The Ideal Wardrobe of a Ballet Dancer

by Danielle Hernandez on March 29, 2018

What ballet dancers wear to class and outside class and clothing styles that have been inspired by ballet dancewear.

Ballet dancers have a rich history of ballet dancewear through the ages.  Dancers merge personal expression with the physical form, and many celebrities and fashion icons like Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Natalie Portman, and Alexa Chung have left their mark on ballet fashion.

Ballet dancewear, in particular, is known for its iconic style of classic, formfitting clothes that are cut to flatter and reveal, allowing for sleek silhouettes and optimal movement without giving too much away.

Ballet dancewear is a perfect amalgamation of functional and whimsical clothing. From leotards to woolen knitwear, each piece serves a unique purpose and a specific role in a dancer's wardrobe.


Ballet Shoes


A Ballet Dancer's Wardrobe 

Tights are worn to permit a wide range of motion and accent a dancer's lines, while a leotard-sans-tights look shows off the powerful muscles in a dancer's legs in the studio.

A simple scoop-neck leotard highlights a ballerina's swanlike neck and elegant posture, both rooted in a powerful core. Long-sleeved leotards provide coverage and warmth for every port de bras. Simple chiffon wrap skirts offer a floaty, opaque layer over the hips and butt while displaying the legs.

Tutus and tulle practice skirts add structure and formality while bringing the focus to the lower legs. Cozy legwarmers and knit shorts keep the muscles warm and hip loose during rehearsals and classes. A simple ballet wrap sweater heats the back muscles but is easy to put on or take off without disturbing a dancer's makeup or hair before a performance or during a workout.

Dancewear For Ballet Class

Female ballet students are usually required to wear a leotard and tights in class. While some schools stipulate pink tights, others specify the colors of leotards for different levels or days of the week. Some schools might mandate a specific style of a leotard.

Some schools prescribe that their female students wear classical tutus for variation or pas de deux class.  This is to allow the ballet dancer and her partner can become familiar with the restrictions that the tutu places in the dance move.

In winter or in cold ballet studios, ballet dancers, especially professionals, wear different forms of workout clothing called warm-ups. The dancers could wear these in their pre-class routines when their muscles are not yet warmed up or between rehearsal or another class.

While many professionals wear warm-ups, they are usually not allowed in ballet school because wearing outfits that cover the dancer's body makes it more difficult for the teacher to see and correct the lines and positions a student is trying to make.

Of course, ballet dancers also wear ballet shoes, often called ballet slippers.  Most schools require girls to wear pink ballet shoes and boys to wear white or black to match the color of the tights. Pointe shoes are usually worn only by advanced dancers and mostly by female dancers as male dancers do not do much of pointe work.

Read more about maintenance of your Pointe Shoes

Wardrobe Staples Of a Ballet Dancer

The Wrap

A chiffon or georgette pull-on or wrap skirt and a pancake tutu with a mesh wrap top add to the feminity of the dancer. They are designed to draw attention to the lines of a dancer's legs and also provide coverage of the derrière, hips, and upper thighs.

The Tutu

There are several different tutu styles. A tutu is usually worn with a simple leotard or sports bra. If performing a classical role, she may be wearing a traditional or romantic tutu (longer, diaphanous, covers knees). Two other main types of tutus are the pancake (or classic), and powder puff.

There are also tutu dresses which are costumes consisting of a camisole top and a tulle skirt. In rehearsals, a practice tutu will be used, which is the same shape/size as the real deal. In a performance tutu, the bodice is usually sewn into the basque; there is an upper basque and a lower basque. A practice tutu is just the lower basque.

The Leotard

A leotard is a staple of a dancer's wardrobe, and they are offered in a mindboggling selection of styles, fabrics, and colors. During performances, seamed tights are typically worn over the entire foot and inside of pointe shoes or ballet slippers.

A halter-neck leotard is ideal for cardio workouts, showing off back muscles and the beautiful posture while keeping the arms and shoulders cool. A leotard with a mesh provides breathability, and those with lace and embellishments showcase refined aesthetics combined with functionality.

In winter, full sleeved leotards provide the much-desired warmth and coverage. During company classes, some dancers wear shorts under their leotards as a reflection of their styles.

Men and boys usually wear plain white t-shirts, such as Hanes or Fruit of the Loom as these are suitable for dance classes. Getting a tighter fit than a looser one will ensure the movements are clearly defined. Tucking a shirt into the waistband of your dance belt will be easier with a fitted t-shirt.


The Tights

Tights come in footed, footless and convertible styles. For an authentic pro look, wear black or pink seamed ballet tights over the leotards.

When the tights are pulled down over the heel of the shoe, it lengthens the line of the leg. Another cut along the heel creates a stirrup that provides better traction on slippery dance studio floor while also giving the same visual impact of clean lines.

Mesh tights are also a popular choice. Modern tights have excellent features such as moisture wicking property and spandex to ensure they stay in place.

Men’s tights are thicker with the default color being black for class or rehearsals. However, many different colors of tights are used for performances. In addition to the tights, male ballet dancers wear an extremely piece of attire called the dance belt. This is not really a belt but is a sturdy thing that is worn beneath the tights and is intended to keep the definition of the crotch hidden.

Off-Duty Styling Tips

Given a week packed with up to 7 performances and 6-hour day rehearsals, often, ballet dancers' commuting outfits they will only see the light of day for a few minutes. So how do they resist from feeling discouraged and showcase their unique style?

Some opt for bright pops of color, bold accessories, and layers, all of which are not usually seen in a ballet studio. Other dancers wear wedges and refrain from the usual flats or pointe shoes thus giving their calves a welcome break.  Some dancers wear wardrobe pieces that are timeless in silhouette and then add back some whimsical element.

In cold weather, some ballet dancers transform in-studio dancewear into an out of studio look by slipping on a blazer or cozy chunky sweater over tights or hot pants as they run out of the barre or dance studio. Pairing the outfit with some incredible looking mid-calf boot and they ooze style and confidence.


Offstage Styles Inspired by Ballet Wear

Dancers are known to spend most of their lives in tights and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, meaning you could consider ballet dancers the pioneer of the athleisure trend. Here are some best off-stage styles that have been inspired by the ballet dancewear

The Off-The-Shoulder Top

A ballerina staple, these tops give your shoulders a chance to breathe and are undoubtedly chic. Wear them on their own or use it as a layer over a tank top. Invest in styles that are both loose and form-fitting.

The Legwarmers

These knit dance must-haves can be worn layered over your bottoms or alone as a compromise between wearing tights and going bare-legged in between seasons. We love them in ballet pink and neutrals

The Leggings

When it comes to leggings, it's all about the styling and the one tried-and-true rule to follow when you wear leggings; always wear a long top that covers the behind.

The Bodysuit

Inspired by the leotards, bodysuits are less maintenance than regular tops. Pair them with high-waist trousers or a pencil skirt for a smooth, sleek look because these one-pieces fit like a glove!

The Wrap Top

Ballet dancers wear ballet sweaters, a simple wrap style that rests just above the hips keeping the dancer's back and arms warm. A cropped wrap top is just that and makes for a superb transitional piece of clothing. Wear it with a contrasting color camisole or in a complementary color palette.


The Ballet Slippers

Ballet slippers are the ultimate in comfort and highly popular with flat shoes' enthusiasts or just about anyone who wants to give their heels a break. Highly versatile, slip on a pair to exude quiet elegance.

In the past few years, fashion houses are designing red carpet looks in luxurious styles and flattering cuts that appeal to not just prima ballerinas but to anyone who is interested in ballet 'couture'.

Take a leaf or two out of the ballet wardrobe essentials and carve a look that is distinctly you, no matter whether you are a ballet dancer or not! If you would like help picking out a selection that meets your individual needs, contact us or meet us at the store, we would love to help you!




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