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Just as dance has changed throughout its history, so too has the fashion of the dancers. Dance fashion is always a balance between the needs of the dancer and the style of the dance and has led to some weird and wonderful looks.

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Here are a few milestones through the history of dance fashion.

Dancewear in the 1800s

Let’s start in the 1800s when dance became widespread and well known. Back then, dancers were had to wear corseted dresses with long tutu skirts. This was partly about dance but mostly about the modesty standards of the time – no short skirts or low cut tops back then!

A staple of the dancer’s wardrobe was also created back in this time – the leotard. It was credited as being created by Jules Leotard who wasn’t a dancer but a trapeze artist. He created a suit made from knitted jersey that was all one piece to help him during his act.

Dancewear in the early 1900s

There have always been dancers who go against the trend and Isadora Duncan was one such. The American dancer was the first who refused to wear the corseted styles that had come from the 1800s and instead wore draped tunics and bare feet. Her stand led to the relaxing of dancewear standards and allows the modern dance fashions to be born.

By the 1920s, the fashions of the time began to influence dancewear in a big way. As attitudes were relaxed and clothes became more elaborate and daring, then things such as leotards with feathers and sequins began to be worn by dancers.

The 1930s saw the start of clothing associated with other types of music being worn to dance – the classic ballgowns and suits for men were the perfect example. As movies started to make an impact on the world, people saw what dancers wore and this influenced fashion while fashion influenced what dancers wore.

Dancewear between the 1940s & 1960s

The 1940s saw the birth of Broadway and the ability for average people to see dance of all kinds, previously only experienced by the wealthy. Dancewear continued to mimic trends in fashion at large and swing dancing became a big hit, first in the US then around the world.

In the 1950s, women dancers were finally allowed to be really sexy and glamorous and became the hottest stars in Hollywood. With long, graceful legs and amazing style, these women combined the dancer and the movie icon perfectly.

By the 1960s, dance fashion was all about short, tight and a bit wild with leotards being cut in half to make styles that allowed great flexibility and were very sexy.

Dancewear from the 1970s and onwards

Disco was the big trend in the 1970s and this influenced the dance clothes of the time. No longer did everything have to be short and tight with the bell bottoms, flowing styles and halter neck tops finding their way into the dancer’s wardrobe.

Music stars were again taking the lead in the 1980s and the first resurgence of styles was seen – the leotard was back in its original form while dance trunks, leg warmers and other dance essentials became normal items to wear.

By the 1990s, dancewear was very personalised with every dancer wanting to have their own unique look and style. Tight styles from the 1960s were once more popular with short skirts while others favoured close fitting looks made possible with modern materials.

Today’s dancewear looks

These changes mean that dance fashion has had many faces over the decades. Today, dancers can opt for traditional looks, modern styles or a retro vibe from any decade. The leotard has come a long way and has led to the bodysuit and the onesie – worn by non-dancers as much as by dancers. And who knows what styles are next?

Dancewear Shop in North Tyneside?

You can view our entire range of fresh dancewear styles online at or pop into our store, open when our dance school is, conveniently located in North Tyneside.