How to make dance wear

The right tools for sewing activewear and dancewear — Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

I’ve written somewhat extensively on sewing dancewear and activewear (including here and here) and as I complete more projects in this sewing genre, I land on more tips, techniques and tools to add to those archives.

This week I was commissioned to make four dance leotards for a dance production of The Grinch and they turned out so great, but I feel like they also forced me to land on the proper products for sewing leotards, for whatever sport or activity. As always, you need the right tools for the job! I’m going to share those essentials today.

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Tools for sewing activewear and dancewear


I’ve made a few leotards in the recent past and I didn’t really feel like I’d hit on the right elastic for the job. Different bloggers and authors on the topic seem to all have different opinions, some say knit, some say braided, but I’d tried both of those and none gave the right amount of soft stretchiness. This time I obtained some cotton swimsuit elastic and it is perfect! It’s so stretchy, does not get stretched out of shape when you sew it and it’s cotton, so it’s made to withstand water and sweat. Don’t even try to make leotards or swimwear without the swimwear elastic, others just do not function the same.

These costume leotards also needed the straps, for which I bought Dritz ballet elastic. The package contains the exact amount you need to make two adjustable straps. This elastic had the right amount of stretch for straps — too stretchy and it won’t work quite right and could dig into the performer’s shoulder when they try to tighten it.


For the adjustable straps, you need the right hardware. These come in various colors, most commonly white, black and clear. Obviously, adjustable straps are optional, but they are nice for costumes that will be used by others in the future. If you don’t have the hardware, make sure you leave enough elastic as a tail so that it can be let out later.


You need, need, need stretch or ball point needles when sewing elastic and spandex or any stretchy fabric. Rather than puncturing the fibers like a normal needle does, a ball point needle separates the fibers. If you use a regular needle, you’re likely to have skipped stitches and your zig zags will look like a mess. Trust me on this one, and get the proper needles!

A Serger

This is obviously optional, but if you start sewing knits enough, a serger is a game changer. For leotards and activewear especially, the serger finishes those seams lickity split, with more give than your regular machine’s stretch stitch or zig zag stitch. Those stitches will work, of course, but you will have some popped seams occasionally and the results will be obviously less professional. The good new is that a serger doesn’t need to break the bank. I have this Juki serger and have been using it for about six or seven years with ZERO issues. The price is right, too! Next on my list is a coverstitch machine, which, if I continue sewing dancewear on commission, I’ll need to invest in one at some point.

This photo is of my daughter in a Jalie leotard I made for her recently. I have yet to try to sew this style of tutu, but it’s on my list!


Spandex is what you need! Cotton spandex is softer and straight spandex is the slick shiny stuff. Whatever you choose, your fabric must have four-way stretch. That means it stretches equally in all directions, not just stretchy one way. I find ordering these fabrics to be easy from I love how well they describe the weight of each fabric and the prices are great, I haven’t been disappointed.


The flesh colored stuff that comes inside your swimsuits and inside of leotards goes by a few different names, but you can usually find it by searching for swimsuit lining. Or on spandexworld, here is the selection of linings. It’s flesh colored and comes in various weights, some with compression, which is great when sewing leotards for teens and adults. Many dancers do not wear bras with leotards and need the compression of the right lining in order to feel secure.


I’ve written an entire post on finding patterns for all kinds of dancewear, but my go-to for leotards of all kinds, is hands down, For these Grinch costumes, I used the basic leotard pattern and it was so easy to convert it to a one-shouldered design. Most importantly, their size chart is super accurate, so you won’t waste time trying to figure out the right size.

That’s my advice concerning tools for sewing activewear! Specialty sewing like dancewear can be super intimidating for some, but I hope if you’re interested in it, you’ll give it a try. It’s really not scary at all with the right arsenal of tools and techniques. There’s no ironing involved, very little pinning once you get the hang of it and seamstresses who can sew it are few and far between, so if you’re wanting to start earning money sewing, consider specializing in sewing for dance, gymnastics, drill teams, etc . .. There seems to be a giant shortage of qualified sewists in this genre, based on the amount of requests I’ve gotten this month alone. I charge $30 per hour plus supplies and no one has even batted an eye at my price, which feels so validating! So find yourself some spandex and give it a whirl ;)

/ Nikki Schreiner/ Comment

activewear, sewing

sewing, dancewear, activewear, howtosew, leotards

Nikki Schreiner

DIY Dance Outfits You’ll Love to Move In!

Dancers are passionate about what they do, but they also know how expensive it can be. Keeping up with the cost of both training and equipment isn’t always easy. As usual, however, your DIY skills can help you out and make things a little cheaper! Mastering some basic sewing skills, for example, is already a plus as a dancer when it comes to things like putting ribbons on your ballet shoes.

If you’re ready to try taking your sewing skills to the next level, try making yourself one of these new DIY dance garments instead of buying a brand name one! You’ll save money, perfect your technique, and get a new skirt, leotard, or sweater to rock at your next rehearsal.

1. Flowy no-sew dance skirt


Ballet Scoop provides you with an easy pattern that actually doesn’t involve any sewing at all! As long as you’re careful with your measurements and make sure to cut your lines neatly, your skirt will turn out just how you want it to!

2. Fabric tube top


If you’re looking for a quick fix for a last minute performance but all you have to go with your favourite dance skirt is a simple tube top, there are plenty of ways to customize it quickly! Sewing and rhinestoning take a long time, however, so BDancewear suggests adding strips of fabric in a few different, stylish ways.

3. Simple spaghetti strap leotard


Are you looking for something a little more exciting than the traditional black leotard? You can find bodysuits with fun colours and patterns in stores, but they’re often more expensive. The Kool Chicken teaches you how to make one of your own from any stretch fabric you like instead!

4. Criss-crossing strap leotard


Do you like the idea of making your own unique bodysuit with a  bit of a flair but prefer to keep it black so it’s still traditional for class? Try getting creative with your straps instead! Loran’s World shows you how to do it in 61 minutes.

5. DIY chiffon wrap skirt


Do you like the idea of making yourself a cute little dance skirt, but you’d rather be able to tie it on and off rather than having to pull it down and step out of it? has the pattern for you! This adorable chiffon skirt is a wrap style and slightly sheer, giving it an extra feminine touch.

6. Braided racer back dance bralet


Pretty Quirky Pants shows you how to make an adorable crop top out of neoprene. Besides being adorable, this top will stretch and breathe with you as you dance, but the material does take some specific sewing techniques.

7. Classic tutu DIY


Gros Grain Fab walks you through the process of creating your own classic ballet tutu, just like you might see on stage in a professional production! You might not need a tutu like this in regular rehearsal, and you might prefer a professionally made one for shows, but a DIY classic tutu makes for great dress rehearsal practice wear.

8. Lace ballet skirt with raw edges


If you like the idea of a rehearsal skirt but you’re looking for something longer and more whimsical, this raw edged lace skirt might be exactly what you’re looking for! Love Maegan shows you how it’s done.

9. Twirly dance skirt


Perhaps it’s your child who needs dance clothing and not you? This pattern could be adapted for anyone of any size, but the way it twirls is particularly fun for little girls who are learning how to twirl! Find out how it’s made on Hazel and Company!

10. DIY dance shrug


Do you need something to do your warm ups in before you’ve worked up a sweat, but that’s still close cropped to your body? Many dancers prefer not to wear baggy clothing, so big sweaters are out! Instead, try this adorable dance shrug by Sparkly Belly using the sleeves of a regular shirt as a guide.

11. Crochet ballet wrap sweater


Are you an avid crochet enthusiast with a ballerina daughter? Then you have the perfect opportunity to make an adorable wrap sweater that will keep her comfortable while she warms up in class! Check out this simple pattern from Red Heart.

12. Knitted ballet bolero


Knitters rejoice, there are plenty of ballet-related dance wear patterns out there for you too! This adorable little bolero jacket for kids is a great way to keep your little dancer warm before and after class and it’ll look adorable with their tights and bun. Get the pattern from Love Knitting.

13. Intricate knitted leg warmers


Speaking of knitting, Knitarelli Patterns is here to help you make your own dance garments as well! We love this intricate little leg warmers that will keep your hardworking calf muscles warm between rehearsals. They look fancy, but they’re not actually all that difficult to make!


Layered knitted “tutu”


Okay, so the idea of a knitted tutu with several layers might not be the most practical for experienced or professional dancers who warm up quickly and need to see the lines of their bodies while they move, but it’s certainly adorable for tiny dancers! Get the pattern from Monika Sirna.

Time to put on your dancing shoes!

How to choose clothes for dancing

You signed up for dance lessons and now you do not know what clothes to choose - too much of everything? Keep in mind that the clothes you wear to class will depend on which dance style you choose. We'll help you figure it out.

Ballet is a discipline characterized by rigor, clarity of position, but also elegance. The clothing you choose should reflect these characteristics. Some dance schools may require you to wear a specific color. If there are no such conditions, then pastel colors or black are the norm.

But it's not just the color that matters. Your ballet outfit should fit your body well so that your teacher can see your movements and help you correct mistakes. This will allow you to perfect each of your positions without getting distracted.

The basic ballet costume includes: a leotard (plain or with a skirt) and tights (preferably made of microfiber so that they last longer). Depending on your level, you may also need shoes, ballet flats or pointe shoes. For the latter, you can choose between more durable leather or satin. And finally, in winter, in order not to freeze during rehearsals, get yourself a bolero and leggings that will keep your muscles warm.

Buy a special hair kit for a practical and elegant ballerina-like bun. She will accentuate your outfit and create an elegant image of a prima ballerina!

Modern dance is influenced by a variety of influences and is a mixture of different dances, from jazz to ballet, as well as urban and even traditional dance. So there are no special rules here. However, you should choose clothes that you will feel comfortable in and that will not interfere with your various movements in the dance. For example, loose-fitting, loose-fitting clothing will give you complete freedom of movement.

The basic set of clothes for modern dance includes a bottom (pants, leggings or shorts), usually in a tight-fitting cut and black. What to wear on top, choose for yourself: what style and style suit you and allow you to move smoothly.

As for shoes, it is very important to feel the floor while dancing, but without pain. Therefore, we recommend you soft comfortable shoes for dancing.

If you have weak knees, we recommend training with dance knee pads to prevent injury.

Street Dance (Street Dance) - street, or city, dance includes wide sharp movements, a series of long, quick steps and tricks on the floor. The concept of style is very important if you want to truly fit into this world. If you are part of a dance troupe or team, a dress code may be recommended. Finally, as with other types of dance, your clothes should be comfortable and flowing.

The main rule is to let your imagination run wild and come up with your own image! The most practical, in our opinion, would be this option: put on baggy trousers, wide leg pants or harem trousers. Loose clothing will allow you to perform all the moves and acrobatics, associating them with the hip-hop style.

There are no rules for the top of the image. Choose what makes you feel at ease. From shoes, as a rule, comfortable and stylish sneakers are suitable. And most importantly, no matter what type of clothing you choose, it is important for street dancing that you have your knees covered - this will save you from injury.

Your outfit is also a means of expressing yourself and reflecting your dance style, so feel free to go crazy and try different variations!

Remember, the perfect dance outfit is one that makes you feel better as you move to the beat of the music. In no case should your clothes interfere with you. Bring personality and your own style!

Clothes for ballroom dancing, what requirements must be met

A beautiful performance on stage with a lot of dance elements and movements in the classical style is usually called ballroom dancing. People who are fond of this sport have flexibility and elasticity. In order for the trainings to be successful and the performances to be exemplary, special clothes for ballroom dancing are used, and all fashionable costumes are classified according to different programs. In order to choose the right products for performances, it is recommended to familiarize yourself in detail with the types of costumes, the requirements for their tailoring and options for colors and materials. 9Ol000 choose not only a beautiful, stylish suit, but also one that meets the requirements of international standards. Everyone likes to look at a beautiful performance, especially if cute outfits flash on the stage. If the requirements are not met, the dancer may lose their qualification. Today there are several options for costumes:

  • for standard program;
  • for Latin;
  • for children.

To better understand the varieties, it is recommended to consider each species separately.

For the standard program. Today it is stylized as an outfit of the 19th century and is represented by such products for boys and girls:

  • men's suit - a dark tailcoat and bow tie are required. Often in the photo you can see how a man is dressed in a black jacket, white dress shirt, white bow tie. Classic black shoes or matching shoes are allowed. In the cuff area, the shirt protrudes slightly beyond the jacket;
  • women's suit - a long fitted dress made of light, flowing material. Often light colors are chosen, but sometimes the shade depends on the rhythm and expression of the dance. The dress must be long, and gloves are an integral attribute. Often the dress has open shoulders, it can be complemented by beautiful airy sleeves sewn like a flare. It is allowed to use various guipure inserts along the waistline, as well as various decorative elements, such as a fluffy border along the edge of the hem, sleeves.

The use of women's ballroom dancewear of the standard program allows the use of boas, feathers, artificial flowers, fringes, appliqués. The layering of the dress is explained by the presence of special dance movements. There are loops on the sleeves that hold the upper train of the dress.

For Latin

Latin dance is fundamentally different from the European classical version. It is characterized by rhythm, expressiveness, fast movements. Passion and energy should shine in the eyes of partners. Therefore, clothing should be appropriate, not constrain the actions of the dancers. For women, a short dress is selected, men dance in trousers and a shirt.

Female version Male version
Suit features Short dress consisting of two elements. Often selected bright colors that attract the attention of the viewer. Frank models for women are sewn in compliance with a large number of rules. You can not use transparent material in the outfit, and cutouts in the chest and buttocks are not allowed. Underwear should not be visible - this is against all the rules. In addition, the dress must be one-piece: you can not highlight the bodice at the top of the product. Uniformity is a criterion for choosing a Latin suit for men. A dark color of trousers, a light or dark shirt is welcome here. The presence of a tie or bow tie to match the color of the shirt is allowed. A mandatory criterion is the fit of the male body, so the shirt can be made from both smooth flowing fabrics and elastic counterparts.
Shoes There are no restrictions in this category. Women choose shoes that are comfortable to move in and make appropriate movements. Well suited options on a medium thin heel with an open middle. There are no restrictions either, so the males prefer the classics: black shoes with a slightly elongated toe at low speed.

Men's trousers should fit well on the waist or hips, their cut may be slightly flared, which adds expression to the dance.

For children

Classical ballroom and Latin dance attire for children is also sewn in accordance with the rules, and in this case they are more strict. It is believed that the younger the age group of children, the more restrictions on the presence of decor, the presence of different shades.

Dresses and suits for children must be plain.

Simplicity of cut is one of the main requirements for women's dress. Regardless of the dance style, the length of the skirt is limited - it is from 10 cm above the knee to 10 cm below the knee. For example, in the Latin version, a girl can wear a dress 10 cm above the knee. According to the requirements, any kind of decor other than lace is prohibited, however, restrictions are also introduced on it. For example, if the dress is made in blue, then the lace material will be blue or light blue.

The height of the heel of shoes for girls should not exceed 3.5 cm - this is the best option for comfortable performance. It is forbidden to wear shoes on a bare foot - body tights or stockings are required.

The suit for boys also has a number of nuances:

  • comfortable trousers and a T-shirt are used for training;
  • for performances in the European program, classic dark trousers are used, slightly flared to the bottom, as well as a white shirt and tie;
  • the same version of the costume is used for performances in Latin dance.

Shoes for boys should be comfortable, slightly slippery and match the color of the trousers.

Color and fabric

The choice of material for sewing the product, as well as its color, depends on the dance style, requirements and restrictions. Today, the following materials are used in tailoring suits:

  • supplex - the material does not wrinkle, does not lose color after multiple washes. The composition contains nylon, which makes it light and breathable;
  • oil - knitted fabric, relevant for sewing tight-fitting products;
  • measure - has high strength, breathability and promotes the evaporation of moisture, which is important during training and performances;
  • guipure - used in costumes as inserts;
  • satin - beautiful appearance and flowing motifs allow you to choose this material for sewing suits;
  • organza - suitable for the manufacture of women's dresses of the European program;
  • chiffon. Lightweight but fragile fabric suitable for dresses.

If a child or an adult is very thin, you can sew a velvet suit. Among the colors for the European program, you can highlight the clothes for ballroom dancing in classic black, as well as blue, blue and turquoise shades. In Latin, bright colors are mainly used: yellow, green, purple.

Competition costume requirements

In the dance industry, there are a number of restrictions and requirements for certain types of costumes. After reviewing them, you can safely select a dance outfit for a competitive performance. The requirements apply to men's and women's clothing in the standard program and latin: