Dressmaker helps dancers step out in style
Oakland Tribune, Jul 1, 2005 by Malaika Fraley, STAFF WRITER
SAN MATEO -- The Argentina tango is known as one of the most passionate and dramatic dances on the ballroom floor, one that requires a costume as sensual as the art itself.
For many Bay Area dancers, such costumes are provided by San Mateo resident Linda Ayre, a social dancer and professional dressmaker who works out of a showroom in the Hayward Park neighborhood.
Ayre makes custom-made and one-of-a-kind dresses of all kinds, including wedding gowns and bridesmaid dress, cocktail dresses and other special-event garb, and specializes in bias cuts and drapery.
But it is the sexy and flashy dance dresses she makes for professional and amateur performers that are bound to turn the most heads. Some of the dresses will be in motion at Nora's Tango Week, which begins today at the Clarion Hotel in Millbrae. (See box for more information.)
Not your typical evening gown, a dance dress is more revealing and is designed to accommodate lunges, kicks and dips. A tango dress often comes in red or black, with high slits to allow a woman's leg to wrap around her partner. It's short enough, about mid-calf length, so that high-heeled dancing shoes don't get caught in the fabric.
"If you saw it out of context, it would look pretty outrageous, but on the dance floor, it looks right," Ayre said.
Ayre is a social tango dancer herself and gets much of her business through dance teachers in the Bay Area. She works with the clients closely, and will listen to their performance music and ask to see steps during the design process.
A Linda Ayre dress can take between three hours and six months to make and cost anywhere from $350 to $3,000, for a gown adorned with thousands of hand-placed crystals.
She worked for years as a commercial seamstress in her native England before coming to the United States 14 years ago and going into business for herself. She stocks her San Mateo showroom with matching jewelry, handbags and Argentine dance shoes sold on consignment and, between custom projects, makes dresses sold off the rack.
"It's not what to make, it's what not to make," Ayre said Thursday after zipping a young model into one of her flamenco-style creations. "If only I had more time."
Visit the Linda Ayre showroom at 1115 S. B St. by appointment by calling (650) 458-9345 or online at http://www.dancedress.com.
Staff writer Malaika Fraley is a general assignment reporter who also covers Belmont, Foster City and San Carlos.