What Dancers Want: What’s Trending in Leotards and Skirts

Low-back and cutout leotards are extremely popular with both professional and pre-professional ballerinas, as seen here on Mercyhurst dancer Audrey Davison.

Leotard fashions are constantly evolving, with new fabrics, cuts and embellishments—although classic black will never go out of style. We spoke with three ballerinas about what’s trending in fashion leos, as well as what skirts they love to wear for classes and rehearsals.

Audrey Davison

Senior Dance Major at
Mercyhurst University

DRN: As a college dancer, what fashions do you notice trending with ballet majors?

AD: We still have to stick to a dress code for classes and summer intensives, so it’s important to have your staple black leotards. I dress them up with a color trim or some lace, and I also love leotards with a low back, or with mesh cutouts in the sides or back. Abigail Mentzer skirts are really popular among both college dancers and professionals—they don’t slide around, and they give you a fantastic leg line.

DRN: What do you prefer to wear when you can break away from the basic black?

AD: I love buying leotards that I can personalize to my color and cut preferences, so Yumiko and Elevé Dancewear are my favorites. I customize my leotards to have a higher leg cut, since I’m a shorter dancer, and I also love to mix and match different colors. One of my favorite leotards is actually full velvet in a light icy-blue color, which helps me stand out in classes.

DRN: How does dancewear vary from college to professional dancers?

AD: Professional dancers tend to like bolder styles—more cutouts, straps and fun colors. They also might wear different-length skirts, such as a full knee-length skirt, in class. No matter your level, floral patterns and darker jewel tones are popular right now.

Terez Dean

Senior Member of Smuin
Contemporary American Ballet

DRN: How often do you see leotard fashion trends changing throughout the year?

TD: Every three to six months I’m seeing a new trend in the professional world. Dance and fashion are really starting to go hand in hand, and more feminine, stylish leotards are now on the market. Recently, ombrés have been really in for both leotards and skirts because they give your body more dimension. Professionals are also starting to wear longer mesh skirts that are cut right below the knee to allow more fullness in the skirt when turning.

DRN: What attracts you to a new leotard?

TD: I’m usually scouting for new leotards around the holidays and in the summer. I love color blocking, where you might have a darker color on top, a pattern on the bottom and then a mesh back—anything that shows creativity and individuality. But the cut of the leg is also extremely important at the professional level, so I need a leotard that is cut high above the hip bone in the front but provides full coverage in the bottom. For the neckline, I like to have an open chest, and loose-fitting short sleeves are also a personal preference.

DRN: Are there any leotard styles or fabrics that you have found don’t work for you?

TD: I don’t often buy cotton leotards because of how much they show your sweat—a Lycra blend is best. For partnering, I try not to wear any backs that are super-low-cut, because a hand might slip into the leotard. I also avoid mesh and lace fabrics that are too rough, because they will rub your skin harshly during a pas de deux.

Kenzie Thomas

Student at Master Ballet

DRN: How do teen dancers learn about new leotard trends in the professional world?

KT: Social media, such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, are where a lot of teens see what’s new in leotard trends. I follow some of my favorite ballet dancers to see what they’re wearing, and I also love when companies collaborate with a dancer to create a new fashion line.

DRN: What styles and fabrics do you prefer to wear to classes and auditions?

KT: I look for leotards that are comfortable to move in but also stay put—Blue Water has special little sticky dots in their leotards so their backs and bottoms don’t move on you, and that’s especially important when you’re not wearing tights. Most teens wear a spaghetti-strap or tank leotard with either open backs or fun, crisscrossing straps, and heart-shaped bodices are very popular right now. I occasionally need leotards that are also performance-ready, so I’ve found this fantastic Cosmic Love line by Simply Stella with golds and silvers that are super-flattering onstage.

DRN: Are ballet skirts a staple among teen dancers?

KT: I only ever have one or two skirts with me, such as black and white Bullet Pointe skirts or a simple black wrap skirt, but the majority of us wear trash-bag shorts for warm-up and barre, since they keep our hips extremely warm. Athletic dance shorts are also trending—they’re a little bit longer than a booty short, but they fit snugly around the hips without slipping.

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

Photo by Mark Santillano

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