If you’re like most pre-professional dancers, you spend more time in dance clothes than in regular clothing. And as many a dancer has discovered, the right layering, color combo, or statement piece can make the difference between a good class and a bad one. With so much time spent in dancewear, choosing those items takes strategy, creativity, and some inspiration. Here, three pre-professional dancers share how they build their dance wardrobes and what items give them the confidence they need to put their best foot forward in class, rehearsal, and everything in between.
Ella Horan: Orange County, California–based pre-professional dancer
How fashion is her passion: “I started my own dancewear line, called “The EH Collection,” with Five Dancewear. I release about two waves of pieces every year—a spring/summer and fall/winter line. I release about 10 items each launch. I felt there were gaps in the dancewear industry, and I wanted to fill them.”
On the importance of rehearsal attire: “I think what you wear is crucial for the rehearsal process. For rehearsals I prefer a wide leg or flare pant. When you have downtime, you don’t want your muscles to get cold. I often wear a sweatshirt that I can take on and off. I like H&M cotton sweatshirts.”
For audits: “My personal trick for auditions is always wear a bright-colored matching set. When the top and bottom go together, it makes you look really put-together while also standing out.”
On her fashion inspiration: “When I’m making or choosing dancewear, I get inspiration from natural elements around me. I am very affected by the seasons. In the summer I lean towards warmer, brighter colors like orange, pink and coral. Through fall and winter I lean towards neutrals and blacks.”
Jamaii Melvin: Junior at The Juilliard School, NYC
On his go-to clothing for class: “My go-to dancewear for ballet is a tight-fitted shirt with some comfy Adidas shorts and, of course, a cocoa canvas Capezio shoe. If we’re having a contemporary moment, the Adidas pants are definitely on and tucked into a white sock.”
For audits: “I have a Lucy Gray fitted audition shirt that I wear and love!”
A color for confidence: “This might sound weird, but the color that makes me feel most confident is black. An all-black outfit is so easy, easy and, honestly, a moment. It’s everything! It’s timeless.”
The rehearsal staple: “I really don’t change my style that much for rehearsals. I just bring a backup shirt in case my body is dripping.”
Why material matters: “I really consider whether my socks are 100 percent cotton, because other fabrics have such a slick relationship to marley floor sometimes.”
On changing it up each week: “I absolutely LOVE mixing up the pieces I wear to dance, especially on holidays. Creating subtle persons through clothing is so liberating and makes class that much better. I highly recommend it.”
Kayla Mak: Freshman at The Juilliard School, NYC
On ballet basics: “For me, I usually go for leotard and black tights or leotard and black shorts. I love Yumiko, Capezio, Jo+Jax, AS Dancewear, Mariia and Elevé Dancewear. I love leotards! I have 10 to 15 that I cycle through. Dancewear-wise, I want to be able to see my body. Especially in ballet, being able to see my lines is really important.”
Contemporary choices: “For contemporary I’ll either wear some sort of loose-fitting pants or a T-shirt. I have this thing where I wear a tight top with a loose bottom or a loose top with tight bottom. Especially in contemporary you want that extra layer of fabric so you don’t get floor burn.”
Fashion tips for Zoom: “For my Juilliard audition, I wore purple. Sometimes wearing bright colors brightens the energy, especially on Zoom. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to see my energy through the screen, so I wanted to wear a vibrant color.”
On her dancewear inspiration: “I usually scroll through Instagram and see professional dancers in companies. I love whenever anyone from American Ballet Theater or San Francisco Ballet posts photos with their Chameleon Activewear. I love the cut of those leotards!”
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