Dance Dance Revolution: Ballet for Boys and Girls

If you are just catching up with us, this week we are focusing on dance and gymnastics wear.  Great Patterns, fabric tips, and of course adorable dancers.  My kiddos are going to start a ballet class this fall - yep, both Mack and Bex - so I loved when Rachel said that she was going to sew for both her daughter and SON in today's post.  C'mon, we need great male dancers!!!!!  Rachel has lots of great tips for you about fabric selection and is showing off patterns from My Childhood Treasures and our affiliate, Peek a boo patterns.


What’s more exciting than sending the kids back to school? For my little lady, it’s the start of dance classes! She’s been taking ballet for a few years now, and absolutely loves it. Our dance school has a uniform for all dancers, and requires pink or black for all ballet, tap, and jazz classes. I’ve been wanting to make leotards for her since she started, and I decided that this is the year I’ll do it. If you’ve made swimwear for girls then making dancewear won’t be all that different; if not, it’s actually a good introduction to activewear and less slippery than making swimsuits. 

There were two main considerations for me when selecting my first leotard project ­ the pattern and the fabric. I opted to try out Leotard #4 and the included ballet skirt from My Childhood Treasures, and I’m so glad I did. What a fantastic pattern!

As for fabric, I knew it needed to have spandex for stretch, and be cool/breathable for my active kiddo. Since she’s not *quite* a prima ballerina yet ;) I didn’t need to worry about the uber­specific types of dancewear fabrics used by professionals, but I still wanted to be somewhere in the right ballpark (ha, wrong sport!). 

The cotton/lycra knits that are readily available are generally 95% cotton and 5% spandex (Lycra is a brand name for spandex). These aren’t usually thick enough for dancewear, and you might find your finished leotard to be see-through. Some places will carry cotton/lycra blends that are 10-­15% spandex, and these are generally a bit heavier (and thicker) per yard as well. I used one that I picked up as a designer overstock, and it worked perfectly for this. I also have some matte milliskin from Girl Charlee and from Spandex World in NYC, as well as some stretch panne velvet, that will be nice for future leos. 

For the skirt, I used a lightweight nylon stretch mesh for the main portion and the same cotton/lycra that I used for my leotard was perfect for the waistband. The construction of both the leotard and the skirt was straightforward and easy to follow, and the tutorial was filled with great details and tips for getting a perfect fit. I definitely recommend measuring and re­measuring your dancer, and follow the charts that Dixi includes in the pattern. I ended up doing a straight size 4 (even though I was tempted to add a little length as I often need to do) and the fit was spot­on (For reference, P is nearly 6 yrs and approx. 45” tall; chest/waist/hips all measure about 22”). I also opted to use my serger for construction and my sewing machine for topstitching, even though I often use a coverstitch for that.

The instructions were very detailed about recommended stitches and stitch length, and I wanted to see how they worked out. I was not disappointed AT ALL! The finish looks fantastic and when I compared the leotard to her store bought ones, there were truly very minimal differences. My little dancer absolutely adores her new ensemble and has been squeezing her feet into last year’s ballet slippers to wear it for lots and lots of practice routines.

Her brother and practice­partner, who is 3, has been begging to join his sister’s dance class for the past year, and will be taking his own class this fall for the first time. He’ll be the only boy in his class, and his uniform is a plain white tee and black shorts or leggings. I took the Hanes tee from his pj drawer (boring!), but I thought my mini­Baryshnikov could use some mama­made shorts. The Monaco swim trunks from Peek­a­Boo Patterns are a perfect fit! I used my standard 95/5 cotton lycra for an all­black pair, made a straight size 3, and the fit was great. I’ve used this pattern to make dance shorts for Miss P before (the pattern also includes a version with a side stripe, which is a nice touch), and now I’ve found yet another use for it. Love a pattern that is multi­purpose and has a huge size range!

Taking these pics with my kids was the most fun photoshoot we’ve had in ages. They could not stop twirling and leaping and giggling ­ it was so cute to watch. I hope this year’s dance classes prove to be just as much fun!