I’ve been there. You want to start ballet and you’re super excited until you realize you have no idea what you’re going to wear! Everything you see online or in the store looks a little plain, or you’re not 100% sure how to wear it. And if you’re going to be in skin-tight clothing, you definitely don’t want to look like an idiot or wear something only little kids would wear!
Adult ballet classes vary in strictness of uniform from “wear whatever you feel comfortable in” (like my studio) to “here’s the uniform, wear it.”. For your studio obviously it will depend on what’s written online, but the basics could just be a pair of leggings, ballet shoes, and a tight-fitting top. In ballet it’s important for the teacher to be able to see your lines, so refrain from wearing things that are too baggy.
If you’ve already gone for a shoe fitting before reading this article then you’ll have seen the wide variety of shoes that you can choose from. For soft shoes, there’s a ton of different options in material and construction.
Soft ballet shoes are made of either leather or canvas. Leather will be harder to work in, but will last longer and will work your feet better. Most of the pros and older students wear canvas shoes, and they don’t last as long but they’re cheaper and easier to work through.
Your shoes will either be split sole or full sole. Most of the pros wear split sole, and full sole shoes are usually just for baby beginners and those working on going up to pointe because they’re a bit harder to work through and make your feet stronger. You’ll probably find split sole shoes more comfortable.
Whatever shoes you purchase will probably come with either a canvas or elastic drawstring along the opening of the shoe. Unlike what fashion ballet flats will have you believe, you want to tighten this around your foot, double knot it, and cut off the excess rather than tying it in a bow and leaving it loose. A good rule of thumb for the length of the extra is to hold the extra elastic or canvas after you’ve knotted it down straight past your toes and cut off any excess past your toes. This way you can keep the extra inside the shoe without it bothering the tips of your toes.
Pointe Shoes in Adult Ballet
Until you’ve had many years of experience and your teacher gives you the “ok”, you won’t be dancing en pointe. I’ve seen so many adults in the classes I’ve been in who are en pointe but aren’t technically or physically sound enough, and they run the risk of hurting themselves. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t automatically mean you can dance en pointe. This may sound kinda harsh but really you can hurt yourself so easily if you don’t have strong technique or are in a class where you can learn the basics of pointe.
If you really want to have the feeling of pointe shoes and want to work towards being en pointe, ask your teacher if it’s ok if you wear demi pointe (also known as ‘soft block’) shoes in your regular classes. They’re made the same way as pointe shoes but without a fully hardened box (the hard end of the shoe where your toes go) or a strong shank (the undersole of the shoe that helps support you on pointe). You’ll get the feeling of pointe shoes without going on pointe (please don’t go on pointe in these shoes, it’s even worse than wearing pointe shoes if you’re not strong enough).
If your studio doesn’t have a uniform then you can wear whatever colour of leotard you want, which is awesome because there are so many pretty ones out there. As a rule of thumb, leotards should fit quite snugly and shouldn’t have any baggy bits or folds in the fabric if you’re standing up straight. If you’re dedicated about improving as a dancer, a simple leotard with a low back and spaghetti straps is the best because it allows the teacher to see your back and shoulders as well as your collarbone line, all of which are important to see if you’re holding your core and using your back muscles correctly.
What do you wear under a leotard?
Asking the real questions now. It’s mostly up to personal preference. I know some people who always wear some form of undergarment underneath their leo and others who feel uncomfortable wearing anything. Probably TMI but even when I was a size 6 and a D cup I didn’t wear a sports bra under the leotard because it was too many straps, although I did MacGyver a hidden bra for one of my exams. It’s really up to what feels comfortable for you, and I know brands like Capezio have leotards with bras built-in that might be better for the, ahem, more well endowed.
Usually for ballet you want to wear pink tights so that the instructor can see your lines, but sometimes black tights are acceptable. Black tights should be worn over the leotard, not under. Don’t ask why, it’s an unwritten rule. Stirrup tights should not be worn unless you’re in pointe shoes and it looks cool, but even then black tights over pointe shoes can look a little iffy unless you’ve got the style to pull it off.
Warmups & Skirts
If you feel more comfortable, most teachers wouldn’t object to you wearing a short skirt as long as it doesn’t obstruct them seeing your line. As for warmups, adults don’t really wear wrap sweaters or pink legwarmers as these are usually reserved for the baby ballet classes. If you want some sort of warmup, look for a knit crop top or a black shrug. Legwarmers can also be worn (although just like tights stirrup legwarmers are reserved for pointe shoes only), but remember that they do cut your line.
In conclusion, being comfortable is the most important facet to whatever you wear to your first ballet class. If you become more serious about ballet training, what you wear to class might change and evolve, which is totally ok. Have a question about what to wear to class? Feel free to ask me!