It’s safe to say that dancing has been following the development of mankind throughout history, growing with it side by side. The need to express ourselves has always been around, and in times when language wasn’t developed yet, dancing was used as a way of communicating and bonding with each other. Just as dance has followed mankind, fashion has followed dance. This is especially true when it comes to ballet. A detailed, appropriate, and most of all, comfortable outfit when performing or practising is of utmost importance. Throughout the years, ballet dancewear has developed and grown, but it has always kept some key elements. Leotards are one such item.
A leotard is a ballet dancer’s second skin, a snug outfit that allows the free-flow of movement and accentuates it. Able to be paired with other dancewear items, they are the base upon which the perfect outfit is formed. No matter if you’re an experienced ballerina or a fresh one preparing for your first audition, a good leotard definitely has a place in your wardrobe.
There are a few things you need to pay attention to when shopping for leotards for women and girls specifically. They need to provide high breathability and freedom of movement, both extremely significant when it comes to the delicate nature of ballet. But design is also important since you want to give the routine that little extra boost with the right style, colour, detailing, and more. That said, let’s explore the different styles of leotards available nowadays, the features that are trending, and what they’re best for.
Camisole or spaghetti-strap leotards are the ones most people think of when balletwear comes up. Often shown in movies as the ultimate ballet outfit, they find use on stage as much as they do in the studio.
Leaving the arms bare, camisole leotards accentuate the dancer’s movement. Also exposing the neckline, these leotards are so elegant! No wonder they’re seen as a symbol of ballet. Perfect as a base upon which items like tights and skirts can be added, they’re a wonderful, versatile option every ballet dancer should own.
Still, their universality doesn’t mean they’re the plain Jane of the bunch. On the contrary, camis come beautifully detailed, in various colours and styles which you can choose from. They can feature beautifully designed backs, mesh detailing throughout, accented decolletages, lacy accents, dual straps, and more. They can also come in different materials such as cotton, velvet, specially-designed fabrics optimised for peak performance, and more.
High Neck Leotards
A step up in detail from the basic cami, high neck (or turtleneck) ballet leotards leave the hands bare while closing up the neckline, but can feature cap-sleeves or even long sleeves if need be. Perfect leotards for women and girls alike, they elongate the neck, giving off an elegant and refined impression, adding to the overall look of delicateness ballerinas so often display.
Though not your go-to leotard for practising, high neck leotards do amazingly well for stage performances. They hug the whole upper-body, defining and emphasising its features, from neck to waist and hips. For ballerinas who need a bit more support in the chest area without having to compromise anything else, these leotards are a wise choice.
Just as camis, high necks can have minimal or bolder “decor”. An open back is one such detail that’s often used to help accentuate the figure even further and add to the elegance of the look. Mesh or lace additions can also be found. When made as leotards for girls, they can feature sequins as part of the design.
Cold weather can affect even the most dedicated dancers. That’s why we have sleeved leotards! Either with short, t-shirt-like sleeves or long sleeves, they provide comfort and warmth when the weather shows a mean streak.
Still, the purpose of sleeved leotards doesn’t begin and end with warmth. The sleeves, especially when they’re long, use that fabric to draw attention to the arms of the dancer, creating an illusion of longer, gracefully flowing arms. They are great when showing off technique is important as they lead the eye toward the positions of the arms.
Some ballerinas may find short-sleeved leotards a bit bothersome, as the sleeves may feel like they’re constricting and limiting the arms. Still, they’re one of the basic, ever-stylish leotard designs for a reason, they just need a bit of adjusting to.
Sleeved leotards are probably the ones that can hold the most decorative touches out of all. The sleeves themselves are often made out of mesh or lace, rendering them completely comfortable even when it’s warm, as these materials provide good ventilation. Paired with a fabric that lets the rest of the body breathe, they’re a winning combination for many ballerinas, young and senior.
A Word on Necklines and Back Designs
There’s a term in the English language, a ballerina neckline. What it refers to is that classic, oval-shaped cut on a garment that shows off the collarbone, sometimes called a scoop. It’s a standard neckline cut and can be found across various leotard designs.
Then we have a more squared version of the scoop, usually found in sleeved leotards, as they have the additional material around to construct the look.
Following up, the V neck is pretty self-explanatory – it’s when the neckline forms the shape of the letter V, going down from the shoulders to the bust in a pointed manner.
There is also a straighter neckline cut which flows straight across one shoulder to the other. Extremely elegant and defined, it’s a neckline cut that always brings a little extra to the outfit.
That leaves us with the sweetheart cut, which can be found in all dance leotard styles. The sweetheart cut means that the leotard is cut in a heart-shape at the bust. It can be featured in camisole leotards, sleeved and high neck ones alike, with ruffling added to the centre sometimes to add a little detail. When it’s designed into a sleeved leotard, it can stand alone, or find itself below a meshed, classic neckline for effect.
Back designs follow the necklines closely, so there are the classic scoop, V, and square backlines. Things get more interesting when cutouts are implemented, when the backline plunges deeply down, or when there’s a series of intertwined straps creating an impressive, net-like design.
To Sum Up
Next time you explore the range of leotards for sale, remember that comfort comes first and everything else follows. No matter how beautiful a leotard is, if the ballerina doesn’t feel herself in it – it’s a definitive no-go. Pay attention to what’s trendy and what’s needed and comfortable, and find that perfect balance. Make sure to get multiple leotards so you have a fresh one always at the ready. Oh, and enjoy your dancing!