Appropriate Costuming

By Kimberly McCluer, February 4th, 2016

Every couple of years or so the topic of inappropriate costuming hits the media. This year we kick off the season with this topic on Facebook when a blog writer decided to attack children, parents and teachers for their choices (but then justified it for Hollywood, huh?). I was contacted by a teacher to write my thoughts on this topic in my own blog. I am going to start with what my husband and business partner says, “People see what they want to see”. And he is right (I can’t believe I just admitted he’s right about something).


 We are in a dance age of two pieces and no tights for many styles of dance. It is the uniform of choice for styles such as contemporary and jazz, but not limited to these styles by any means. It is also the uniform of choice for volleyball and track. Google these sports and see that they wear less, but I have yet to read a blog about their clothing. Oh, but they are athletes so it is OK! (heavy irony here). It is also the uniform of choice at every hotel pool, water park and community swimming hole. Again, haven’t seen a blog yet about these places being inappropriate. Gymnasts have never worn tights, ever. A wedgie is excused and never blocked on national TV during these sports (sports again). Yet dancers add some sparkle to their sports uniforms and they are called horrible names and deemed inappropriate. 

 I strongly believe in appropriate costuming, but, that is where this issue gets sticky! Questions arise such as should all body types wear two pieces? Do we want to send body type messages at a young age? I say yes. I think we as a society are too scared to be honest and sometimes we are doing our kids a huge disservice in avoiding honesty. Bottom line, two piece costumes look better on toned people. Everyone reading this picture yourself going to the gym right now (moms, dance teachers). You have a choice to make on your attire. You can choose athletic shorts and t-shirt or the cute 2-piece Lulu outfit, booties and bra top (no cover up). What would you choose? I think we need to think along the same line for our kids with8039Lcostumes. Not everyone looks good in the same thing. I have seen kids backstage in two pieces that were very uncomfortable. Is that what we want? Like I said, sticky situation. A child at 10 who looks better in a one piece might very well be the knock out in the bikini at 16. When I said I believe in appropriate costuming I mean I believe teachers should fit the hardest to fit child in a group first. That can mean tall, short, long torso, short waist, too thin, thick….reality is we all have different body types and always will, and all costumes do not have to be exactly the same. I have seen some pretty fantastic numbers with everyone in black and white and not one costume alike, think outside the box, dancers are creative, use this tool when costuming. As much as I would like to wear the clothes in Forever 21, the store is lying to my body, because I may feel forever 21 at heart, but I am for sure Now 52. There is reality in our bodies, why hide that from our girls. That doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else, it is just a fact. When we address future careers in dance there is reality in those careers. There are height requirements and a producer of a tour has the right to select the body types he or she wants in the show. That’s reality. Maybe hiding our kids from such reality isn’t a good thing (that is another blog).

 Back to my husband being right, aghhhh…… we have been dancing to Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow…….you know the rest, for 40 years. What do we place our kids in for this song… know the answer. In 19 years of this business, not one person has complained about this costume, never, ever, no matter how itsy bitsy the polka dot is or where the polka dot is placed. My point is a child doing a contemporary dance in a two piece costume should rarely scream inappropriate to anyone. Not in the sport of dance. The athlete is participating in the sport and that is the attire. If someone sees otherwise then they are looking for an issue (or worse) and are not aware of the present dance industry. On the other hand, if you dance children to Cabaret in fishnets and
corsets you set yourself up for the possibility of judges not agreeing, or offending someone in the audience.  If you theme it this way then there is possibility for controversy. I think “themes” play more of a negative roll in dance than costuming ever could, so be careful of your themes. Cabarets are not open to 12 year olds, so simply be aware of your themes for the best outcomes for your kids. I would suggest when it comes to competition that song choices and themes are what set you up for controversy. If you choose to push the buttons, know that the scoring outcome might reflect against your choice, depending on three judges’ opinions (and opinion is another blog) 


 I am not sure if I solved the problem of costuming here or not (probably not) but, I think those who choose to name call and slam parents for costuming in a sport need to educate themselves on the sport. I also think it is OK for studios to select their own standards when it comes to costuming. Don’t wear two pieces if you don’t like them, but stop the name calling against the ones who do. Parents have choices where they take their kids. No one studio is a fit for everyone and the sooner teachers embrace that reality the better they will be. Choose costumes on what fits the number, the dancer and the song. Never to prove a point, or in thinking you have to “push the envelope” to get a high score. In honest competitions, that is not how it works (and that too is another blog). Looking forward to seeing all the beautiful costumes that our sport of dance brings to the stage this year! Sparkle on!