‘Dancing with the Stars’: 6 Surprising Facts About the Costumes on the Show, Including the 1 Thing They All Have in Common

Dancing with the Stars may be a ballroom dance competition featuring celebrities, but that’s not the only reason the ABC show is so impressive. Every week, the production goes live from Hollywood to deliver star-studded performances complete with some of the most elaborate costumes. Discover some behind-the-scenes secrets to creating the costuming on Dancing with the Stars

Jimmie Allen in a Captain Hook costume sitting next to his 'Dancing with the Stars' pro partner Emma Slater, who is dressed as Tinkerbell
Jimmie Allen & Emma Slater | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

‘DWTS’ costumes cost $5,000 on average

In an interview with Parade from 2020, Dancing with the Stars costume designers Daniela Gschwendtner and Steven Lee broke down the average cost of a costume. According to the professionals, the looks the celebrities and their pro dance partners don each week can cost $5,000 each. That’s because materials like silk, satin, rhinestones, and feathers don’t come cheap, not to mention the amount of labor that goes into custom fitting each look to the person wearing it. 

‘Dancing with the Stars’ costumes go into storage after the show

You’re not likely to see the same look twice on Dancing with the Stars. That’s because almost every garment is tailor-made to the person wearing it. As Gschwendtner and Lee reveal to Parade, the costumes are placed in a storage area behind the DWTS costume department after the show airs. There, the looks get organized by dance style, color, and garment type. 

Occasionally, the costumes do get recycled. “We use past costumes in opening numbers, or we use them on our troupe as background dancers and on the [DWTS Live] tour,” Gschwendtner and Lee explain.

‘Duck Dynasty’ star Sadie Robertson wore the most expensive ‘DWTS’ costume

Gschwendtner and Lee also revealed which costume was the most expensive to create during their conversation with Parade. When Duck Dynasty star Sadie Robertson performed with Mark Ballas in 2014, she and pro Emma Slater wore dresses covered almost entirely in rhinestones. 

Sadie Robertson performs with Mark Ballas and Emma Slater in 'DWTS' Season 19
Sadie Robertson, Mark Ballas, Emma Slater | Adam Taylor/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

“It had 25,000 rhinestones, and now, it gets reused and rhinestoned even more,” Gschwendtner and Lee said. Ironically, Ballas often got to wear some of the show’s most expensive looks.

“For the men, I would say Mark Ballas’ costumes are the most expensive,” adds the costume designer. “He was always open to everything, which allowed us to be creative. We got to custom paint and fully rhinestone his costumes.”

‘Dancing with the Stars’ cast can buy their costumes at the end of a season 

While most of the costumes get packed away to be recycled or donated, some celebrity participants buy their DWTS costumes to keep when the competition is over. Since everything is custom-fit, it only makes sense that some celebrities would want to keep their looks. Previous Dancing with the Stars contestants like Ricki Lake, Nancy Grace, and Kristi Yamaguchi took home their bedazzled looks. 

Each ‘DWTS’ costume takes half a day to make 

During an interview TV Insider, Gschwendtner revealed it takes half a day to make one costume. “We meet with the set and lighting designers, dancers and talent and create a story [for each couple],” says the costume designer. “Then we sketch out ideas. We have five days, max, to make all the outfits. That’s half a day per costume, not including all the rhinestones.” 


‘Dancing with the Stars’ Judges Get to See Performances Once Before the Live Show

Fitting and trimming take place later, with the help of 20 people in the costuming department. “It’s a big enterprise,” she adds. 

Every ‘Dancing with the Stars’ costume has to stretch

The one thing every costume on Dancing with the Stars has in common with the others is the material’s flexibility. “Everything has to have stretch,” Gschwendtner tells TV Insider. 

The wardrobe department custom-builds the costumes to ensure this quality is achieved, including the men’s suits and shirts. “The arms have to have movement, the shirts not come un-tucked when they dance, and the shoulders can’t rise on the jackets, so there’s no malfunction,” she adds. “They wear it [for the first time] literally two hours before the show, so it’s not like we have a day to fix everything. Everything is really tucked-in, stretched, then pulled.” 

Watch Dancing with the Stars live on Monday nights at 8 PM EST on ABC.