I’ve always wanted to write about this. Well, what I actually really want to do is some day have enough money that I can get a reasonably nice camera (not pro level of anything – I have no idea how photography works) to capture my adventures, and with it I can also take photos of dancers at intensives and auditions and conventions.

Because dance fashion is weird. And cool. I love it. I reject society’s standards of dress in favor of “studio chic” most of the time. The “off duty ballerina” is actually an accepted fashion aesthetic, by the way, but I sort of resent people for wearing it if they don’t work out. But I think everyone should work out. Because we are living humans and we are meant to move.

Moving on (…..ha)

When most people think of dance fashion, they think of the LEOTARD and the TIGHTS. Oh gawd. We either cringe or enjoy the nostalgia. Tutus are not worn in class, though they will be worn for rehearsals. I am not a ballet dancer, but I did put one on once. It was okay. 17683_10200785476626141_1300016195_n

I don’t see the leotard and tights combo very often in the “real world.” This includes Portland, ADF, Seattle, Washington DC, and anywhere else that I’m forgetting. Dancers have fully embraced the yoga pants era. I myself own eight or nine pairs of yoga pants that rarely see a yoga studio.

The real world dancers, even in ballet class, stick to yoga pants or joggers or jazz pants pants tucked into their shin-high socks. Sometimes you see a leotard beneath a tank top, or else worn as a top on it’s own, but the meager leotard and tights only combination seems outdated. Or maybe we all have PTSD from our training days. Overall, I don’t think this is a bad thing. I don’t deal with ballet companies, and a lot of floor work is difficult if you’re only wearing tights; something more substantial is usually required.

It might make the class a little less uptight, or it might feel a little less professional, but so much of that depends on the people in the class itself. Taking company class with NWDP is a very different experience than open evening ballet at Bodyvox.

I see a lot more adult beginners or fresh out of school dancers wearing the classic ballet uniform moreso than seasoned dancers. It is fun, in a way, to wear it, especially if you didn’t grow up dancing. Putting on the ballet uniform isn’t so different from putting on any other type of uniform – you change a little bit. For some people, it really does affect your mindset. I would feel a lot different, taking a release-type modern class in tights and a leotard instead of joggers and a tee shirt. My mind still associates the smell of Tresseme with ballet, after all those awful buns I had to put my hair in (before the pigtails, thank god for them). There’s nothing wrong with wearing this outfit, it’s just that most people choose not to.

You can see that my school, not a ballet school at all, was not big on the ballet uniform. Classes and semesters varied, though. If some of us decided to wear our leotards and tights, others (freshman and new trasfers) would generally follow the trend, just like we followed the trends of the older students when we were young. This semester was particularly yoga-pants-y though.

Photo credit: Belle Baggs
Photo credit: Belle Baggs

Legwarmers are still in, by the way. I don’t think they were ever “out” in the dance world.

Wearing leg warmers all the time obscures that juicy beveled ankle, and it can conceal a sickle (sickling is okay sometimes, though). Your ankles should be seen. But leg warmers are sexy and warm. I am forever confused by how Sarah Lamb (the Royal Ballet) wears hers. I imagine she starts with them at her ankles and shins and pushes them up – but why not just push them all of the way off then? Regardless, you can pry my leg warmers from my cold, dead ankles.

Ballet slippers aren’t particularly common out here, either. It’s important to keep in mind that every marley is a little bit different, and some are more slippery than others, and some are so sticky that maybe you’re just going to do single turns for the rest of the class because of the marley not because you forgot how to ballet. ahem. I haven’t worn ballet slippers since the fall of 2013, right before the neuromas in my feet formed. The pain has nearly disappeared KNOCK ON WOOD FOR ME and I’m going to order some with my next paycheck, but I’ll probably only end up wearing them to a few classes.

This is because the socks over pants look is just too good.

You can see me here in my favorite dance outfit. The sweater turned skirt.

I don’t remember who I saw doing this first, but I’ve got a major dance boner for it. My hips get sore pretty easily, so when I’m not wearing my overalls, I like to do this. I try to buy wide-necked sweaters and shirts so I can do this. It’s also helpful for when I’m not wearing a leotard and I don’t want my shirt riding up while I’m doing floorwork. It makes me feel a little better about my waist too (I know it’s there), and I like to pretend the knot in the front is like a joystick for my contractions.

One of my professors would do it a lot, too. The other one had an abdomen warmer – it was just a knitted tube of fabric that she wore with at the same placement as the sweater-skirt.

So, in short, leg warmers, socks, and cheap tee shirts turned skirts are so hot (so hot) right now…but they were also hot in the 80s, and they will probably continue to be so for the next several decades because dance “fashion” is more about utility than anything else. Leg warmers work, so dancers will continue to wear them.

Next time I’ll talk about knee pads and muscle tees (maybe. Or maybe something else).


I got all the actual nice photos from pinterest. I’ll add sources soon…they’re the kind of thing that pops up when you google “ballet” but I’m just going to publish this now because I keep putting it off.