Tights, Leotards,

Everything in a good ballet studio exists for a reason and a purpose, including the shoes & dance wear

The Ballet Foot Moves

So Must The Shoe

About Ballet Slippers
The amazing design of Ballet Slippers is over looked for so many have their sights set on Pointe Shoes. The ballet slipper, fits like a glove, molds to the shape of the owner's unique foot, yet twists and moves and bends without a pinch. It is a brake, allowing the dancer to land from any angle without skidding. At the same time it is as smooth as glass, offering little resistance when the dancer turns several revolutions
No Growing Room Needed
The ballet slipper should be comfortably snug. Too much space allows the foot to slip within the shoe - something that is not good.  Ballet Slippers stretch and form to the foot. Allowing growing room turns to slop. In addition, the shoe too large may place the end of the sole in an uncomfortable place. Besides, compared to other shoes, ballet slippers are reasonably priced.

About Dance Wear

Would you wear a football helmet to play basketball?  Would you wear basketball shorts to go snow skiing? So why wear gymnastic clothing for a ballet class?

Unique styles of clothing develop through attempts to improve performance and to meet the unique needs of the selected activity. Dance wear has evolved to meet its unique needs, just like football, basketball, ... In the early 1900's dance wear looked like swim wear, and swim wear looked more like a dress with bloomers. Both swim wear and dance wear evolved into body hugging shorts and top. Then swimming got the bathing suit and dancing got the leotard. But dance has many forms, each with its own unique needs.  Dance studio wear is not a fashion statement. Dance gear is selected to improve performance. Even hair style effects performance. Hair is not warn up so a student can look like a ballet dancers. A student cannot dance like a ballet dancer unless the hair is out of the eyes for clear sighting (spotting) while turning.

Modern Dance 
includes falls (from standing to lying on the floor.) Obviously a dancer would get tangled up doing this in a traditional ballet skirt. Falls, often broken with an arm sliding on the floor, make long sleeves appealing. Tights without feet were developed for Modern Dance since it is performed barefoot. Then the desire to get rid of bulky layers led to joining the leotard and tights into the unitard.

 is a form of movement that generates a lot of body heat. Fabrics are designed to release body heat.  As aerobics became fashionable, dance wear became high fashion. Multi-colors, patterns, you name it and a leotard became created in it. Great fun for the gym, but not automatically appropriate in the dance studio.

needed shoes of incredible specialization. Ballet is circuit training. Ballet classes consist of repeating methodical exercise followed by rest followed by exercise followed by rest, followed by exercise... The ballet dancer must wear clothing that is not too hot during exercise but prevents too much cool down during rests.  For this reason, aerobic gear may not be the best choice.  Ballet wear must be also be extremely flexible and stretch.  Ballet (before cross-pollinating with modern dance) was performed mostly in standing position. Without concern for falls, ballet evolved into sleeves of various lengths.

Unique to ballet is the barre work where cold bodies are gradually warmed. This has resulted in the development of over wear. "Warm-ups" are sweaters, tights, leg & arm warmers to be worn over regular dance wear until the body has been warmed up. They are also used to keep the body warm during extended rest periods such as between class and rehearsal.

The signature of ballet, the tutu evolved because there is nothing like a guy trying to grab gal before her body  hits the floor and coming up with only a handful of skirt. But, tutu's are not class wear.  They are costumes for stage wear.  Class wear consists of tights and leotards.
1: If the shoe wears out on the instep side of the sole (the big toe side) but not on the outer side (little toe side) the dancer is rolling in. This is often a result of attempting to get the turnout from the feet rather than the hips. This risks injuries to ankles and knees, and the dancer will find movement very awkward.
2: If wear marks wrap the little toe the dancer is cycling, brushing the little toe on the floor when pointing it to the front. Another ungood thing to do. The foot should always rotate outward not inward.
3: If the dancer is properly aligned the dirt, scuff marks, wear marks will be in a straight line down the sole of the shoe, from toe to heel.

Tights and Leotards
If your leotard is not wet at end of class, you need to work harder.  While most parents are constantly shouting, "Keep your cloths clean!" tights need to get dirty. With proper execution of steps, the working foot touches the supporting leg from arch to knee. There should be dirt lines on the inside of ankles and knees, lines from inside arch to ankle to inside knee.  Check it out.  If there are no marks, or marks are too low, too high, make adjustments in your technique.  If tights are dirty from ankle to knee, the entire foot is being propped against the supporting leg - a no no.  There should just be a toe sized mark.

Feedback from

Dirty Dance Wear


Once upon a time, a ballet dancer was a ballet dancer. A modern dancer was a modern dancer. A tap dancer was a tap dancer. A jazz dancer was a jazz dancer. Now a dancer may take a class in each, one right after the other. The dance wear industry has risen to the challenge with "convertible tights."  They are full footed tights with a hole in the bottom of the arch. Come from ballet, pull the toes through the hole, roll up a little and wellah - footless for the next class without having to change clothing.

Cleaning Tights



Tights and Leotards can be cleaned by hand or delicate wash cycle.  Drip dry.  The 1st time out of the dryer, they will look ok.  About the 6th time they come out of the dryer you will notice they have lost their shape.
Ballet tights are different from panty hose. The fabric has more stretch and warmth. Ballet tights are also thicker and more opaque.
Footed or Full Foot
Extend over the entire foot, like panty hose.  They will last longer if you pull the fabric back toward the toes while putting them on.
are dance tights designed for Modern Dance, Jazz, and other forms of movement. They are made of the same fabric as footed tights, so they keep muscles warm and stretch well.
Keep a close watch on the wear pattern of ballet shoes. It offers valuable feedback.
3 Basic Style Choices
Beware of (X)
(F) and (X) are "full sole" ballet shoes but only one is zandance recommended. The best "full sole" for ballet is actually shorter than full length, stopping at the end of the ball of the foot, allowing the toes to grip the floor as needed. There are many (X) extended full shoes on the market and should be avoided. They allow the foot to slip within the shoe, reduce balance by limiting toe movement. The (F) full sole is the traditional ballet shoe that has graced feet for decades with very little change because it works well.

The third choice is the (S) split sole.  There is no sole under the arch.  The dancer connects to the floor with the toes, ball of foot and heel, not the space under the arch.  No sole under the arch allows free movement and improves the view of the arch. 

WHICH IS BEST? Full or Split?
The “full sole” (X) extend almost the full length of the foot is not recommended. Trying to dance in them is a bit like trying to thread a needle with work gloves on. It can be done, but why try? The standard "full sole" (F) that's closer to a 3/4 sole is a workable shoe and a favorite for many for years.

The  (S) “split sole” follows the shape of the arch better than the full sole. This improves the artistic lines being drawn in space and that’s what ballet is all about. It is most shaped like the foot, allowing the shoe to move with the foot, improving line and improving the instructor's ability to see the foot work. Some instructors don't like them insisting that a full sole cause the foot to work harder. I can't see it, nor have I found any research to support this claim. The ballet slipper, full or split, is very light weight and flexible. It hardly seems either would offer enough resistance to strengthen a foot. When I used full sole shoes, I felt like my foot slipped inside of the shoe during a tondu. I don't get that feeling with a split sole.
Best Time for Dancing
Updated: Feb. 21, 2021
© = R. W. Faulkner