How should dancewear and ballet shoes fit?

How should your child’s dancewear and ballet shoes fit? And why does it matter?

We spoke to dance teacher Grace about getting the right fit and why it’s so important for your little dancers…

Dancewear is an integral part of every dancer’s life. From tutus to pointe shoes, leotards to ballet tights, these are all items that a dancer cannot be without.

A seasoned dance professional will almost instinctively know the correct fit for a particular item of dance clothing. For the dance beginner – and especially a parent trying to choose the correct size for their child’s dancewear – this can be quite a difficult task, however.

While parents may wish to buy dancewear that allows some growing room for a more cost-effective purchase, this is not advisable. Dance clothing is intended to be ‘fitted’, as part of the function of dancewear is to allow the shapes the dancer is making to be clearly seen.

There is a safety aspect, too. As a dance teacher myself, I need to be able to see any faults a young dancer is making so that these mistakes can be corrected. For example, if leotards are too big and baggy, the teacher cannot see any postural problems, such as an arched back, protruding ribcage, raised shoulders etc. If dance shoes are too large, the foot is unsupported and, once again, this cannot be seen and corrected by the teacher. (Overly-large shoes can be a trip hazard, too.) A student not receiving necessary corrections will not only affect their technique, but could also slow their progress as a dancer – even putting them at greater risk of injury.

In this blog, we will look at the correct fit for dancewear garments. We always advise that you check with your child’s dance teacher if you are uncertain of the fit of their uniform.

Leotards

Ballet leotards are designed to fit like a second skin and therefore shouldn’t have any excess material. They often contain Lycra in order to stretch with the movements of the body (this also means that leotards can last for quite a while for a growing child!).

A teacher cannot check for correct postural alignment if a student is wearing an ill-fitting leotard – and a young dancer could feel quite ‘sloppy’ dancing in a baggy leotard.

Below are two images showing different sizes of leotards on the same person. The first shows the correct fit, while the second is a leotard one size larger. I have used the Roch Valley Sleeveless ISTD leotard.

Correct size

Too large

I am often asked by parents if a leotard that fits like the one shown in the first image is too small. This is actually the correct size.

If a leotard is getting too small, it will often start to dig into the shoulders. (Incidentally it might be worth checking that the leotard is being pulled up enough on the hips, as this can cause the same problem.) If there is no baggy material and the seams are looking overly stretched on the sides, however, this is also a sign that it could be time to go up to the next size.

As you can see from the second image above, the leotard is already starting to go baggy on the front and the shoulders, just from one size up. This is incorrect. As the young dancer moves around, this excess material will be uncomfortable to work in.

Correct Size

Too large

As a comparison, here are the backs of the same leotards. Once again, the first leotard is the correct fit and the second leotard is too big. The easiest way to spot a leotard that is too big is to look at the back – excess material always appears around the waist, as you can see on the photos above.

Too large

From this side view, you can see the excess material wrinkling on this large leotard, where it should instead be fitting to the body.

At a time when children are rapidly outgrowing their day-to-day clothes, it’s understandable that parents would wish to buy a larger leotard in order to prevent having to buy another one in the near future. But please remember that leotards stretch more than you might imagine – and there are risks associated with dance clothing that is too large.

From personal experience, parents who have bought a leotard that is too large end up with a leotard that is looking worn and in need of replacing by the time the child has grown into it.

Cardigans

My first advice about crossover cardigans is usually to read the washing instructions carefully! Often, they do not tumble dry – just one cycle in the tumble dryer and even the most well-fitting cardigan will go completely out of shape.

Something that often surprises people about crossover cardigans is that they are in fact a 3/4 sleeve! This is in part because of the ribbing on the cuff, which can easily cause confusion. Nonetheless, the sleeve shouldn’t reach down to the wrist.

The measurement of the crossover cardigan should be taken from the body, so don’t worry if your child’s sleeve is shrinking up their arms!

Cardigans should be well fitted for the same reasons as leotards – a teacher needs to be able to correct movements of the body. I have used the Roch Valley cross over cardigan.

Above are three cardigans in ascending sizes; the first cardigan is correct, while the second and third are too large. A correctly-fitting crossover cardigan should be just tipping on to the hips, with the tie around the waist; 3/4 sleeve; and with no excess material, especially on the back.With the largest size of crossover cardigan (on the third image), you can clearly see that it is well over the dancer’s hips, longer than the wrist, and has a lot of excess material, which is incorrect.Below are the same three cardigans (in ascending sizes) but shown from the back. Much like a leotard, looking at the back of the garment is best for checking the correct size.

Correct size

 

Too large

 

Too large

In the image below, you can see that the middle size (which is just one size up on the dancer’s correct size) is already showing excess material.

Too large

Ballet Shoes – getting the correct fit
Ballet shoes come in a range of materials and fits. Each brand of dance shoe is slightly different; some brands suit, for example, a wider foot. Every dancer will develop a preference as they grow and develop, before eventually settling on their favoured brand and style. But until that time, your dance teacher is probably the best and most knowledgable person to recommend brands and styles of shoes for your child. I have used the Roch Valley Split Sole Leather Ballet Shoes.Ballet shoes are arguably the most important piece of dancewear to fit correctly. Much like outdoor shoes, unsuitable or poorly-fitting shoes can adversely affect your child’s foot health. Ballet shoes should be supportive and flattering to the dancer’s feet.

Correct size

Too small

Too large

Ballet shoes that are too small…… can be uncomfortable to wear, not to mention unhealthy for feet. The way to tell if a ballet shoe is too small is if the big toe joint is bent.When choosing ballet shoes, please be aware that ballet shoes aren’t necessarily the same size as outdoor shoe sizes. Different materials (satin, leather, canvas) can also result in a different size requirement, even for the same foot.

Too small

Ballet shoes that are too big…… can be dangerous, not only as a trip hazard, but also because the foot could be resting in unsupported positions (e.g. rolling). This is something which a teacher won’t be able to see and correct if there is excess material.

Too large

A ballet shoe shouldn’t need the drawstring to excessively pull in the shoe to fit the foot correctly. If this is the case, something is usually wrong with the fit of the shoe. If the shoe is correct in the length, but still needs to be drawn in excessively by the drawstring, it might be worthwhile investigating alternative brands or width fittings.A shoe that is too big will also give excess material at the toe when the foot is pointed. A teacher can quite easily think that a student isn’t pointing their feet as well as they could, when it is in fact that the shoe is ‘swallowing’ the foot. Below is a comparison of a foot pointed in a shoe that is the correct size (first image) and too large (second image).

Too large

Correct size

Ballet shoes that are the correct size…… should be comfortable. There shouldn’t be any excess material at the toe, and the big toe joint shouldn’t be bent.

Correct size

Over time, it will become easier for a dancer to find their preferred fit for both shoes and garments. But perhaps the best advice is to ask your dance teacher, who will be able to give recommendations that are tailored to your child.We hope this blog is helpful and gives you reassurance and guidance when purchasing from Dancewear Central. Don’t worry if your dancewear doesn’t fit perfectly first time, we’re happy to provide a size exchange with no additional postage costs to ensure your dancer is beautifully turned out for every class.

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