All ballerinas have a few cherished pieces of dance apparel, and usually among all of the equipment and shoes are a few favorite ballet leotards. While some dancers prefer to always wear one style, other dancers prefer different styles for different occasions and different seasons. One might think that virtually all ballet leotards are created equal, but ballerinas think otherwise!
Stylish Ballet Leotards
At different times, different styles of leotards are popular. Sometimes a trend revolves around a particular type of material, other times, it's the cut of the leotard that makes it fashionable, and sometimes it's the color(s) of the leotard itself. One of the more recent trends is the trend of different strappy backs, such as this Capezio leotard; another recent trend is the empire waist leotards with various embellishments on the bodice, such as this Natalie leotard.
Walking into any dance studio will immediately give you an idea of what the current trends are in ballet leotards. Of course, the trends vary depending on geographic region and on the age of the dancers as well. In many dance studios, the pre-teens look up to the older dancers and take over their styles; if you observe a group of six-year-olds, you're more likely to see economical black nylon ballet leotards than to get any insight into current fashions.
Ballet leotards come in many different cuts. The three main variations are the sleeve length, the neckline, and the leg cut.
Some ballerinas prefer to always wear a camisole leotard (spaghetti straps) and add layers before and after class when sleeveless is a little cold. Other ballerinas wear camisole leotards in spring and summer and switch over to short sleeve leotards (rare) or three-quarter sleeve leotards (more common) in the fall. Additionally, long sleeve leotards can be worn in winter.
The traditional ballet leotard is with a 'boat neck', a rounded, wide neck. While this cut is comfortable, it is, in some circles, not very fashionable or considered a little boring. Newer styles of leotards have introduced sweetheart necklines by gathering the material in the center of the chest; not only is this option fashionable, but many leotards with this neckline are also fully lined, making a separate bra underneath the leotard unnecessary. Less common necklines are V-necks and mock turtlenecks. The halter top neckline is becoming more and more common.
The traditional leotard leg cut is a quite low line on the hip. Most modern versions of the ballet leotard have a slightly higher leg line than the traditional version, but leotards are seldom 'high cut'. High cut leg lines are more common in fitness leotards and bathing suits.
The fabric a leotard is made of is extremely important because of the effect it has on the ballerina's temperature. The material can also affect body odor.
Cotton is a very comfortable fabric, and is a material of choice for many ballerinas. Generally speaking, cotton is warmer than nylon/spandex blends; however, if you wear camisole leotards, overheating is unlikely. One drawback of cotton is that sweat is more visible than with nylon blends. Another drawback is that the colors often fade long before the leotard needs to be replaced because it's become too small or because it has worn out.
Nylon Blend Leotards
Leotards that have a high nylon content feel much cooler (especially the long sleeve or three-quarter sleeve variants) than all-cotton leotards. In addition, nylon is less bulky, so for ballerinas who like to layer, nylon creates smooth lines. Nylon blends also stretch more and the color does not fade with each wash, staying vibrant for years and years. One significant drawback of nylon blends is that, depending on how much you sweat, nylon can create some foul odors if you keep the leotard on for long periods of time. If you have a 1.5 hour class and only put the leotard on for the class itself, body odor shouldn't be a problem, but it is something to consider.
Leotards, along with tights and shoes, are the basic ingredients of a dancer's wardrobe. There has been an explosion in the variety of leotards available both in shops and at online sources such as Discout Dance Supply, and All About Dance, and many dancers have a different leotard for every day of the week! However, legwarmers, shorts, ballet skirts, warm-up pants, and various tops and sweaters are all fun ways to change your look daily even if you always wear the same black leotards.