Ballet Dance Costumes

The main purpose of a ballet dance costume is to harmonise with the themes explored by the dance. This article gives some background information about the key elements that make up your ballet dance costume - ballet shoes, leotards, tutus and tights.

Perhaps the most important element of your ballet dance costume are your ballet shoes. If you're a beginner, you'll need a pair of soft ballet shoes which are available in leather, canvas or satin. Leather is slightly more expensive but recommended by most dancers due to the fact that it is harder wearing that satin or canvas. Ballet shoes are available with both a full sole and a split sole. Full sole ballet shoes have a sole which covers the length of the shoe from the ball of the foot to the heel to offer the required support for beginners. A split sole on the other hand has a break in the middle and is used by more advanced dancers who require greater flexibility of the foot.

If you're lucky enough to advance to dancing en pointe you will require a pair of pointe shoes. These allow ballet dancers to stand on the tips of their toes and move around the performance space as though weightless. Pointe shoes have a different structure to ballet shoes which allows the ballet dancer to achieve this effect. Instead of a soft leather upper and soft sole, they have a "box" and "shank". The box is a hard enclosed space located at the end of the shoe and designed to support the dancer's toes. The end of the box is flattened in order to enable the dancer to stand en pointe. The shank refers to a rigid piece of material which provides much needed support for the arch of the foot when en pointe.

The dance leotard is an equally important element of your ballet dance costume. This is because the garment is designed to be formfitting in order to allow for complete freedom of movement for the dancer. It also accentuates the dancer's physique and the architecture of their movement which is highly important for ballet, as well as many other styles of dance. An ill-fitting leotard will not achieve this so it's important for this piece of dancewear to be a good fit for the dancer. A leotard that is too small will be too tight between the legs and will pull under the arms. It's also likely that it will feel tight around the stomach and chest. A leotard that is too big will feel baggy in these areas.

The ballet tutu is the most recognisable and iconic of all types of dance costume. It's a skirt made of net or tulle which often has an attached bodice. There are several types of ballet tutu. The most iconic is the pancake shaped Classical Tutu which is made of very short stiff layers of netting that extend straight out from the hips in a pancake shape. A second type of Classical Tutu is bell shaped and has a short, stiff skirt made with layers of netting with a slight bell shape. It is usually longer than a pancake tutu though both usually have a fitted bodice. Another is the Romantic Tutu. This is a three quarter length bell shaped skirt made of tulle and is currently very popular. The hemline falls between the knee and ankle and is free flowing to emphasise lightness which suits the ethereal quality of romantic ballets.

Most of the time the ballet dance costume will be accompanied by a pair of ballet tights. These are available in mainly black, pink and various flesh colours. Ballet tights are mainly footed but transition tights are also available. These have a hole beneath the foot which allows the dancer to turn them into footless tights.

Click here for ballet dance costumes