When you’re waltzing through the glittery air of Planet Strictly, there’s a strict dress code. It involves reams of satin studded with sequins, a full coat of caramel spray-tan (possibly two if you want to “double-dip” like the professionals) and a set of massive false eyelashes.
The hair, make-up and wardrobe departments work overtime on the glamour. Early on, the brilliant team of Vicky and Theresa meet you to talk through dress ideas. All the contestants say: “Not too tight. Or high. Or low. Perhaps a few sequins. Not too many.” Vicky and Theresa smile. They know that any timidity will disappear by week two, because if you don’t embrace the glamour, you’ll look as if you’re at the wrong party.
The dresses Vicky designs have sturdy pants built in, to ensure coverage and prevent wardrobe malfunctions. Sewn into these are the battery packs and aerials for the wireless microphones that are stitched to the neckline. The dresses are heavy, especially when encrusted with the beading that’s painstakingly glued on by hand.
Once on, adjustments are made. Slashes to skirt length if you’re dancing a bouncy jive or samba. Perhaps slicing out the net beneath to allow more movement for your pivots. An extra split in a flamenco skirt to enable you to wield it like a cape. Men’s ties are sewn to their shirts so they don’t flick into their faces, and their shirts are actually leotards that can’t become untucked.
Hair and make-up, led by Lisa and Neale, arrive with suitcases of hairspray, hairpieces, foundation, lip glosses and shiny eyeshadows. An hour is built into your show-day schedule for both. That’s an hour for make-up and another for hair. Nothing is done by halves, and I trust the stylists’ and designers’ artistry – they create looks that might be out of place on the BBC Breakfast sofa, but look perfect on the Strictly dance floor.
So – does all this change my look at home? Of course. I used to wear worn-out jeans and flip-flops through all seasons, until the bitterest winter days saw me drag out my moth-eaten woolly boots. Now it’s skinny jeans and high heels, even on the school run. I’ve always been a fan of the spray-tan – my natural hue is blueish – so I’m happy to maintain that habit.
But sadly the dresses have to remain on the wardrobe department rails. They are too precious – and valuable – to be worn only once. They’ll make another appearance, tweaked, slashed lower – or higher – in another series. But every week there’s a new dance, a new dress, longer lashes and a deeper tan to look forward to. Long may the glitter fall on Planet Strictly.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 7:10pm on BBC1.