up
  • Extra rhinestones
  • Competitor number holder
  • Yarn or string for number
  • Safety pins
  • Water bottle
  • Quick snacks
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