For a long time, dancewear did not offer the freedom of movement that each dance form required. There was a time before the leotard and the ballet tutu were commonplace, but dancewear solutions have come a long way over time through trial and error. Now, there’s dance clothing to solve every need.
The leotard is a staple piece of dancewear, but that wasn’t always the case. The 19th century French acrobat Jules Léotard designed a form-fitting, one-piece garment for unrestricted movement while also showing off his physique.
Léotard called it the maillot, and it only became known as the leotard long after his death in 1870. This first iteration of the leotard was only intended to be worn by men, particularly strongmen and circus performers. It took around a hundred years before leotards became popular in dance studios in the 1970s.
The unitard is another example of dancewear solutions evolving with the times. The difference between a unitard and a leotard is that a unitard covers the legs, is more of a unisex style while leotards are more commonly seen on females, and stops at the midcalf, thigh, ankle, or have stirrups. In the early 1900s, dancers and models wore flesh-coloured unitards to simulate nudity. These early unitards covered the whole body, except the hands and face. Today, they’re often used to simulate bare skin for performances.
Dance Knee Pads and Gel Knee Pads
Dancers need their knees (actually, we all do) so knee pads are one of the dance solutions that just makes sense. There is only a thin layer of skin and muscle over the kneecap (patella), so on its own it doesn’t have much protection. The invention of the dance knee pad solves this problem. Knee pads can give a dancer additional confidence to push past their comfort zone and attempt movements they find intimidating. They can then grow as a dancer. Products like Bunheads Gel Knee Pads are designed specifically for dancers to add protection with minimal bulk.
The fishnet is a simple but effective innovation. While tights aren’t the most comfortable thing to wear, in fishnet your legs can breathe a little more. The gaps in the tights also allow your natural skin tone to come through, so gives the impression that you could be bare legged without having to be.
Stirrup leggings originally started out as jodhpurs for horse riders, with the stirrup—the elastic part around the foot—being used to keep the leggings in place within the rider’s boots. They then went on to be used by dancers and other performers, but also become a staple of 80s fashion. For dancing, they leave your forefoot and heel for contemporary or lyrical dances where you’re barefoot.
Foot undies, also known as footies or paws, add support, prevent slipping or friction on the ball of a dancer’s foot, and some separate the big toe for additional comfort and range of motion. Foot undies are one of those dancewear solutions that are simple but effective, allowing for a “spin spot” on the ball of the foot while maintaining the barefoot look.
As you can see, dancewear continues to innovate, and we at the Dance Store are always looking out for the next piece of clothing or apparatus to take a dancer to the next level. In the meantime, we hope this gives you an idea of some of the cool little dancewear solutions that are available for your comfort, style and protection when dancing.