The Case for Size-Inclusive Dancewear, and Where to Find It

March 15, 2022

It’s hard enough for dancers with larger bodies to be in the ballet world, says dancer and therapist Colleen Werner. “But at least if you have access to dancewear, there’s one less barrier that’s making you feel like you don’t belong.”

Recent years have seen more dancewear brands offering larger ranges of sizes and customizations that fit more types of bodies. But Werner says that finding dancewear that fits—and feels and looks good—can still be challenging. She gives recommendations of brands she likes on her Instagram—and she herself has landed ambassador deals with brands like Discount Dance and Gaynor Minden—but says she still gets lots of questions from her over 70K followers that she doesn’t have an answer for, like where to find rehearsal tutus in larger sizes.

Pointe asked Werner and other dancers about size-inclusive brands they’ve found and why it’s important to offer dancewear for larger bodies.

What Does “Size-Inclusive” Mean?

Size-inclusive “can be a loaded term,” says Werner. Even if a brand’s products go up to 3X, “there are people who are larger than 3X,” she says. To truly be size-inclusive, says Werner, a brand would need to have custom sizing, though she says this comes with its own issues, like the cost and longer wait times. Special orders can be logistically challenging for dancewear manufacturers, since they are often smaller, niche businesses.

Júlia Del Blanco wears a burgundy camisole leotard and matching ballet skirt and pink ballet slippers. She is shown in a dance studio doing a tendu devant in effacé with her left leg extended and her right leg in plié.
Júlia Del Bianco, a dancer, teacher and body diversity advocate from Brazil, modeling for Esc2Dance. Photo courtesy Del Bianco.

Júlia Del Bianco, a Brazilian ballet dancer and teacher and advocate for body diversity in ballet, says size-inclusivity is about more than the size itself. “You have to know about fashion, about fitting,” she says, pointing out that by simply sizing up a leotard, you may have too-thin straps that cut the skin of a larger dancer, or a bust without enough support. “I don’t think you can make your technique greater if you don’t feel comfortable,” says Del Bianco.

Werner says that working with fit models of different sizes is essential, and offering different fits (like how when buying jeans you can choose a “curvy” or “tall” fit) would serve even smaller dancers who have a larger chest or a curvier waist.

For Teyonna Johnson, a recreational dancer who takes class at Steps on Broadway in New York City, “size-inclusive means not compromising on the fashion of it,” she says. “You can say that you’re size-inclusive and have one leotard in one style that fits everybody, but what about that really beautiful leotard that only goes up to a certain size?”

Teyonna Johnson is shown taking a full-body selfie with her right hand holding the phone in a theater dressing room. She wears a blue cap-sleeved leotard and a black ballet skirt, and poses with her left foot popped up on demi-pointe and her left arm slung casually over her head. She looks up to the right with a sly smile.
Teyonna Johnson, who takes classes at New York City’s Steps on Broadway, says size-inclusive dancewear shouldn’t compromise fashion. Photo courtesy Johnson

The Brands Dancers Love

Werner has a message for those who struggle to find dancewear in their size: “It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you as a dancer. It means there’s something wrong with the system.” Thankfully, that system is slowly changing as more and more brands make dancewear that doesn’t just fit larger dancers, but looks fashionable, too.

Jule Dancewear: “They specifically create their leotards for people with larger busts,” says Werner, who is a Jule ambassador. “They’re very compressive and super-supportive. I can wear their leotards with no bra, and jump with no issue.” She notes that they currently only go up to XL, and hopes they will expand their sizing at some point.

Bunting Dancewear: Has ready-to-ship leotards up to 3X, and does affordable custom options (around $50 to $70).

Supuhr Designs: Werner likes this custom leotard brand for its many fabric options and bust support, and says the designer—also a dancer—is receptive to feedback on how to make her leotards better fit bigger bodies.

Ma Ballet Shop: Del Bianco swears by this Brazilian brand (which unfortunately does not currently ship internationally) for its selection of styles and fabrics and its openness to feedback on how to make its products fit better.

Royall Dancewear: Werner says that finding skirts (especially ones in colors other than black) has been particularly challenging: Many come in “one size fits all,” or, if they do come in XL, haven’t been properly fit-tested so are too short on dancers with larger stomachs. She loves Royall Dancewear, which goes up to XL but also does affordable custom sizes, for the variety of colors and fabrics and the School of American Ballet–style design.

Body Wrappers: Werner recommends their tights, some of which go up to 4X.

Snag: This size-inclusive clothing brand recently launched a line of dance tights, which come in seven sizes and three colors. The tights are convertible, high-waisted and moisture-wicking.