You’ve picked your song, your choreography is nearly done, and you’re cleaning your routine up for competition… Now it’s time to order your dance costume. Choosing a dance costume is one of the most exciting parts about preparing a piece for performance, but there’s lots to consider. Here are some tips:

Fit & Flow of a Dance Costume

There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re going to fall out of your costume, or needing to adjust your top on stage. Though a complex wrap dress with mesh straps may draw your eye, make sure it is not at the cost of a wardrobe mishap. Feeling secure and without being restricted is essential and your comfort level will effect the way you dance and are perceived by audiences. Consider your body type, and what kind of construction will suit you and keep you feeling held. If possible, take it for a test drive! Make sure that no matter the jump or turn sequence or floorwork section, your potential costume will stay put. 

female ballerina posing outdoors in her dance costume

Style & Meaning 

Now, the style of dance you’re performing will have a big impact on your dance costume. Obviously, a hip-hop costume is going to look very different from a lyrical dance or modern dance costume. Lyrical tends to trend toward whites, blues, and purples, while jazz opts for slick blacks, hot pinks, and bright reds. Flip through current editions of dance costume catalogues to see what trends and colours are popular amongst different dance styles, and find what look you gravitate towards. 

Working with your choreographer, teacher, or studio director, determine the core message you’re tying to communicate with your piece. Is this routine about heartbreak? Loss? Survival? Miscommunication? Are you a creature of the lost lagoon? A burlesque dancer? A victim of tragedy? Distill your routine’s story down to key messaging, and select fabrics, colours, and fits that align. 

Competitive Edge

At the end of the day, your performance and technique is what matters, but why not line yourself up for success with a dance costume that stands out?  Going against trend, either with a super bold costume or a very understated one, can make you memorable to judges, audiences, and other competitors. Check in with your teachers on any competition guidelines and rules around costuming, so you’re not at risk of losing points for an “improper” costume. 

lyrical dancer wearing a red dance costume in a mountain desert


The devil’s in the details! Adding embellished tights, hair pieces, or custom shoes can really bring the vision together and help you sell your story. Collaborate with your teacher to decide on make-up and hair looks that coincide with the character, story, era, and mood you’re depicting. If you’re playing a Victorian orphan then a slick jazz high ponytail with a sparkly scrunchie might not be your best bet, and will distract and detract from your performance. 

Make a Dance Costume Inspo Board on Pinterest

In the weeks leading up to ordering your costume, doing research and searching online for dance costume inspiration is really rewarding. In order to organize your ideas and communicate your vision to others, making a Pinterest board is a great route. You can find images online as well as on Pinterest itself and Check out these examples:

lyrical jazz dance costume inspo pinterest board

screenshot dance costume inspo pinterest board gothic

In conclusion, choosing the perfect dance costume can be a tricky task, but it’s a key performance element and a powerful opportunity to further tell the story of your piece. When selecting a costume, it’s important to consider the style of dance, the messaging and mood of the character and story, the comfort and fit, and the overall vision. Keep in mind any restrictions set by your dance studio or the competition committee, so you know you’re being judged solely on your talent and not a rule-breaking costume. When possible, take your time! Consider all the factors and make an informed decision with the help of your teachers, choreographers, and friends. Remember, comfort is king! A costume that lets you step into the character you’re portraying with ease and confidence will shine through in your performance.