Starting ballet as an adult can be both exciting and intimidating. It requires the proper attire to help you perform at your best and feel confident. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced dancer, you need to dress for comfort, support, and to suit your body shape. Here are some tips on how to dress to become your own best ballet dancer.
The beauty of being an adult dancer is that there are not as many strict uniform rules as for student dancers, so like the professional ballet dancers in a company, you are free to express yourself and show your style.
Image: Mia in ALINA SPORT LEOTARD in OBSIDIAN, BODY GLOSS TIGHTS in TAFFY and THE BALLERINA WRAP in MEDORA. Mia in ALINA SPORT LEOTARD in OBSIDIAN, with BODY GLOSS TIGHTS in TAFFY.
Ballet flats are non-negotiable, although you may be allowed to wear socks for your first try-out class. Ballet shoes come in either leather or canvas (with full soles or split soles) and should be well-fitted to ensure a secure fit. Your feet will look better in split sole shoes, but full sole shoes will help make your feet stronger when performing the exercises. Pointe shoes can only be worn after training for several years and after proper assessment from your teacher and/or dance physio/specialist. Choose pale pink if you plan to wear footed tights, or choose a skin tone colour if you plan to wear your shoes without footed tights.
TIP: Don’t wear pink or tan ballet shoes with black footed tights. It doesn’t look good and is a distracting line – wear pink/nude ballet tights. If you want to wear black tights, roll them up to the ankle to pair with pink/nude ballet flats. Use only elastics on your ballet flats, not ribbons (ribbons are for pointe shoes).
Image: Mia in EVA LEOTARD in MOONSTONE BLOOM.
Tights are a necessary component of ballet attire, as they help to elongate the leg line and provide support for the muscles. There are very light, sheer versions to show off muscles, as well as heavier compression tights to support muscles and offer more coverage). Fleshy, pink-toned tights are the most common choice for ballet class, but black tights are also often worn. Convertible tights are the most popular choice so they can be worn over the feet in ballet shoes for a long line, or rolled up to the ankle if you prefer your feet bare in shoes.
Heavier/opaque leggings are also appropriate, just make sure they have a lot of stretch for full unrestricted movement.
TIP: Wear tights over your leotard - this gives you a nice long leg line, it’s more comfortable, easier to use the bathroom and it’s the pro dancer look (students always wear their tights under leotards, so it’s the more ‘gown up’ way).
Image - Mia in ESTELLA LEOTARD in PRUSSIAN BLUE BLEU NOIRE VELVET, with NATALIA SKIRT in ONYX. Mia in EVA LEOTARD in PRUSSIAN BLUE NOIRE VELVET, with GALINA REHEARSAL SKIRT in LAVENDER MIST and LUXE LEG WARMERS in NIXIE.
Leotards are the standard attire for ballet class, and are available in a range of styles, colours, and fashion options. Choose one to suit your body shape and accentuate your best features. The fabric should be firm and supportive with full stretch, so movement is easy and comfort guaranteed. Your leotard needs to fit you well so that you are not constantly adjusting yourself in class.
TIP: Start with simple shapes and darker colours until you feel confident in what looks good on you – all that time standing in front of a mirror in ballet class will give you a clear view of your best lines and what shapes flatter you best.
Image - Mia in ESTELLA LEOTARD in PRUSSIAN BLUE BLEU NOIRE VELVET, with SAUNA JUMPSUIT in CARBON. Mia in EVA LEOTARD in PRUSSIAN BLUE NOIRE VELVET, with GALINA REHEARSAL SKIRT in LAVENDER MIST and LUXE LEG WARMERS in NIXIE.
All dancers have warm-up pants, shorts, jumpsuits and rompers in sauna or ripstop fabrics. These help warm up the muscles quickly during stretching, and to prevent cramps. These are usually worn at the barre, and then removed before centre. They also look stylish when travelling to and from the studio.
Leg Warmers – Dancers should have a pair of leg warmers to keep calves and ankles super warm. Choose short ones for calves, or extra-long ones to warm up the thighs as well.
TIP: Wear just one leg warmer or a rolled version over a body part that is sore (i.e. the calf, the thigh, knee) to keep it extra warm during class. Leg warmers with stripes are the ‘ballet fashion forward’ look!
Image: Mia in NATALIA SKIRT in ONYX. Mia in AMELIA LEOTARD in BALTIC BLUE TURKISH ROSE, and MIKA RUCHED SKIRT in CLOUD.
Skirts are optional but professional ballet dancers often choose to wear a skirt over their leotard for a more feminine look, especially during centre practice. The skirt should be simple and not too voluminous, so as not to restrict movement or get in the way during class. Short skirts show off the legs and longer skirts are lengthening and elegant – there are options to suit all body shapes. Put your skirt on after barre when removing your warm-ups.
TIP: Pro ballerinas often don’t match skirt to leotard colour – this avoids the student uniform look. You can have fun with your skirt colours and pattern choices to express your style.
Image - Minee with SOFIA LONG SLEEVE LEOTARD in OBSIDIAN STARLIGHT, and RANIA WRAP SKIRT in FLOWER CHILD. Minee with POLINA VELVET LEOTARD in OBSIDIAN NOIRE VELVET.
Hair should be neatly styled and away from the face to prevent it from getting in the way during class. A bun is the most common hairstyle for ballet, but braids or ponytails are also acceptable.
TIP: A plait twisted into a low bun looks neat and elegant, with no need for old fashioned hair nets.
Image - Mia in POLINA VELVET LEOTARD in DOVETAIL MAPLE. Mia in SOFIA LEOTARD in DOVETAIL NOUGAT, with GALINA REHEARSAL SKIRT in PRALINE and SHORT LEG WARMERS in ANGEL.
Jewellery should be kept to a minimum or not worn at all, as it can get in the way or distract from the movement. Professional ballet dancers often avoid wearing anything that is noisy or will be distracting during class.
TIP: Tiny drop earrings are a dancer favourite and look very pretty with a bun.
True ballet class fashion is beautiful and exciting - it's what the professional dancers are wearing in class and rehearsal. It is quite different from what the fashion industry promotes as ‘ballet fashion’ or ‘ballet core’.