Dancewear en l’air: The Professional Practice Tutu

A proper rehearsal tutu can make the transition from studio to stage so much smoother, especially for pas de deux work but also for port de bras and turns.  Finding a tutu that gives the proper look and feel in rehearsal without spending a fortune can be a challenge, however. Rehearsal styles can run between $40-$350, a huge price range. For a decent rendition that will last with good maintenance, I’d look for a price of about $150. I would not recommend paying more than $200 unless you have definite plans to create a performance piece out of it, which is a different purchase in some respects. Anything under $100 usually looks rather amateur and won’t last, no matter how pretty they look in marketing pics.

Winthrop Corey Designs currently offers a lovely, professional-grade version at that exact sweet spot price of $150. Winthrop Corey is the Artistic Director of Mobile Ballet and on the summer faculty of Joffrey Ballet School NYC, where his are the official practice tutus. Each tutu comes complete with hooping and eight layers of tulle. The length is 14″ for women or 12″ for girls, and it’s cut to order for your exact waist size. (For a performance piece, you typically want around 15″ of length and 10-12 layers of tulle for women.) Available in black or white, the finished look is ideal for practice or a demonstration performance.

Dancewear en l’air: The Thumb-Loops Shrug

Shrugs were all the rage when I was a young dancer, but they gave way to off-the-shoulder, retro sweaters and modern, zip-front fleece jackets in the years that followed. Thanks to Black Swan, shrugs are back!

I’ve always loved shrugs because they offer warmth without covering up your pretty leotard. I posted on the Lydia shrug by Bloch some time ago. Mirella’s black shrug style M1105 is slightly looser in the arms for increased ease of movement and a more casual look. This warm-up also features thumbholes at the wrists for security no matter your port de bras. The long arms are great for a slight bunching. Get cozied up by pairing this piece with similarly bunchy legwarmers.

Dancewear en l’air: The Short Sleeve Mock-Wrap Leo

Trienawear’s Extensions collection is known for it’s super supportive, all-around shelf bra and pretty satin elastic trim. For fuller-busted dancers, this collection is a dream come true. A particularly flattering cut in the Extensions collection is TR1262-C, a short-sleeved leotard with a mock-wrap empire top that creates a classic v-neck cut. These features work together to enhance a slim, hourglass look. A sweet bow in the back of the leotard is an unexpected and beautiful touch.

In addition to the usual black, this leo is available in seven colors, including rich shades like plum, wine and navy, in addition to a lovely sky-blue called porcelain. I would pair this cut with simple, classic pink tights – the cut and details show best without a skirt or warm-ups to distract from them.

The Right Leo Size, Every Time!

As much fun as dancewear shopping can be, it can also be frustrating. There is a surprising amount of variation across brands. Pulling a bunch of leos on and off to see what flatters is trouble enough without the added complication of figuring out how the different brands are designed to fit.

As a dancer with a long torso, I found that taking my measurements and doing a little research on size schemes (and I have done that work for you as you’ll see!) took the hassle right out of dancewear shopping.

When it comes to leotard fit, you will need at least four basic measurements: bust, waist, hips and girth. To measure the first three, align a soft measuring tape parallel to the floor and wrapped snugly – but not too tightly – around the fullest level of your bust, the slimmest portion of your waist, and your hips at the hip bone level.* Wear the least bulky top and bottom possible (but nothing so tight it will change your natural size) and make sure you are standing in proper ballet posture with shoulders down and a square alignment for the truest measurements possible. Use a mirror to make sure the tape is wrapped properly for each measure.

Now for the research – which as I mentioned I have done for you! I have created a chart of all the major manufacturers’ ladies’ sizing guidelines for all brands that use a S/M/L sizing structure. (So no Sansha or Grishko, sorry!) You can download it by clicking here: BalletScoop Adult Ladies Sizing Guide. Once you have your measurements taken and written out, you can easily compare them to the chart and circle what size in each brand will suit you best. Voilà – sizing guesswork gone!!

*For pants, shorts and unitards, the hips will often need to be measured at their absolute fullest circumference, usually an inch or two below the hip bones. The waist measurement for pants should be taken at the level where the waist of the pants are expected to hit – that’s usually an inch or two below your actual waist.

Update: If you had trouble printing this size guide earlier, sorry! It is now on letter-sized paper, so should be easy printing now!

Dancewear en l’air: Elasticized Pointe Shoe Ribbons

I used to cut my pointe shoe ribbons and add an elastic strip to the spot that landed at the Achilles. The extra flex gave some room for the ribbons to expand and contract going from plié to relevé and vice versa. Thanks to Bunheads Flexors, there’s no need for such arduous work on top of all the attachment sewing you have to do!

Flexors come four to a pack (enough for one pair of shoes) and come in two versatile shades of peachy-pink to match practically any pointe shoe. These ribbons are recommended by dance teachers (like me) and physical therapists.

Dancewear en l’air: The Tie-Dye Camisole Leotard

Looking for something new and fun to wear for rehearsals and auditions? Check out Energetiks AL34, a freestyle and feminine camisole leotard with a tie-dye velvet insert on an empire – remember, that’s “AHM-peer” 🙂 – waist.

This statement-making yet simple leo features a studious pinched V-front and a pinched straight back which keeps the tie-dye accent from making it all look too over-the-top. I just love the look of that pinched straight back, which precisely accents the back muscles.

This limited-edition piece is available in an array of purples, pinks, and reds along with classic black and the cobalt shown here. I would definitely splurge and get the Energetiks tie dye skirt (which I’ll post in un momento) to wear with this fabulous and fun ballet leotard!

Dancewear en l’air: Tee Time

I do not like when students try to wear junk in my classroom (Hellooo, demerits!), but also can’t stand scantily clad students dallying between classes even more. For pete’s sake, put on some pants!  – Or an adorable dancer t-shirt like this one from HD Wear, a up-and-coming ballet t-shirt designer. It’s stylish, covers nicely and makes a cute statement. Better yet, put on both. Now how hard was that?

Dancewear en l’air: The Long-Sleeve Turtleneck Leo

A long-sleeved turtleneck leotard can be a lifesaver on wintery days, especially if you have a dress code that does not allow warm-ups. These styles can look a bit plain, however, which is why I love this mesh-inset version, Melinda (L4504C), from Sansha.

With a stylish keyhole cutout in the back and mesh fabric for the sleeves and across the collarbone, this leo evokes that dramatic evening-dress look. It’s only available in black, which works well since other colors in mesh can look a bit garish instead of elegant. I think this leo would look adorable in a winter class with a short black wrap skirt and bunched ankle warmers.

Dancewear en l’air: Ballerina Mukluks

There was frost on my windshield this morning down here in the deep South – which means mukluk season is officially upon us! For those of you that aren’t familiar with the comfy, knit foot and calf warmers called mukluks (pronounced muck-lucks or mook-looks, depending on who you ask), these little guys are totally perfect for keeping your feet warm between classes. (But please, please, please do not dance or go on pointe in them!) They a perennial fashion favorite at many SIs, too.

Mukluks are similar to a thickly knit sock, but they have a sewn-on indoor-use leather sole. They aren’t always easy to find, but Turtle ImportsEmpire Dance, Merde Dancewear, Barbaraz through Ebay and Bohemian Groove through Ebay are carrying them now. Then can also sometimes be found around holiday time at American Eagle, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Target, Victoria’s Secret, AC Moore and local dance boutiques. Check out Alaskan Mukluks for more sources. Grishko and Gaynor Minden currently make synthetic, more modern versions.

Do you know where to score some sweet mukluks or have a review of some that you own? Leave a comment below to let your fellow dancers know!

Update: Mukluks by Himalayan Craft are available on the Russian Pointe website here.

Dancewear en l’air: The Sunray Pleat Leotard

Mirella’s artists are at it again with super pretty options in their Holiday Fashion 2010 and Fall Fashion 2010 collections, which feature fabric knots, belts, corset lacing and pleating. While all the styles are very creative, their are a few definite standouts, including M2013L.

The signature of this leo is diagonal pleating which forms beautiful arrays across the bust. (If you can’t see it on the pic at left, click it once to see a large view.) The blackberry shade shown looks simply lush and accentuates the dimension of the pleating perfectly. This leo is also available in a dynamic garnet red which is bright but at the same time deep.

Two modern fabric options are available: a Diablo/Nylon/Lycra and a Meryl/Spandex combo. So lux, I would pair the blackberry leo with cashmere-feel thigh-high black legwarmers over theatrical pink tights.

Dancewear en l’air: The Diamond Leotard

This thoughtfully cut leo features criss-crossing panels of fabric that narrow towards the hips making a flattering hourglass effect and creating a small diamond in the center bust. The criss-cross pieces wrap low around the back of the leotard creating a cute hip-skimming accent.

I hesitated to feature this interestingly cut leotard because, since Bloch’s recent purchase of Mirella, not all of their leotards are featured on either site. This particular leo is tough to find anywhere, but if you know the model number (MJ7115) you can find it in online discount stores, particularly if you’re willing to order from the UK. It’s available in a slate-like indigo, true red and classic black.

The 360 design of this leotard is what makes it so gorgeous. I’d pair it legwarmers or just pink tights so as not to obsure its pretty and flattering shape.

Dancewear en l’air: The Flashdance Top

An 80’s retro top is perfect for dance inspiration, and K.D. Dance FAL1143034 captures the era perfectly with its drapey style. This Flashdance-inspired top is cut oversized (but is also available in a more close-cut fit) and comes complete with the original’s signature off-the-shoulder neckline that casually shows off your collarbone.

Created from K.D. Dance’s beautiful shadow stripe acrylic blend fabric, this sweater is available in some basic shades as well as an assortment of rich purples and wines. Lovely for a ballet warm-up or just to and from class, this is also a great piece for modern, contemporary and jazz classes. What a feeling!

Dancewear en l’air: The Vibrant Wrap Skirt

Let’s beat those Monday blues with some fashion today. If you’re in the mood for a stylistic pick-me-up, Capezio’s 1290, a printed chiffon wrap skirt, is just the thing for your next class.

I really like the length of this skirt for pointe classes in particular – the gently tapered hem gives a nice length to the leg without looking – ahem – “hoochie” short.  And the floral pattern of teal, burgundy, pink and black will pair nicely with a basic black or with your bolder leos in similar hues.  I think it would look great over a unitard, too. All in all, an elegant but very fun pick.

Dancewear en l’air: The Tiger Leotard

This leo is so outrageous I just had to feature it for fun today! The Tiger Leotard (scroll down on their long-sleeve leos page to find it) by London-based Wear Moi International – not to be confused with French dancewear company Wear Moi – makes this arresting tiger stripe ballet leotard, which seems reminiscent to me of Oleg Vinogradov’s Knight in a Tiger’s Skin ballet from the Kirov!

Like many of Wear Moi’s leos, this item is created in two different fabrics, in this case a black lycra bottom and the striking tiger print on top. An asymetrical seam connecting the two and extra-long sleeves set off the tiger print with a haphazard and exotic vibe. This style is not for the faint of heart!