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Dance Costumes Appropriate for Children

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Fri, Mar 04, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

On January 24, 2016, Dreamingwithyourfeet.com posted an article concerning the inappropriate costuming of children, specifically by dance teachers who are associated with children’s dance studios. The article was titled “Dance Teachers: Please Put Some Clothes on Your Students”.

I referred to this article on January 26, on my Facebook page and additionally posted my old blog titled “My Opinion on Age Appropriate Costuming” that I first posted on May 2, 2008. You can find a link to this old blog of mine, on my Facebook page.

My opinion has not changed and I am happy to report that there are specific rules for ‘age appropriate’ costuming for children ballroom dancers the USA Dance: Dancesport Rulebook. Every parent and teacher for young ballroom dancers should be aware of these rules and I applaud this organization for addressing this issue.

Unfortunately, there is NOT a similar rulebook for young, non-ballroom dancers. And the rule of thumb seems to be ‘anything goes’. But people, these are our innocent children. Please stop dressing them up as mini-adults! Children should be allowed to wear costumes that are fun and playful, not overtly sexy.

Here is some text from my previous blog:

“The very youngest dancers should be cute and cuddly. They are just learning, and when they take the stage, everyone loves them, especially Mom, Dad, and Grandma and Grandpa.

Preadolescent kids should not be using music, dance moves or costumes that suggest anything other than fun dance themes. Costumes should not include backless garments. There is no need to show midriffs either. Girls with any baby fat do not need to feel uncomfortable, just because the thin girls want to look like their older sisters. Nothing suggestive of lingerie is appropriate.

Adolescent girls are probably the most difficult to say no to, for suggestive costumes. Again, they see their older sisters in skimpy costumes, along with suggestive street clothes… High-waisted pants have not yet been embraced by most teens, even though that is what is being shown on the runways. And showing cleavage is still embraced on television as seemingly appropriate for the office and the classroom.

Low-rise pants or skirts can become a problem. Not allowing bare midriffs can alleviate this issue. On the other end of bottoms, do not allow the shorts to become too short either. Just because the NFL cheerleaders in your hometown have their shorts cut a little ‘cheeky’, does not mean it is a good thing on your youngsters. High-cut or French-cut leotards or briefs are not the best plan either. The key is moderate or modestly cut boy-shorts or leotards.

Do I suggest that our teenage daughters start sewing those lovely homemade frocks that Amish women are wearing? Absolutely not! But let’s try and add a little modesty where we can, OK?

My opinion is this: There should be no cleavage visible for any high school female dancer, in any dance costume. I am aware that flat or moderately endowed dancers may not have a problem with most costumes. BUT what you fail to see, is when you have a larger busted dancer, you need to make sure that she still looks modest. If you choose a costume design that does not take into account, all your dancers bust sizes, you cannot just simply close your eyes to the results. Number one, larger busted girls have the right to be modestly covered, especially to not be visually singled out. And number two, large busted girls need to have a costume where they can use a supportive bra to keep them from bouncing, as this is both visually distracting, and MOST importantly, it is very bad for the bustline.

Does this mean, stay away from open backs? You’re darn right! Come on. I have heard it over and over again, that an open backed dance costume is more beautiful and a closed back. OK, fine, maybe it is, maybe it is not. But when you have open backs on underage girls, sorry, you open up a big problem, especially with your larger busted dancers.

When girls are 18 and graduated from high school, it becomes their own responsibility to dress appropriately at the workplace, at college, out with friends during the day, and out in the evening. They are seen as adults in the world. Parents are no longer responsible for their actions, even though we certainly still worry that they make the right choices.

One really big issue, when you are discussing age appropriate costumes, is that FIT is a part of the equation. A properly fitting garment can took tasteful, when the same garment worn way-to-tight, can look inappropriate or overtly sexual. So please make sure that you are not creating little Lolitas, by sizing your costumes wrong. Make sure that if you have a bigger, more developed girl, among your preadolescent dancers, you are not creating a more adult visual, simply because you did not choose a correctly fitting costume for her. Early developing girls feel awkward enough, do not make it worse, by trying to have them squeeze into a Large Child size rather than the adult size that they now are.”

I hope that even adults can take some inspiration for this discussion on modesty for children’s dance costumes. Every dancer should consider bucking the norm of ultra-sexy costuming for performances. Skimpy costumes are not always necessary. Don’t give in to the pressure to reveal more than you are comfortable with.

(Submitted for March 2016 issue of Minnesota Dancer)

© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.

Tags: Costume Fit & Size Tips, Minnesota Dancer Magazine

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