Ballet dancers wear form-fitting clothing like leotards and tights while dancing, to allow ease of movement and to highlight the shape of the body as they move. Ballerinas wear special shoes to support incredible moves like pirouettes and jetés. 

For performances, ballet dancers often wear beautiful costumes featuring tutus or full skirts made out of gathered netting. During practice sessions and workouts, ballerinas often wear more casual layered clothing featuring items like leg warmers and off-shoulder shirts.

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Ballet Slippers

ballet dancers wear slippers

One of the most essential items a ballerina wears while dancing is a pair of ballet slippers. These shoes usually match the dancer’s skin tone in color and may feature long, silky ribbons to wrap around the ankle and tie in a bow. They have flat soles without much padding.

In fact, the long-standing popularity of ballet has inspired trending women’s footwear worldwide. You can buy ballet-style shoes called flats to add a bit of dancer’s grace to your everyday wardrobe by checking out the 10 best affordable and comfortable ballet flats here.

Pointe Shoes

ballet dancers wear pointe shoes

The other key component of a ballerina’s footwear is the pointe shoe. This type of dance shoe looks like a ballet slipper but has a blunt, solid portion at the toe made out of glue, cardboard, and other materials. This allows ballerinas to literally dance on the tips of their toes!

The outside of the shoe usually features shimmery satin either in the dancer’s skin tone or in the color of the costume for a performance. Dancers commonly wear tights rather than socks or bare feet inside these shoes. Take a look at the 10 best ethical hosiery companies here to find the perfect tights for you.

Wrap Skirt

ballet dancers wear wrap skirt

Ballet dancers often wear wrap skirts both for workouts and sometimes for performances. This style of skirt typically comes to the knee or calf and opens in the front with a wrap and tie to hold it closed. You can find wrap skirts made especially for dancers, but you can also use many regular wrap skirts made out of lightweight cotton or faux silk to use for this purpose.

Dancers often wear wrap skirts over a leotard and tights for complete flexibility and ease of movement. You can find the 15 best affordable and sustainable midi skirts to consider here.


ballet dancers wear tutu

Perhaps the most iconic element of a ballerina’s wardrobe is the tutu. Invented in the 1800s to show off the remarkable style of dancing en pointe, the tutu can stick out straight from the waist in a ring of stiff, pleated netting, or drape in a bell shape of gathered tulle down to the calves. 

Dancers still frequently wear this kind of skirt for performances. But you can also see the influence of the tutu in modern fashions like the pleated skirt. For example, you can find 15 types of pleated tennis skirts here.


ballet dancers wear leotard

Another essential part of a ballerina’s wardrobe is the leotard, a stretchy, form-fitting garment that covers the torso. Some leotards feature long sleeves and others have a sleeveless style. Both male and female dancers can wear this unisex garment for workouts as well as for performances.

The dancer’s leotard inspired a ton of modern workout clothing like leggings and tank tops. Whether you dance or not, make sure you buy ethical workout gear! Find out what to look for in ethical, sustainable workout clothes here.


ballet dancers wear tights

During a performance, most ballet dancers wear opaque tights that cling to their legs, allowing the audience to see every bit of the incredible ballet moves performed. Tights also serve a practical purpose because they stretch and flex with the dancer, and do not hinder movement.

Off the stage or at the barre, dancers may wear stretchy leggings instead for extra comfort. You can find the 20 best affordable and sustainable yoga and gym leggings here.

White T-Shirts and Tights

ballet dancers wear white shirt

Male ballet dancers often wear simple white t-shirts or tank tops and opaque tights for practice sessions. Technically called a danseur or principal dancer, male ballet dancers also need incredible amounts of elasticity and flexibility from their dance attire, because they perform many of the same complex moves as ballerinas. 

Looking for a comfortable, soft, and stretchy white t-shirt? Take a look at the 20 best affordable hemp t-shirts here.

Warm-Ups Workout Clothing

ballet dancers wear warm ups

Ballet dancers call their workout clothing “warm-ups,” because they wear this attire as they stretch and limber up for a dance practice. Warm-ups can include all kinds of street clothes like sweatpants, workout shorts, sweatshirts, or off-shoulder sweaters. Anything loose and comfortable that allows room for stretching and warming up will work!

For example, this collection of the 20 best affordable and cute workout shorts for women could work well for a barre warmup session.

Leg Warmers

ballet dancers wear leg warmers

Another popular item for wearing to the dance studio and during warm-ups is a pair of cozy knitted leg warmers. Leg warmers look like really tall tube socks with the foot of the sock, and they cling to the calves to provide extra insulation for someone wearing nothing but tights and a leotard.

These practical clothing items had a brief moment of public popularity in the 80s but have faded away and remain in the ballerina’s wardrobe at this point. If you can’t find leg warmers, try a pair of cozy sweatpants for a chilly workout like one of these 20 best affordable and sustainable sweatpants and joggers.

Hair in Bun

ballet dancers wear buns

Finally, ballet dancers often wear their hair up in a tight bun or in a high ponytail to keep it out of the way as they leap and twirl. The style of wearing the hair pulled tightly back likely emerged for the same reason as the short tutu skirts--to better show off the incredible ballet moves performed by the dancer, without any distraction.

Of course, it also serves a practical purpose because a ballerina with long hair could be blinded by her own hair mid-leap otherwise!

If you want to give this classic, elegant hairstyle a try, take a look at the 12 best affordable and sustainable hair accessories for sale here.

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About the Author: Hannah Cobb

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