With so many ballroom dresses to choose from, in so many colors and styles, it can be overwhelming to know exactly what type of dress to wear for American Smooth or International Standard. What's the difference?
"Can't you just wear the same dress for both?" The answer is sometimes, but not most of the time. What follows is a general guide regarding the differences and why, and what you should be looking for when buying a dress. It is not always an exact science. Some styles don't fall into the "boxes" below and in those cases, use your own best judgment for what you need the dress for as well as talking to your Instructor- he will be able to tell you if a dress you want will work or not.
The first thing of note is that the different style between actually dancing American Smooth vs International Standard has a great impact on the dress and is the primary reason for the differences in dress styles. International Standard is danced using only closed figures whereas American Smooth is danced using both closed and open figures.
One of the most obvious differences is the floats or lack of. Because International Standard is danced in closed figures, the floats give movement and flow and basically create something interesting to look at (as you are pretty much just looking at someone's back the whole time) Because American Smooth has both closed and open figures, having fabric or feathers hanging down can cause all sorts of interruption or hazard for the couple dancing (think getting wrapped up while trying to turn- just, no.) and there isn't the same need to create the "moving" interest in the same way.
Another difference you will see is in the actual detail on the back of the dress. Because of the open figures, American Smooth dresses can get away with open backs or little to no detail on the back of the dress, as you will get to see the front of the dress while dancing. You will also see more side cutouts in American Smooth dresses. Again, with International Standard dancing closed figures, and showing the back the entire time, you will typically see higher backs and no cutouts with more detail for International Standard- again, something more interesting to look at.
And finally, skirt size/type. International Standard skirts tend to be quite a bit more full, usually with many layers and oftentimes feather detail at the hem to again, create movement and interest. With American Smooth doing so much moving between open and closed figures, there is not the same need to create movement with the dress in the same way, and in fact, you will find that American Smooth dresses tend to be much less full, having very few (if any) layers and sometimes will even have a side slit to enable more movement for the dancer.
Again, as mentioned at the beginning, there are some dresses that can go either way and some dresses that seem to contradict the general guidelines and differences. This is where you either use your best judgment or talk with your Instructor.
Photo below shows an example of an International Standard Dress.
Photo below shows an example of an American Smooth Dress.