I totally understand that groups costumes need to be chosen by the teacher or choreographer to hit their vision but solo costume should be up to the dancer. If the dancer doesn't feel good in the costume it will show through their dance. This is their time to be themselves in a dance and that includes the costume choice. Dancers should get to voice their opinions in the decision of the costume. A great teacher will be open to the discussion. A teacher on a power trip will shut you down and try to control everything. I was fortunate to never have the power trip teachers or maybe they just knew it wouldn't work with my daughter and I, but anyways we always had a say. Not even a say but we just made the decision and the teachers supported it.
Does it really matter? Yes and No
Yes, when you have a great costume it does send a message to the judges that you mean business and are there to compete. Even though costume is usually only five points of your score, I am a true believer it helps raise the other areas also. If the judges are taking about how much they love your costume they could possible miss that unpointed foot or bent knee.
No, I have watched amazing dancers take the stage in a sports bra and boy shorts and win. Their talent and dance were enough they didn't need a fancy costume. Sometimes the most basic costume speaks volumes to a judge. Watch my dance, not my costume!
Honestly though your dance is always going to speak volumes over your costume. You could have the most expensive costume around but if you can't dance, it won't matter.
I watched over 13 years the price of costumes go through the roof. I was extremely lucky I found a seamstress that made at least one of my daughter's solo costumes each year. If you can find someone like this, treat them like gold. They will be worth every penny you ever pay them.
She made custom costumes for us each year and never charged over $100. She started from scratch and always made something original. I'm not going to lie and say we loved everything but we also knew we were being original. Never did we ever have to worry about anyone having anything even close to my daughter's costume.
I followed many Facebook groups that sold new and used costumes. I laughed at mothers who tried to sell leotards they basically just added rhinestones and appliques for a few hundred dollars. There is nothing original about adding to a leotard that everyone else can buy online. Yes you may add things differently but it stills looks like the same as everyone else. The cost of the costumes is not worth it. Unless you absolutely just love it, pass.
I took old costumes and made new ones. If something worked great in the past, find new life for it. Dance bottoms work the best for this but I did reuse tops a few times. After 13 years we had hundreds of costumes to repurpose. Think outside the box and make new life.
I never understood why some parents turned their noses to reusing costumes. I guess they just had money to burn on costumes that I didn't. I would look to older girls and see if they had anything we could buy and reuse. When I would do this, I would change a few things to make the costume just a little different.
For the love of dance, don't buy a solo costume from a catalog. If you do, only use it for a base. I would cringe when someone bought a solo costume from a catalog only to show up to a competition and ten other dancers had the same costume. Learn some skills and make one if nothing else. Not to add most of the time they are.made cheap. I lost count of how many times we ordered a group costume from a catalog and immediately had to fix their unsatisfactory work. Just steer clear if you can.
Think outside the box
Don't jump on a bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing. Be the dancer that others want to copy. We wore a headband one year only to have many others in out studio do it the following year. We wore pants when everyone else was wearing leotards. We choose beads over others wearing feathers. I bought a leotard one year that was nude with a lace overlay. So simply, so cheap and got compliments every competition. I found it in a dance store and paid nothing for it. Just think outside the box and look in places others overlook. This little dance shop would never have been somewhere you would have thought to find a costume.
Thinking outside the box also includes not following the norm for a genre. Just because everyone else is wearing leotards for contemporary doesn't mean you have to. Be different, stand out. Go with pants, go with shorts, go with anything but the norm. As a mother, I made my daughter be different. It worked for us and she was always very successful in her competitive years.
Summary of my experience,make your own. Think of how to be different and stand out on that stage. Costumes don't need to cost a fortune. Some of my daughter's best costumes cost us very little.