ATTIRE EXPECTATIONS AND COSTUMES
RATIONALE: Clothing Speaks for Character
Fashion is a wonderful avenue for artistic expression! The way a dancer dresses to attend classes and costume choices for performances reflect upon the studio, convention, competition and dancers themselves. However, clothing that may be perfectly appropriate on its own can easily become hypersexualized when coupled with an inappropriate song message, seductive choreography and flirty facial expressions. Our hope is we all become more mindful of this cumulative effect.
In addition, research shows that the dance environment, which involves costumes, mirrors and the increased marketing of provocative clothing and costumes for youth, has caused many children to compare their bodies to others and to develop feelings of shame. Dance can and should teach our children body confidence. Some studios have found a uniform dress code has worked to not only create a professional academy feel, but also to remove the distraction of “fashion wars”. Other studios choose not to have parameters on attire but know they need to openly talk about body image, embrace different body types and reinforce that the studio is a place for art, training and connecting.
Sexualized pop culture, fashion and marketing certainly have heavily influenced some areas of dance and the dance attire choices for our children. Whether you allow midriffs to be shown or require them to be covered up may have consequences and rewards. The important thing is how we frame body parts such as midriffs when we talk to young dancers. When the driving force is to show the stomach to be more attractive and sexually appealing (versus to see body alignment and enhance
artistry) we are teaching objectification. When we emphasize showing the stomach for encouraging body alignment and enhancing artistry, or through a body positive exercise, this is a healthy focus. When the emphasis to cover up the stomach is because of the belief that stomachs are too sexy to show, we may be sending a message of shame. Most important is an explanation that the stomach is to be embraced as it digests our food, is the core of the body that holds our organs with its powerful muscles, and is the foundation of our turns, leaps, and movement!
The Psychology of Fashion is a fascinating field. Young children and teens are billion dollar consumers. Research does link sexualized clothing choices to body image issues, eating disorders, self-esteem, sexualization and objectification. Sexualized clothing can also contribute to the belief that young children and adolescents are appropriate sex targets.
Costumes that may be perfectly appropriate on its own can easily become hypersexualized when coupled with an inappropriate song message, seductive choreography and flirty facial expressions.
The marketing of sexualized youth costumes to our children who may have already been highly influenced by risqué pop stars and entertainment media is on the rise. Many costume companies are mimicking clothing worn by adults in music videos and award shows, which leads to sexy costume choices over artistic ones. As adults, YPAD advocates must set boundaries with explanations for our children regarding self-expression through clothing that does not discourage but empowers them to choose clothes that say:
“I respect my body and myself.”
Nude Fabrics: Nude fabric can absolutely be used in appropriate ways. Although “technically” covered, the use of nude fabrics gives the impression of nudity or covering only what is absolutely necessary. This perception may contribute to a sexualized tone, increasing the chances that the child or teen may be looked at as an acceptable sexual target. It may also confuse the child or teen about body objectification and boundaries regarding nudity.
Cut-Outs: Cut-outs can absolutely be used in appropriate ways. Be thoughtful about cut outs (even when fabric is used over area). Are they near the bottom, breast, hip or pelvic area or small of back? Do they add to a sexualized tone? Do they add to a sexualized tone or imply only a certain body type could wear the design? Does it mimic something a pop star or celebrity would wear versus child appropriate fashion?
Tights or No Tights: There are many artistic and perfectly valid reasons to not wear tights with a costume. Acro-partnering, allergy to tight dye, sensory sensitivity, artistic vision and more. Bare legs do not equal inappropriate. When a dancer is not wearing tights their buttocks, groin and pubic area should still be covered. If you see any exposure due to no tights it is recommended that judges suggest costume glue or recommend tights for the comfort of the dancer and the audience. Please be mindful.
STANDARDS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
- STUDIO ATTIRE:
When in class or outside the studio, these recommendations for dress and attire are highly encouraged. We understand that we are training athletes and artists and the ability to see a dancer’s alignment and anatomy is an important tool. We also recognize that regional differences, cultural differences and weather all influence attire. However, the intent behind wearing the clothing is important. Exercise your best judgment and use these suggestions below to streamline dress expectations for your learning environment:
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ESTABLISHING OR REFINING YOUR DRESS CODE IN THE STUDIO:
- Restrict attire that projects adult sexuality, (for example: thigh highs, tights/leggings with revealing cut-outs, “barely-there” bra-style or bikini tops).
- Restrict graphic tee shirts and messages on tee shirts that are sexual, violent, or otherwise inappropriate in nature.
- Require that booty shorts (if you allow them) fit appropriately (ensure that they cover completely/don’t show a dancer’s bottom and are not see-through) Please consider requiring a tight under the booty short. In warmer climates, this may not work which is more of a reason to implement the above coverage standard.
Using “Sock Glue” (what Irish dancers use to keep their socks up) to keep booty shorts in place has been proven helpful. When tights will not work in the choreography, for example due to acro partnering where the hand may slip if it is against fabric or lycra, Sock Glue is a helpful addition. It is affordable and many varieties can be found on Amazon.com.
- If you permit bare midriffs, we recommend that you explain the purpose of midriff exposure (alignment, hot weather conditions, embracing body positive messages by addressing stomach shame and comparison and counteracting that through thoughtful conversations, etc. Showing the midriff in this context may be empowering).
- Stage makeup should not be worn to class.
- Talk with your students and parents about using cover-ups when coming and going to the studio or convention, and express the WHY of this request.
B. PERFORMANCE / COSTUME ATTIRE
YPAD recognizes that costume preferences vary from studio to studio. However, studies have shown that overtly sexual costumes on minors can encourage an unhealthy self-image and send messages to the audience that can create objectification and lead to self-sexualizing, none of which is child’s fault. We also recognize that the conjunction of choreography/costuming/music/concept can sway the overall tone one way or another.
THINGS TO AVOID:
- Rhinestone/bedazzled bras that project a hypersexual undertone.
- Thigh-highs that project adult sexuality and garter belts.
- Booty shorts that reveal part of a dancer’s bottom.
- Bikini tops that are made for swimming but used as costumes, have nothing to do with the artistic concept, and project a sexual tone.
- Fishnets that project adult sexuality upon young dancers (Note: in a non-sexualized context, fishnets can absolutely be used appropriately – please be mindful of the overall tone).
- Bikini-cut shorts that reveal part of bottom/front area.
- Leather/Cat suit/Dominatrix-type costumes.
- High heels, thigh-high boots/heels (this would not include traditional dance shoes that have a low heel, such as character shoes, some tap shoes, etc.).
- T-shirts that display a message of sex, violence or drug use.
- Any attire that mimics lingerie and undergarments, or corsets and bustiers that are intended to express adult sexuality.
- Incorporate nude fabrics or cut outs that accentuate a hypersexualized tone
- No tights are worn and the buttock, groin or pubic area are revealed through the movement
YPAD does not believe that the midriff is sexual in nature, as it is the core and foundation of dance; however, it is sexualized in culture and research reveals that it can be a point of shame and comparison for many young dancers. Keep it Body Positive by addressing this. Use our resources to help facilitate this conversation!
THINGS TO ADD:
- Proper undergarments for females that hold the breasts in place and minimize bouncing (which can be painful) and exposure. Some dancers have doubled up on bra tops under costumes to avoid this.
- If the fabric of the costume is see through on the bust or groin area, take the extra step to add fabric, an undergarment or a solution of your choice.
- If the costume reveals too much cleavage, take the extra step to add fabric/trim to the top of it.
- Dance belts for males are encouraged
- Choose a brief/underwear color (both males and females) that will not show through the costume choice
Have a full costume dress rehearsal for each piece with enough time to fix possible issues before the piece is scheduled for stage presentation. What may look and feel perfectly appropriate and comfortable standing still while marking a dance can become a disaster when moving full out. This also may vary between body types wearing the same costume. Ultimately, dancers should not feel inhibited by the clothing they are performing in, nor should they worry about having a costume mishap on stage. As our young dancers’ approach puberty, they are also dealing with body changes (such as pubic hair) and every dancer may have different grooming choices. Please enlist parents to help ensure that there is full coverage in costumes such a leotard with pink tights, etc.
In some cases, this responsibility may fall on an instructor or studio owner. However, (such as in cases where a dancer’s only parent is the father, or if there is a caretaker who may feel uncomfortable with this task). The key is making sure the dancer knows there is nothing to be embarrassed about, as this is a natural part of growing up and being a performing dancer.
Teachers have a substantial influence on their student’s choice in attire. If you do not have a faculty uniform or attire rule already in place, the above recommendations would also pertain to your teachers, instructors, assistants and visiting educators.