Earlier this year I decided that – despite the misery of contest prep I swore I’d never put myself through again – I’d strap on my heels and take to the stage once more as a figure competitor. Not long after this unexpected declaration, I learned of a second event taking place the weekend prior to the show I was preparing for, so I decided why not do them both? What a brilliant idea!
Until I realized that the cost – substantial with just one trip to the stage – would be doubled.
Maybe not so brilliant afterall.
However, since I already paid for both events, it was too late to back out now. So I did the next best thing: I went on a mission to find ways to cut costs. And it worked.
Here’s how I did it.
Savings Tip #1: Start with the Posing Suit
I think many will agree one of the most exciting parts of competing is picking out the posing suit. After all, there aren’t too many times in life that you get to sashay around in a bedazzled bikini and feel good about it. And while choosing the colors, style, and rhinestone patterns for a suit is super fun, looking at the price tag is not. Women’s posing suits can easily cost anywhere from $300 to $1500 brand new.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Buy Used Instead of New
You can find lots of groups on Facebook dedicated to selling used posing suits for an affordable price. Concerned that it may not fit correctly? Most sellers post what their stage weight/height/cup size was, which gives you a pretty good idea if the suit will fit you. And if it doesn’t, you can always contact a local seamstress to make adjustments or you can contact the suit’s original manufacturer to ask if they will alter it based on your body specifications. Yes, it costs a little extra to do this, but far less than what you would pay to buy brand new.
I purchased my figure suit via this FB page for $150.00 and love it! The only problem I had was that the neck strap was a little too loose, but I was able to fix that on my own with a little needle and thread. A suit like this would likely have cost me upwards of $500 or more, so I feel like I got a real deal. Just make sure to insist upon using Paypal when completing your transaction. That way, if the seller doesn’t deliver, you can get your money back.
Re-Bling Your Old Suit
Because I was competing in two shows, I thought it’d be more fun to have a different posing suit for each event. So I contacted the manufacturer of my old suit (Saleyla) and asked if they’d be willing to add extra sparkle if I sent it back their way. They were more than willing to do so, and it cost me only $85.00. A total bargain for what felt like a brand new suit! Here’s a before and after photo:
That being said, if you are doing several contests in a season I think one suit at all events is fine. In fact, I received so many compliments on my $150 used suit – not only from other athletes, but a judge as well – that I ended up using it at both shows and didn’t use my newly sparkled suit at all. So much for saving money, but lesson learned: One suit is enough. No one will likely know that you wore it previously anyway.
Consider Renting or Borrowing
You can easily find suits for rent through Facebook groups and many suit manufacturers also offer rentals in addition to those that you can purchase. Costs are typically less than buying new, though they can still be a bit pricey depending on the company. Prior to choosing to buy used, I heavily considered renting through Haylee Varner, a figure athlete who also happens to be a clothing designer that makes and rents spectacular posing suits for a reasonable fee. She was quick to respond to emails and directed me to the rental suits on her site that would fit someone with my measurements.
The only “but” with rentals is that you don’t have the opportunity to try them on ahead of time, and the rental fee is for one contest only, so it’s not a super savings option if you are doing more than one event.
I also met a few athletes who revealed that they were borrowing their suits from friends. If you are lucky enough to know others who compete, this may be something worth exploring for the biggest cost savings of all. You may even consider asking former athletes such as those on the GF2 Fitness and Contest Prep forum if they’d be willing to lend a suit for a reasonable price.
Savings Tip #2: The DIY Tan
If picking out your posing suit is one of the most exciting elements on the journey to the stage, getting the spray tan is the one to dread most. Why? Because unless you like being in what feels like a persistently clammy state that you can’t shower off then you’ll find the contest tan an incredibly uncomfortable nuisance. Alas, if you hope to showcase that body you’ve been literally starving to perfect, then a stage tan is as essential as the posing suit you’re wearing.
Every event has a host company that provides tanning services on-site and this is incredibly convenient. However, it’s also incredibly expensive. Expect to pay between $100 – $200 to have your stage tan done by the experts.
Heather was the one to convince me to apply my own tan at home. However, after hearing the promoter strongly imply that our chances of placing were hampered if we didn’t use the host tanner, I began to question this decision. I decided to take the risk because I simply did not want to pay the $150 price tag to have it done. How did it go?
It went…great! I purchased Jan Tana’s Color Collection via their website for $79.99. This included exfoliating lotion, a bottle of Greenaway (a spray used to eliminate green hues that sometimes occur when donning a stage tan), a bottle of their High Def color (for the night before), a bottle of Ultra One color (for the day of), a bottle of glaze, and a puff to use for application. I received my order in about two days, so they get a thumbs up for a quick turnaround.
When doing your own tan, you will need assistance when applying to those hard to reach areas. Ideally, choose someone you feel completely comfortable being naked around since he or she is going to view parts of your body that even you can’t see (the same is true if you have the tanning pros do it; at least doing it yourself gives you the freedom of choosing who gets to see your lady bits versus a complete stranger).
For me, my husband was the lucky candidate to apply my tan and I have to say, for a man whose experience with painting something was limited to living room walls, he did a great job applying my color. We simply followed the directions on the bottles; it really is that easy. Check out Heather’s video demonstrating the DIY process.
The advantage of applying your own tan – besides the substantial cost savings – is that you can apply it when it’s most convenient for you. When working with a host company you are at the mercy of their time frames, which is usually around dinner time the night prior to the event (followed by first thing in the morning the next day). This means you are left with a heck of a lot of time waiting around the show venue, which is pretty boring if you don’t know anyone. We applied my first coat of tan about an hour before I went to bed the night prior to the event, so I wasn’t stuck wearing it longer than I had to. The next day I was able to get up and have my husband apply the second and third coats with lots of time leftover to eat breakfast, watch the “Today Show,” and yell at my kids to stop arguing.
It’s also nice to have the ability to touch up those pesky drip spots that show up after you wash your hands or, God forbid, go pee. The host tanner will also do these touch ups, but because they have other athletes jockeying for their time it can be difficult to find someone the moment you need them.
Of course, the DIY tan is not without its drawbacks. While I stood in the shower during the application process, the tanning product still managed to coat everything within the surrounding areas. The floor, the toilet, and of course the shower itself looked like something out of a crime scene when we were through. The good news is that it washes off pretty easily, but it’s fair to say you’ll have to give your bathroom a thorough cleaning when all is said and done. However, I should note here that my husband sprayed the tan directly on me (Jan Tana’s Color Collection come in spritzer bottles), but had he sprayed it on the puff directly and then wiped it on we might not have had so much splatter everywhere. Another competitor told me that she dumps the contents of the bottle into a dish and has her husband dip the puff in and rub it on from there to reduce the mess. Or you can follow Dexter’s lead and cover everything with plastic sheeting. Just some tips to consider.
Savings Tip #3: Say No to the Make-Up Artist
Like tanning, promoters will also have a host makeup artist available for athletes to use. And like tanning, it can get pretty expensive (expect $50-$100). Because the extent of my makeup expertise is limited to the thoughtless application of foundation and mascara (on a good day), I was really doubtful about doing my own for the stage successfully.
However, I need not have worried thanks to You Tube. It turns out there are a lot of competition makeup tutorials out there that are easy to follow. I used “Competition Makeup for Dummies” and paused the video every few seconds so I could copy exactly what the woman was doing. Worked like a charm.
But how to know what kind of makeup to use, you ask? I wondered the same thing and thoroughly researched and wrote down specific products the tutorial videos suggested. When I went to the store to find each product I quickly realized that I may just as well have the makeup artist do it because that crap is expensive!
But guess what? In the end I used my own makeup products. In other words, the stuff you buy in the cosmetics section at the grocery store or pharmacy that has been sitting in your makeup drawer for at least ten years. It turns out, it didn’t really matter what products I was using because it all sort of looks the same once applied. And guess what? It cost me nothing because I already owned it.
That being said, chances are you don’t have an unnaturally dark shade of foundation lying around and you want your face to match your body, so finding a matching foundation is essential. Jan Tana offers foundation to match their products, so I went with this to play it safe (and it worked great). But to be honest, I could have just spread some of the tanning lotion on my hand and gone to Walgreens to find a matching shade of Cover Girl. Because really, when on earth are you going to wear this stuff again?
What I realized after doing my own makeup was that even if it’s not perfect, no one can tell from the stage. The judges are usually sitting several feet away looking up at you and more likely to see a case of camel toe versus uneven eyeliner. As long as your face matches your body and you have your eye makeup caked on like Tammy Faye, you’ll be just fine!
I do have to note here that while fake eyelashes are a must, I have absolutely no tips on how to apply them with ease. Be sure to give yourself ample time to apply those monsters because chances are you’ll have to cool down from the frustration afterwards. I had Heather apply mine and it went so much better that way! So grab a friend or loved one to help if they are available.
By the way, I know that despite my claims that you can use whatever is in your bathroom, some of you feel your current makeup collection is inadequate. So here is a makeup list of the products I used for reference. No promises that they all still exist.
Savings Tip #4: Dare to Do Your Hair
Like all the other service providers, the host hairstylist is all but ready to turn your locks into a glamorous mane. And it’s true, they can give you edgy braids or hair extensions to rival Crystal Gail (is she even alive anymore?), but like makeup, the style of your hair is not what the judges are focusing on.
That being said, you definitely don’t want to don a basic pony tail or, dear God, a French twist like your dear Aunt Frieda wears every Sunday; there does need to be some semblance of style. However, styling your hair like you would for a first date or fun night on the town is sufficient. Believe me, I go for a “fun night on the town” pretty much never, but I’m still able to pull from the memories of yesteryear to recall how to properly back comb and wield the hairspray. You can also buy hair extensions fairly cheap online, and they can do wonders if you have a stringy mop like mine. Just make sure to purchase clip-in extensions made out of real human hair and practice ahead of time if you’re not used to using them.
So How Much Did I Really Save?
Here’s a quick breakdown of my savings for one show:
- Posing suit: $500 Brand New (an estimation here, but that’s a pretty standard cost)
- What I paid: $150.00 (used)
- My savings: $350.00
- Competition tan through host: $150.00
- What I paid: $79.99 + shipping
- My savings: $70.00 (approximately)
- Makeup through host: $50.00
- What I paid: $35.00 (Jan Tana’s foundation)
- My savings: $15.00
- Hair through host: $100 + $25.00 to apply my extensions
- What I paid: NOTHING
- My savings: $125.00
- Total cost buying new and using host company services: $825.00
- Total cost using my savings tips: $265.00
- TOTAL MONEY SAVED: $560.00
Keep in mind, this was the cost savings for one competition. Because I did two contests I had double the savings since I simply re-used all of the above. The only additional purchase I made was ordering one more bottle of Jan Tana’s Ultra because I was afraid I’d run out (which I didn’t). The cost for that extra bottle was $33.70 through Amazon Prime.
Would I Use These Savings Tips Again?
Absolutely. I felt great about how it all came together despite doing everything myself. I loved having control of the how, when, and where of my tan. Doing my own makeup turned out to be super easy (except those eye lashes!), and my hair was a no-brainer because I simply did what I’ve done a zillion times before. I will always go this route if I decide to compete again in the future (which again, I’m saying I’ll never do). I don’t think anyone could tell that I did not use the host companies, and in the end I earned the title of first place figure overall champion in not one, but both competitions.
So in the end, my extra efforts paid off in more ways than one. Save your money for investments – like a prep coach or posing instruction – that really make a difference on stage.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, Crystal Gayle is still alive.
23 Costs of Competing in a Bikini, Figure, or Physique Contest
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