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Growing up a dancer, Kim Neilson was surrounded by beautiful costumes. Now, she's making (and inspiring) shimmering creations across the globe - all with the level of sparkle that'd make her Nan proud.

Aug 1, 2023

Words: Gippslandia

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It blows your tiny mind to learn of the phenomenal talents working at kitchen tables, home offices and sheds across Gippsland. People with prodigious skills are toiling away to create items that steal the show – quite literally in Kim Neilson’s case.

Kim shares that her business is “very small and new” and her stellar creations are formed solely by her in a “little home boutique”. But Kim is already establishing her enterprise, Ready for Stage, in international markets – about 40% of her sales have gone to the United States. Like a grand jeté, Kim’s venture creating elite dance costumes is growing in well-poised, elegant, yet impressive leaps and bounds.

...she was making hundreds of costumes per year, and anyone at the competitions will tell you Kimmy’s costumes were always the best. The best designs, the best bling and the most flattering – works of art on stage”.

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Growing up a dancer, Kim was surrounded by beautiful costumes, and says that she was “always involved in the sewing process with my Nanna”.

“Nothing was too much for Nan. It had to sparkle more, be the best on stage, and she wasn’t happy unless it created a little chatter.”

You quickly learn how intertwined Kim’s family and dance are – a remarkable duet.

The dynamic will take a plié to unpick, but, gratefully, we have Kim’s cousin, Jaz Flowers, to lead the way.

Jaz’s mum owned the renowned Vicki’s Dance Academy for 47 years (!), which Kim attended from a toddler to well into her teenage years. During this time, Kim danced competitively. Kim’s daughter, Indi, also danced at Vicki’s, as did Jaz, who danced there for 19 years.

Continuing, Jaz says, “Kim started sewing for Indi when she was about six, and her genius creative brain just continued to create better and better costumes.

“In 2017, I took over my mother’s dance school and rebranded it to Jaz Flowers Performing Arts, which Kim's daughter continued to dance with, and as the director and choreographer of the company I had ideas of what I wanted my costumes to look like and Kim became my right hand, both as a business confidante and as my costume maker and designer.”

It reached the point where Kim was creating all the custom costumes for Jaz Flowers; that’s solos, duets and troupe performances all requiring high performance, flexible and striking costumes.

“At one stage she was making hundreds of costumes per year, and anyone at the competitions will tell you Kimmy’s costumes were always the best. The best designs, the best bling and the most flattering – works of art on stage,” adds Jaz, in awe.

After seven years, Jaz closed her dance studio, but says that Kim wanted to continue making costumes on her own terms, creating the “designs she had in her head, that may not have ever made it to stage previously… One-of-a-kind works of art.”

Such designs take hours, as Kim designs the patterns and colour combinations, selects the textures and fabrics, and sews on the different trims and bling individually.

And it’s this level of uniqueness, performance and quality that is catching the attention of dancers and dance mums across the world.

After sewing together what must be hundreds of metres of tulle, lycra and lace, as well as kilograms of diamantes, Kim is still quick to say, “Watching a costume take shape still amazes me!

“Sometimes, it’s exactly as I imagined and sometimes it takes a turn and I end up with a completely different costume than I set out to make. I’ve always loved surprises and there are many when creating unique pieces.

“Staying creative is never an issue. Wondering how I will ever bring to life all the crazy ideas in my head is the issue.”

Ever the savvy business owner, Kim keenly spied a new opportunity after another successful weekend at the recent Victorian Dance Festival Dance Market, “There are many other parents that would love to decorate their own costumes but don’t know how. So, I came up with a plan to share online tutorials and sell Bling Starter Kits, so anyone can have a go at transforming a plain leotard into a sparkly costume.”

Kim’s success deserves a hearty applause, saying that the eight months of Ready for Stage’s existence have been some of the most rewarding of her life to date – quickly adding that her beautiful family come first. But, like a pointe dancer, right up on their toes, Kim believes she’s achieved the perfect balance of work, with its creativity and her roots in dance, and with her family life. Now, that deserves a bow!

If you're excited to see more of Kim's captivating costumes, please visit and @readyforstage on both Facebook and Instagram.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 27

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