Ballroom shoes, clothing and costume accessories can be great items to add
to your store if you’re near a ballroom hub, like New York City or Utah, or if you have college or high school ballroom clubs in your area. We spoke with a college student and ballroom professionals to hear what they look for.
Professional 10-Dancer, Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Alumna
DRN: What shoes do you need each year?
KT: I dance both Latin and Standard styles, so for each, I have a competition pair, a backup pair and two pairs of practice shoes that I rotate through. The satin on the inside edge of the shoe wears down first, but some with suede heels last a lot longer. Standard shoes look dirtier faster, from brushing up against the Vaseline on the men’s shoes. I typically need new shoes four times a year.
DRN: What shoes and clothes do you normally wear for practice?
KT: I actually really enjoy wearing a men’s practice shoe because it’s a flexible sole. But a full shank is great support when I teach. Due to my ballet background, I like to wear leotards in rehearsals. On the bottom, I prefer something with movement—fringe practice skirts, which are tighter-fitting toward the hips and thighs, or a circular or asymmetrical skirt.
DRN: What ballroom accessories would you like dance retailers to carry?
KT: Good-quality shoe brushes with covers are very important, shoe bags for each pair of shoes, heel guards for each model of shoe. Bra cups with practice dresses, so that I can sew them in myself. And we often need costume tape for competitions. A TheraBand kit, massage balls and foam rollers help work out sore muscles.
Professional 10-Dancer, Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Alumnus
DRN: What clothes do you like to wear for practice and teaching?
CT: Sometimes, we wear our actual competition pants, but otherwise, I need pants that allow me to sweat a lot. I like to wear Latin pants with belt loops and pockets, and I also own about 10 pairs of sweatpants. They should be full around the leg, not tight and skinny, and they should be a little bit longer than usual so they skim the floor when I’m in my one-inch Latin heel. Cardigans are also very popular with male Latin dancers because we can wear one to get our body temperature very warm, then wrap it around the waist as a stylistic element. Otherwise, I wear a baggy, sweat-wicking shirt.
DRN: How many shoes do you rotate through in a year?
CT: I usually buy one of each style, Latin and Standard, to last me a year. My old shoes then go into rotation as practice shoes. You’ll also need shoe polish for your Latin shoes to buff them up before competition, and Vaseline for your Standard shoes, since they’re a patent leather that will get sticky and ruined if you don’t oil them.
DRN: What else would you like to see more of in dance stores?
CT: Accessories for tail suits are always getting lost and would be great to have available in stores. These would include cuff links, shirt studs and pocket squares. We also need white bow ties and collars. I don’t ever recommend buying a cloth collar, since they’re so hard to clean makeup off of—plastic are easier. The white stretch shirt to wear underneath the tail suit can also be difficult to find, so having more of those available would be nice.
Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company
DRN: As a college dancer, what practice clothes do you look for in dance stores?
KC: I definitely splurge on my leggings, which are a really thick, high-quality stretch material in fun designs. I have a motorcycle-style legging with black mesh cutouts that I love, and they’re super-soft, stay in place and are not sheer at all. I also have leotards and tank tops with strappy backs, which I love to wear for Latin style, and several practice skirts. For Latin, I look for either fringe or asymmetrical. For Standard and Smooth, I love skirts that flare out at the bottom with lots of volume. Black is my go-to color for clothes, but reds are also great, and I would be open to more fun patterns!
DRN: What shoes do you prefer to wear in performance and practice?
KC: Last year, I started off in Very Fine Shoes, which work well for beginners. But when I started dancing 20 hours a week, the shoes were wearing out too quickly. I’ve started to switch to AIDA shoes, which are more expensive but last longer and have great support. My practice shoes work for either Standard or Latin styles, and they’re black leather with a thicker 1 1/2-inch heel. However, if I can, I try to practice Standard in a full-shank shoe and Latin in a split-sole for better flexibility. When my feet are really dead at the end of a practice, I might switch over to a dance sneaker or jazz shoes.
DRN: What do you need for your collegiate competitions?
KC: My first semester of competing was at Silver Level, so I wore nice practice wear and as much jewelry as possible. Rhinestone bracelets are very popular, since every arm movement gets that extra sparkle, but rhinestone necklaces, earrings, arm bands and hairpieces are also extremely popular. There are no restrictions on jewelry at the collegiate level, and it’s all very over-the-top.
Amy Smith is a dance teacher and writer in Greensboro, NC.
Photo by Cortney Haymond