Dance costumes

A dance student performs in a costume made by K.C. Powers of Harker Heights.

Courtesy photo

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. But for busy mom K.C. Powers of Harker Heights, invention is the necessity of mothers.

That principle has allowed Powers to balance her roles as a busy home-schooling mom with a teenage son and three daughters studying ballet with two thriving specialty-sewing businesses.

Powers owns That’s So KC, a sewing business that creates dance school costumes and customized clothing for children. With business partner Sue Morrisey, she also owns Vitus and Company, which creates costumes for stage productions.

A military wife, Powers home-schools her four children, L.B., 14, Michaela, 11, Emma, 9, and Jordan, 7, and is actively involved in church and family sports activities. She uses her sewing business to make modest and age-appropriate children’s clothing.

“I don’t want my girls to be in some of these outfits popular today,” Powers said. “It’s hard to find clothes that are appropriate for little girls. Even though my daughter Michaela is 11, she is still a little girl. She doesn’t need to be in the type of clothing that you find in the stores now.”

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Powers came to the United States with her family when she was 3. Her only formal sewing training was a middle-school home economics class, but she also learned a great deal from her mother, who did industrial piecework sewing at home.

“I learned a lot of different techniques from my mother to make things more professional looking, but also some shortcuts that really helped,” Powers said.

Sewing was not part of Powers’ life until her daughters began taking ballet classes in 2009.

“Costumes can be very expensive. A tutu that you order from a custom company can cost $150 or $200.”

Powers quickly realized that she could produce the same costumes for much less money, and volunteered with another mother to make some of the costumes for that year’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

“I said I would help, but I ended up leading the way — it’s one of those things I just stumbled into,” she said. “For just plain tutus with a bodice and a little bit of sparkle; with $100, we made about 15 of them.”

Powers continues to make costumes for the school’s spring and winter performances. Her greatest challenge with ballet costumes is making items that look good and perform well on stage, while still fitting a variety of body types.

“Making costumes for a ballet school is different than making a custom costume for a specific person, because you have to make the costumes adjustable,” she said. “Most likely a different person will be wearing it every year.”

Ballet costumes, due to the design and fabrics required, are particularly tricky.

“Every dancer is built differently, so when you make the tutus they’re supposed to lay flat, but on some people they don’t quite lay flat, so you have to work around that,” Powers said.

With experience, Powers has improved her skills, learned to modify the patterns and make them longer, adding panels in the back to accommodate different sizes. In fact, she’s had an opportunity to learn something new with every performance season.

“This past year, after I made the costumes, I discovered a better technique for fitting,” she said.

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