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Thursday, October 4, 2018

DanceSport Costumes for Kids: What Is and Is Not Allowed


As most of my readers will know, I very rarely speak about children in Ballroom Bitch. My reluctance to speak about kids in DanceSport is driven by a number of factors, not the least of which being that the content on this site isn’t exactly child appropriate. However, the increasing number of little girls in wildly inappropriate costumes has prompted me to address one of the most under-discussed topics in American DanceSport: Costuming Rules.

As a dancer, I love our over-the-top and overtly provocative costumes. However, I am absolutely sick of seeing little girls (i.e. under 16) dressed like pocket-sized prosti-tots on Facebook, Instragram, and YouTube when we all know damn well those costumes would get them immediately disqualified from competition. I would even venture to argue that these costumes (not to mention the patterns outside of their competition level!) alienate parents from getting their children involved in DanceSport. Even as a dancer myself, I would NOT allow my hypothetical daughter to wear these costumes or dance the provocative patterns I am starting to see become popular on social media. So, for those of you with kids in the sport, or interested in getting into the sport, I want to dive into the actual costuming rules for children competing in the juvenile categories (under 13).

Unlike what social media would lead you to believe, DanceSport’s governing body has pretty strict rules on what child competitors can and cannot wear on the competition floor. And unlike their youth and adult counterparts, the guidelines are pretty darn conservative!

Girls’ Dress Code:
First and foremost, many of the cutouts we are seeing online are NOT allowed! The dress bodice may not include any cutouts or illusions thereof. Further, any transparent fabric must be lined with an opaque fabric in the same color, except on the sleeves. This means there will be no mistaking that these little ones are fully covered.

In addition, necklines must not be lower than the top of child’s armpit and lined sleeves must extend to at least the shoulder line (i.e. no décolletage and no spaghetti/tank straps). To be safe, order a dress with short, cap, long, or elbow sleeves. Sleeveless dresses are typically not allowed. Likewise, open backs are prohibited for juvenile competitors. However, dresses may have a keyhole back, provided it does not extend below the top of the child’s armpit.

Short skirts are also not permitted. Skirts may not exceed 10cm above the knee, and most competitions require skirts to be knee-length. Likewise, skirts must not be longer than below the kneecap for WDSF. However, the British Dance Council (BDC) (which sets the example for most comps) allows dancers competing Standard to wear skirts up to 5cm above their ankle sock (yes, juvenile competitors must wear ankle socks with their shoes – we’ll get to that).

In addition to regulations on skirt length, there are firm guidelines for skirt construction. As you might expect, sheer material is not allowed and skirts must be made from a single material. Any panels must extend the full length of the dress, so godets are out. Additionally, juveniles are not allowed to have frills, boning, or fishing line inside the hem of their skirt. The BDC allows wire in the hem, but I would recommend avoiding it, as some competitions do not allow it. However, up to two underskirts and up to 8cm of crinoline (aka horsehair) is allowed in the hem, but they may not be exposed!

No jewelry, aside from personal/religious items (i.e. a crucifix) is allowed in the juvenile category. Earrings must be simple (i.e. small studs). Further, headbands, neckbands, and armbands are not permitted. Likewise dresses are not allowed to have ANY stoning! 

Finally, children must wear a block heel no higher than 3.5cm, which means no stilettos for these little ladies! Also, girls must wear white ankle socks with their shoes.

There are additional detailed guidelines for girls’ costumes that you can access here and here, depending on your governing body, but the rules outlined above should give you a general idea for how your child’s dress should look.

Boys’ Dress Code:
Because boys’ costumes are generally simpler, their rules are also more straightforward.

All boys must wear black block trousers (no velvet or velour), and black satin is only permitted at the waistband and for full-length stripes.

White long-sleeved shirts are required, with the neckline not extending below the top of the child’s armpit. The shirt must be tucked into the trousers. Sheer fabric, wing collars, and shiny material are not permitted. Sleeves may not be rolled and no detail is allowed on the shirt. Cufflinks are allowed.

All male juvenile competitors must wear a black tie (bowtie or regular) and black leather (or similar material) belt. No decorative belt buckles are permitted.

Boys must wear black leather, patent, or nubuck shoes.

As you can see, these rules set a pretty conservative group of standards for how child competitors can dress at competitions, and I think rightfully so! Before you order costumes for your child, be sure to check out these links from the British Dance Council to get an idea of how your little competitor should dress: Rules and Photo Appendix. Additionally, make sure you speak with your child’s coach, and most importantly, review the specific rules for your selected competition(s) before you arrive. You can also check out these videos to see how acceptably-dressed child competitors look in action: Standard and Latin.

Hopefully this helps clarify some of the more confusing aspects of costuming rules for juveniles (under 13s) in DanceSport and helps people feel relieved about the appropriateness of costuming. Keep an eye out for a few more posts on issues related to Under 18 competitors coming up soon!

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