Updated: Jul 19, 2019
After a 13 year Irish dance career, Irish dance costume designer Alexa Peter decided to turn a creative passion of hers into a thriving business. In high school, she began designing Irish dance costumes and once she saw the designs come to life, she was hooked.
Along with teaching at the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, she is the proud owner Celtic Class Designs, a custom Irish dance costume design company. Celtic Class Designs offers pre-made designs available for purchase along with custom designs created specifically for a dancer.
We caught up with Alexa to find out more about how she got started, what she would recommend to budding designers, and her design process.
How did you know you were done competing?
I had always assumed that I would stop dancing when I went to college, but when the time came I was having a lot of success and chose to pursue it a little longer. I danced for a few months in college before injuring my foot, and it was then that I decided to retire. At first, it was not an easy decision because I had been dancing for so long and had such a passion for it. After a lot of thought, I decided to focus on school and earning my degree. I soon learned that my love of Irish dance was not something that was going to go away and that I wanted to find another way to be involved.
How did you start designing Irish dance costumes?
I started designing costumes while I was in high school and realized how much I was interested in the fashion and artistic side of Irish dance. My very first design became one of my dresses, and once I saw the magic of the design coming to life, I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing. At the time of my retirement, I was attending college in another state and did not have the option of continuing to help teach at Trinity, the dance school I grew up with, so I chose to stay involved in Irish dance by turning designing costumes into a business. Not only could I express my creativity, I could give dancers around the world their dream costume and help them feel confident on stage. Since starting Celtic Class Designs in early 2015, I have designed close to 500 costumes for dancers and schools in several countries. It is so rewarding to have customers send me photos of them looking so happy to be wearing costumes I've designed. I also rediscovered my love of teaching and earned my TCRG this past fall.
What would you recommend to others who are looking to get into costume design?
The most important thing to remember if you want to start designing costumes, whether as a business or just for fun, is to stay positive and do what makes you happy. There are going to be people who may not like your work or people who don't believe you will be successful. What matters is that you are enjoying what you are doing and are proud of yourself. Nobody becomes successful without a little opposition or competition from others, because that is what drives you to become better and makes you hungry for success. It is also okay to be inspired by costumes you've seen designed or made by others when you're creating your own designs. That is how we all push each other to come up with new twists and tweaks on concepts while expressing them with our own styles.
There are a growing number of designers who exclusively design costumes and look to dancers, their families, and dressmakers to help make them come alive with fabric and thread. This newness is what makes it such an exciting field to get into - there isn't a protocol for anything, so you're free to do things however you like! Some people design on paper, others on their tablets or computers, and you can use of multitude of different programs and techniques to turn your ideas into reality. I especially encourage younger kids and dancers to explore their creative side. I've seen costume designers as young as nine or ten years old who are already sharing their talents and unique ideas with the Irish dance world!
See Alexa's designs and stay connected with Celtic Class Designs:
Facebook: Celtic Class Designs