What Dancers Want: Leggings for All Occasions

For competition wear, Belle Fulton prefers high-waisted black leggings, paired with black socks for tap or contemporary routines.

Out with the dance pants and in with the leggings—the go-to fashion trend for cooler days in the studio. We spoke with three high-school dancers about the fabrics, colors and styles they prefer not only for classes and conventions but also performances.

Belle Fulton

NS Dance Studio
Birmingham, AL

DRN: What legging styles are you noticing most in the classroom?

BF: At conventions, the style seems to be dark leggings with black socks and a bright flowy shirt or dance top. Leggings work better than shorts, because they prevent rug burns during floorwork, and if they go all the way down to the ankle, they create a clean line. Thicker leggings are preferable to ensure they’re not see-through—Jo + Jax is a brand that I see a lot, because of its fantastic quality and long-lasting fabric. I also notice mesh cutouts on the sides of the leggings, mesh waistbands and fun lace patterns.

DRN: Are there any fabrics or styles that you’ve found don’t work as well for dancing?

BF: Dancers don’t wear many cottons anymore because the fabric doesn’t last as long, and the leggings don’t breathe very well either. Nylon fabrics work much better. Since I’m a taller dancer, finding leggings that are long enough can be difficult. I also prefer high-waisted leggings with a tight elastic to prevent them from sliding down in the middle of a combination.

DRN: How do your leggings for performance differ from class leggings?

BF: Dark colors are still preferred for performances, because of the clean line they provide and how well they pair with different tops. For a jazz dance, we might pair black leggings with a black vest, or for contemporary, an oversized shirt with black socks. It’s a great change from the rhinestones and sparkles that are so common at competitions. I perform my tap solo in black leggings that look like they have shimmery paint strokes on them when they’re under the stage lights.

Lily Vaudrin

Studio C School of Dance
Canal Winchester, OH

DRN: What do you look for when buying a new legging?

LV: I love leggings that work both in and out of the classroom. Pockets are very fashionable, and I prefer a drawstring so that as the leggings stretch during class, I can tighten them when needed. A Lycra blend usually passes the stretch test to avoid being see-through, and I prefer to wear leggings all the way down to the ankle for floorwork.

DRN: When do you normally go shopping for new leggings?

LV: I wait until the weather turns cooler, closer to November, rather than during back-to-school season. I usually have five pairs of leggings in rotation for dance classes, and another 10 or 15 that are fashion leggings. I look for brands that can last for years, rather than wearing down after just a few washes.

DRN: What fashion trends do you see other teens wearing?

LV: At conventions, I notice a lot of patterned leggings to help dancers stand out in the crowd. I’ve also seen a lot of black leggings with a colored stripe down the side, or mesh cutouts with fun straps across the mesh to create different patterns.

Grace Perron

Dance Studio of Maine
Gorham, ME

DRN: What studio classes allow you to wear leggings?

GP: I usually wear leggings in all of my classes, particularly jazz and technique classes. For ballet, I like to wear thin leggings over my tights to help me warm up during pliés. But when I purchase leggings, I’m looking for styles that I can wear to both dance and school, so they need to be comfortable and fashionable. Middle-school dancers are usually still wearing booty shorts and sports bras in technique classes, but the high-school dancers gravitate more toward leggings.

DRN: What leggings do you wear for performances?

GP: The main style we wear leggings for is hip hop. Several times, we’ve worn a shiny black, full-length legging as part of our competitive wear, but sometimes those pants have difficulty staying up. I prefer high-waisted leggings with a tight elastic waist, and they shouldn’t be baggy at all, especially at the bottom. I recently found 7/8-length leggings that I prefer, since they fit my lower leg snugly without needing to be rolled up.

DRN: Are there any new trends that you’re seeing at conventions and competitions?

GP: Neutral colors, rather than patterns, are really trending, but they should have accents on them. For example, my favorite leggings to wear at conventions are a dark navy, but they have crisscross cutouts on the sides that help me stand out a bit. I also just bought a dark red pair to change up from my regular blacks and grays.

Amy Smith is a dance teacher and writer based in Greensboro, NC.


Photo by Donner Photographic, courtesy of Belle Fulton

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