At the beginning of each dance year, it’s important to leave old problems, bad habits and disappointments behind. Your dance wardrobe should match your new viewpoint, not only because every year should start with a new look, but also because it’s a good way to stay healthy as a dancer. Holding onto dance attire and activewear too long can lead to unpleasant odors (and, by extension, lonely days at the barre), disheveled appearance and even injuries.
Whether you’re a professional dancer prepping for a season of auditions and gigs or returning to your favorite creative outlet, make sure these 10 dance staples are ready to go on day one.
A successful class or performance starts with the right undergarments. Sports bras offer breast support and a smooth appearance under leotards and tops. Unfortunately, many athletes underestimate the value of a good bra or simply haven’t been able to find one. A 2008 study from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia found that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. Research conducted at the University of Wollongong in 2018 noted that sports bras often force women to sacrifice comfort to achieve support.
However, going braless while you’re dancing isn’t an option. Wearing an ill-fitting bra or no bra at all can lead to neck and back pain due to lack of support as well as stretch marks on the breasts and overall unprofessional appearance.
If you manage to find a sports bra that is reasonably comfortable and supportive, expect to replace it after about six months. Keep an eye out for loss of support, straps that ride up and decreased elasticity. Your bra will last you even longer if you keep it from staying damp for too long and avoid buildup of sweat and deodorant.
Pro-tip: Cosmopolitan Magazine recommends wearing your sports bra while you shower and lathering it up with soap after your class or workout to battle sweat stains and trapped grime.
Dance belts are one of the quintessential dance undergarments. Because they cover such an intimate part of your anatomy, they need to be washed and replaced frequently. Have a couple of dance belts in rotation at one time so you’re never stuck wearing a dirty belt or without one altogether. Also, make sure you completely replace them every six months. Some signs your dance belt has run its course: pilling fabric, lost elasticity (you should never be able to hear the elastic stretch) and, as dancer Jeremy Burke says, “permastank... it’s that stank that won’t quit.”
You want to make sure your leotards are in top-notch shape for your first audition or class – impressions matter. Not having attire that’s in good condition can get you cut from an audition or even kicked out of class. Prevent unnecessary embarrassment by making sure your collection of leos is pristine at the top of every year. Between new leotard hauls, pay attention to signs of wear including thinning or holey fabric and lack of support.
Unless they have a built-in bra, dance tops won’t offer much in the way of support. However, they do provide coverage and help you get warm during class. If cared for properly, dance tops can last for years. Once they start to smell, fade, stain or lose their elasticity, however, it might be time to give your favorite tanks and tees the old heave-ho.
While no longer the strict requirement in ballet class they once were, tights are still a necessity at some studios. They offer additional coverage and help you achieve a complete line while training or performing. Tights can also last a long time if you avoid cutting or altering them and store them in a plastic baggy or on a smooth surface where they can’t snag on anything. To check if your tights need replacing, be on the lookout for runs, holes, stains that won’t go away or an unpleasant odor when you’re taking inventory of your dancewear before the year starts.
If you need extra ankle stability, moisture-wicking or just want to switch up your class or rehearsal style, leggings are your best bet. You’ll likely rotate through pairs of leggings every six to eight months as the fabric starts to pill, hold odors or becomes less efficient at moving moisture away from your body. And purchasing a pair of good quality leggings doesn’t need to be expensive. Workout leggings at Target absorb moisture and give great compression for as little as $30 a pair.
For lots of dancers, starting class in socks is the key to a successful warmup. Socks also offer cushion for feet and reduce friction (hello, multiple turns). Hopefully, you’ve already got two pairs of Apolla Shocks in your bag. Compression and moisture wicking are just as important for recovering after class as they are for warming up and having support during class. But even Shocks wear out eventually, and you’ll probably need a new pair every six months to a year. Though you might wait until your toes peek through a hole to throw out your socks, podiatrists say your socks probably should be replaced before they start to tear. If you don’t like the idea of your old socks clogging up a landfill, take your socks to your nearest Goodwill. Goodwill recycles textiles and will resell or repurpose your old socks.
If you notice your socks losing elasticity, drooping or the material rubs against your feet, they need to be thrown away. Holding on to socks that no longer provide appropriate support or shock absorption causes blisters, corns and calluses. Continuously wearing socks when they’re dirty, damp or worn might also lead to fungus, which can cause itching and burning.
The right pointe shoes are all the difference between a biscuit and a perfectly pointed foot. Now, with a wider range of color options, there’s something for everyone. But be careful not to get too attached to your pointe shoes as you’ll likely have to replace them sooner rather than later. If you’re just starting your training en pointe, you’ll need to swap out your shoes once a year. Pre-professional and professional dancers can go through pointe shoes as quickly as after each performance. With pointe shoes costing a minimum of $70 to $80 a pair, this short lifespan can get pricey fast.
Cut down on replacements by alternating between multiple pairs so one pair doesn’t wear out too quickly and let your pointe shoes air out between classes and performances. Also, use a hardener to make your shoes more sturdy and keep them from absorbing too much moisture. But if you’re going too far over your box when rising en pointe, experiencing a flattened box or feeling too much discomfort, your pointe shoes are probably dead and need to be laid to rest.
The right bag is essential for a dancer on the go, but even your favorite gym bag will wear out eventually. Dancers who refuse to toss out an old bag risk persistent odor, and the spread of bacteria, which could lead to illness, mold and mildew. Air out your dance bag after class and store your shoes in separate, smaller baggies to keep the inside smelling fresh for as long as possible.
First things first: if you haven’t invested in a good-quality reusable water bottle, get on it. Americans buy 1 million plastic water bottles a minute and only recycle 23% of them. In addition to being terrible for the environment, these bottles are also bad for your health. Though most disposable plastic bottles no longer contain BPA and can technically be used more than once, thinning and small cracks are a breeding ground for germs and other health threats.
Once you make the transition to reusable water bottles, it's still important to make sure you don’t keep the bottle beyond its lifespan. Replace reusable plastic water bottles once a year. Glass and stainless steel bottles last longer and should only be replaced once they show noticeable signs of wear and tear like scratches or cracks. Watch out for unpleasant smells or mold buildup in your water bottle (sometimes mold can accumulate out of sight under your bottle’s cap), as continuing to drink out of a moldy water bottle can cause illness.
A few other things to keep in mind
Hand wash your dance clothes in cold water - According to cleaning expert Jolie Kerr, activewear is made of stretchy material that may not mix well with detergent and other laundry solutions. Hot or heavy-duty wash cycles can also damage the fabric or cause shrinking.
Air dry, air dry, air dry - Drying your dance and workout clothes in hot air might leave them feeling toasty, but you may not be able to get into your favorite leotard again because it shrunk or got damaged in the dryer. Air drying is your best bet for keeping your dancewear fresh for longer periods of time, but if you must use a machine dryer, choose a low heat setting.
Stop odors before they have a chance to settle in - After a sweaty class, workout or rehearsal, Kerr suggests soaking your dance clothes in cold water and vinegar to minimize odors. Another tip – spray your clothes with vodka and let them air out before washing them.
Start Your Dance Year Strong
Your personal style is a reflection of you and what you wear to the dance studio is no exception including your Apolla Shocks. Follow these tips to show you care about your dance life inside and outside the studio. Your body, teachers and fellow dancers will thank you!