Have you ever had the experience of purchasing a ballet leotard online, which looks really great on the model, but the moment you tried it on, uhhh...it just doesn't work for you. Perhaps it may be the bra fat, little belly, flappy arms etc. that you become conscious once you have a form-fitting leotard on. Let's face it, everyone is different and so is our body. What works for me doesn't mean that it is going to work for you.
In the process of searching for the perfect ballet leotard, instead of randomly choosing anything that you like, take the following factors into consideration to choose what suits you the best.
Camisole, tank, halter neck, high neck, boat neck, V-neck, zipped, low, back, cross back, cap sleeves, short sleeves, half sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, and long sleeves. There are just too many style options available out there. The general rule of thumb is to create visual balance and proportion. If you have wider shoulders, camisoles and v-neck leotards helps reduce visual weight and keep attention inward and downward. On the other hand, if you have wider hips, you may want to draw attention upward and outward in the shoulder area, therefore, halter neck and boat neck serve that purpose. If you have stronger arms, sleeves that cut at the widest part of your arms is going to make your arms look even bulkier, while sleeveless, half sleeves, 3/4 or long sleeves will work better for you. If you have fuller busts, tank, high neck and zipped leotards will provide more support for you.
While cotton leotards may be your first leotard, they are not necessarily the most comfortable, especially after you sweat. Indeed, most ballet leotards nowadays are made with high-performance fabric for sports which usually contains nylon and spandex. This type of fabric is lightweight, durable, stretchy, form-fitting, comfortable and moisture-wicking, which is perfect for making ballet leotards.
Instead of the usual nylon and spandex fabrics, some of the more high-end dancewear brands (e.g. LEVDANCE) are using patented fabrics such as Italian Radilon® which brings comfort to the next level. Ballet leotards made with Italian Radilon® is even more lightweight and softer than the usual nylon spandex fabric. You will feel the difference immediately once you touch it, and, without exaggeration, it will be the most comfortable leotard you have ever tried.
Mesh and lace are commonly in ballet leotards for decorative purposes on the sleeves or shoulder area, which is more delicate and should be cared for with hand washing. If you are looking for leotards with mesh or lace, those made of high quality are much more durable without falling apart or with tiny elastic poking out after a short while. While velvets can be used as both decorative purposes or used in the whole piece or leotard, which helps to keep dancers warm especially in winter.
Getting the correct size for your body is extremely important. A leotard that is too small for you will feel tight and uncomfortable, while a leotard that is too large will not provide enough support, particularly around the bust area. The correct size of a leotard should feel just right for you, allowing freedom in breathing and movements without feeling restrictive. If you are shopping online, look closely at the size chart and sizing tips provided by the manufacturer, always ask for advice from the brands or the distributors when in doubt.
Ballet leotards come with either bust lining or full front lining to provide support, coverage and reduce the possibility of being see-through. Leotards in dark colours are usually bust lined while lighter colours are usually fully lined. Depending on the fabrics, some leotards in dark colours are fully lined as well, especially fabrics which are more lightweight like the Italian Radilon® mentioned above. Most of the leotards are not designed with bra pockets or bra padding and dancers usually just go braless. Use reusable nipple covers (highly recommend Bristols 6) or sew bra paddings on leotards if you have concerns about going braless.
Having longer legs is every dancer's dream and the legline of a ballet leotard, even though it is just a few centimeters, makes a huge difference, especially if you are not wearing anything in class other than a leotard and tights. A higher legline up to the pelvis will visually elongates your legs, but if you want more coverage for your bottom, opt for one with a lower legline instead.
6. Colour palette
Of course it is a personal preference when it comes to colours, but wearing leotards in a colour palette that is suitable for your skin complexion is going to make you glow. Take pink as an example, ballet pink or blush looks better on dancers with a cool skin tone while salmon or peach looks better on dancers with a warm skin tone.
Indeed, colour palettes can be categorized into 12 colour seasons based on 3 colour dimensions, including hue (warm or cool), value (light or dark) and chroma (muted or bright). I have yellow skin undertone with eyes and hair in dark brown, my colour palette is dark autumn, which means that dark, rich colours such as chocolate brown, emerald, burgundy and mustard work for me, while colours such as black, mint, dusty pink and greyish blue make me look pale and washed off. I personally find the site Concept Wardrobe helpful for me to build my colour palette not only for choosing leotards, but also for choosing streetwear and even cosmetics.
It is fascinating just looking at ballet leotards with patterns. Lines, shapes, florals, animal prints, or even cute drawings. The variety of leotard design is limitless. Some pattern may flatter your body by visual illusion such as vertical lines, yet some patterns may actually make you look bigger such as horizontal lines, grids or loud florals. Bear in mind that some ballet teachers may not prefer students to wear leotards with patterns because it looks distracting to the teachers.
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Finding the perfect leotard is a trial and error process that takes time and effort to understand your own body, there is not right or wrong and it is ultimately, a personal preference. The purpose of this blog is to share my experience in finding out what works if you wish to achieve the look which most of the dancers look for, it does not mean to limit your choices nor stereotype any type of dancers. In the end, what matters most is what makes you feel great and comfortable.