Although the dancing is the core of what the audience and judges are looking at, a dancer’s look or appearance plays a critical role in catching the eye and sustaining interest. Having a good appearance also makes the dancer himself feel more confident and characteristic of the dances he’s performing. This is a topic which should not be underestimated, as first impressions are essential in making lasting impact. Every dancer has at some time arrived in the ballroom and sized up their competition before the start of the event merely on the basis of how other couples are groomed and dressed.


the look


For ladies, the idea of creating your look can be daunting. One must consider costume, hair and makeup. Because there are infinite styles, colors and fabrics to choose from, it can seem like an insurmountable task to discover what suits you best and compliment the type of movements you’ll be doing.

Here are some tips to get started:

Your Personal Style

Look in your own closet. What type of styles and shapes for your figure do you typically wear? Most women know what parts of their figure are strengths and weakness and already purchase everyday clothes that hide those flaws and accentuate the positive.  If a certain neckline flatters you, include it in the design of your dress. Is your stomach a little paunchy? Do yourself a favor by not distracting from your dancing, and choose a style that will cover it. You don’t want a bad costume to overshadow the good dancing you’ve been working on!

What dances are you doing? Your dress must not be constrictive. Does your choreography include high leg lines or splits? For standard and smooth, will you be able to take a long enough stride sideways or back? Nothing holds a dancer back more than feeling uncomfortable about what they are wearing.

Consult your coach or teacher—they want to help! You rely on these professionals to help you with your dancing, so include them in the decision of costuming. They may see better what shapes will enhance your dancing.

Be Sexy, Not Showy

Whether you are going out for a night of social dancing or entering a competition, please wear dance pants! Most professional garments will have these sewn into the dress as part of the bodysuit. But if you are wearing separates, you will need to remember this important item. Even if you think your dress is long enough or will not open very far when turning, you need dance pants!

Colors and Fabrics

When choosing colors, again think about your closet. What colors bring out your features? Although black is a popular choice, try to stand out in the crowd and bring in a little vitality with color. Softer colors denote femininity, bolder colors are strong and confident and bright colors are great eye catchers.

Generally it is a good bet to go with some kind of stretch fabric. It fits well against the body and moves with you. Usually these fabrics are also easily hand washable and pack well.

Notes for Gentlemen

For you guys, you appearance is equally important. Your partner is decked out and you want to compliment her in a like aesthetic. If you are dancing Latin or Rhythm, it is critical to have Latin pants. They make your legs look longer, allow for flexibility and movement (read: no split pants) and will not ride up to show your socks, thanks to elastic stirrups that go over your shoes (yes, that’s over your shoes, not under your foot!)  A variety of shirt styles are available either off the rack or custom made. It is important to have a shirt designed especially for competition as they will be attached to built in briefs or shorts so as to prevent your shirt from bunching or coming out of your pants with all the movement you’ll be doing. These custom details give you a clean look, that will not distract from your dancing, but compliment it.

If you are dancing smooth or standard, the right clothes are again essential. At the very least, please do not use a sport coat or suit jacket out or your closet. The suits made for dancing are cut especially to not lift at the shoulders the way a regular jacket would. If you cannot afford a custom suit, look for a secondhand one, or if you are dancing smooth, can get away with a vest instead of jacket.

For the serious competitor, you must make the investment in the costuming as much as you have made the investment in your dancing if you wish to do well. Always keep in mind that your look plays an important factor in your overall presentation.