Should my kid wear underpants, under their dance leotards and costumes?

The instructions in the photo above were posted on the wall in the dressing room at my four and nine year old daughters dance concert. Being a dancer I didn’t think twice about the Ballet Tights (no underwear) instructions, but another mother wasn’t comfortable with it, which made me realize there are probably other parents wondering why their dance teacher asks that no underpants be worn and asking – Should my kid wear underpants, under their dance leotards and costumes?

Kids do not need to wear underpants under their dance leotards and costumes just like they do not wear any under a bathing suit. If they are wearing tights these perform the same function as panties and socks. It is standard practice to ask young dancers to not wear panties or undies under their dance leotards and costumes for performances, recitals, and exams.

Dancing is all about aesthetics, which basically means looking good visually. Underwear that is hanging out, bunched up or pulled too low distracts from the aesthetics of the movement being created. It just doesn’t look good people! Children’s underwear is usually brightly coloured, with patterns and images. It can sometimes be a little puffy or bulky around the butt. And because of this, their underwear can be really noticeable under a pair of tights and a form-fitting leotard or costume. 

Another reason for the rule is because underwear can be distracting to the dancer, especially younger dancers. Leotards and tights are well….. tight and this can lead to uncomfortable underwear bunching up the crotch, or if the underwear wasn’t pulled up properly can pull down their leotard or tights. On the other hand if the underwear is too tight, or pulled up to high the wearer can constantly be trying to pick the uncomfortable wedgie from their butt.

One last reason can also be if your child uses the bathroom during their lesson and you’ve stepped out to do some shopping or get a coffee, even though you had expertly hidden the underwear under their leotard, they might not be able to do the same which can lead to all the distracting problems above.

If your school is insisting students also do not wear underwear for classes this could be because they are trying to set a high standard of appearance and certain image for their school.

Not convinced? Feel it is unhygienic or inappropriate?…. Read on as we explain why it is neither of these things!

But isn’t wearing no underwear unhygienic?

First of all your child is most likely not going to be wearing their dance gear or costume all day at which point they will get changed and you can put their leotard and or tights into the wash.

Secondly if they are wearing tights, the tights are their underwear which you would wash after they wear regardless of wearing underwear because they also go over their feet and get dirty fairly easily.

Thirdly many well-made leotards and costumes just like a bathing suit come with an extra layer of material in the crotch area giving extra protection. 

But my kids is wearing a used costume or no tights! Are there alternatives?

If your child is wearing a costume that has been worn before by someone else, their ballet or dance tights will act as their underwear. But if they are wearing a used costume without tights and it has never been washed you will probably want them to wear something under that for hygiene purposes.

In these cases you can buy specially made dance underwear which is easier said then done for a tiny bottom. Most dance stores sell tan, white or black coloured underwear especially made for children to wear underneath leotards and costumes. These are usually made of lycra or some sort of tight elastic material rather than cotton and are high cut so they fit snuggly and hide under the leotard or costume.

If you are unable to obtain a specially made pair of dancer underwear or can’t find the right shade for your child maybe you can experiment and buy the tightest fitting, high cut underwear you can find (maybe a size smaller than usual?) in white, tan, brown, black or pink depending on your child and the costume they are going to be wearing. White underwear could always be dyed to the shade you needed as well. Pure cotton underwear although great for its breathable qualities are probably not your best option here, look for a pair made with elastane, spandex or lycra.

In saying all this, sometimes it can all be too hard and expensive which is why many parents just let their kids go commando.

IMPORTANT:
Examiners, adjudicators and judges will take off points for appearance if underwear can be seen!

Okay so what about my just turned 3yr old who still wears a nappy?

Our dance school accepts students from the age of 3  and the other day I noticed one of the newer younger kids in my daughters preschool dance class wearing a nappy and thought to myself ‘oh so cute’ but then ‘well this will be interesting come concert time!’ That being said wearing a nappy is better than your child having an accident whilst in class or on stage as happened the previous week with our dance teacher running out of the studio mid class, in shock, looking for a child’s mum (who unfortunately wasn’t there) saying ‘she didn’t give any signs to show she needed to go!’

So if your studio allows children 2.5-4yrs old to dance, but requires them to wear no underwear, then they should also have a policy which states that children beginning dance lessons at their school need to be toilet trained before allowing them to participate in class. I would recommend talking to your teacher if you have any concerns.

On another note if your child is still wearing nappies strongly consider whether they need to be dancing in the dance school recital just yet. Many dance schools make recitals optional for preschoolers. Childhood learning, growing and playing can create enough business for kids already without the added stress of needing to do things when they are not ready or mature enough for them. Waiting until the next year might increase both your and their enjoyment of participating in a recital.

How do I explain this to my kid so they don’t think it’s okay to not wear underwear in other situations?

My child can be so stubborn. I’ve told them they can’t wear their underwear but they are adamant they won’t take them off OR My child can be so stubborn now that I’ve told them they don’t need to wear underwear under their dance gear they don’t want to put underwear on under anything else!

When kids are young you kind of have to choose your battles. If wearing no underwear becomes a big issue then talk to your dance teacher about it and work something out. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from the teacher to your child to get them to understand that no underwear are the rules for wearing tights and a leotard only when they come to dance class.

Another way is to talk to them about how they don’t wear underwear, under their swim suit or how their tights are like thin underwear and a pair of socks and so it is ok in these circumstances, but it is not something we do all the time. You could explain and experiment with them on how wearing underwear under a bathing suit would be uncomfortable and how it is similar when wearing their tights and leotard.

But what about older children and teenagers?

We hope this information has helped you and your child become more comfortable with the concept of going ‘sans underpants’ for dance lessons, exams and recitals. But if you have an older child who is reaching puberty you possibly have a few questions about what to do when you get to that point? We would love you to head over to our article just for teens on this very subject and if you have found any of this info interesting or useful would love you to share it with other dance parents or even your dance school.

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About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.