In the year 1661, ballet became a professional dance. The first ballet academy was opened and this allowed ballet dancers to be known as professionals. At the time, tights and leotards were not invented yet, thus dancers were still encumbered by their clothes. Then, someone was brave enough to take the first step against what was considered morally correct: Ms. Marie Camargo shortened her skirt so that she could move better. Although the audience was shocked at first, other dancers began to follow suit. By the late eighteenth century, the public’s dress code had evolved to a more Greek inspired fashion with light and simple robes, thus a ballet dancer at the time was able to wear a light and easy flowing ballet dress. Ballet moves changed as well; when the ballet dress allowed the dancers to move more, the moves themselves became more intricate.
As time went by, the ballet dress continued to change. In the early 1800’s, men no longer wore long pants to dance ballet. The pants were replaced with a shorter version that went to the knee and silk hose was worn with this. In this way, the audience was able to see the intricate dance movements of the legs and feet. In a very important breakthrough, the ballet slipper was invented and this changed ballet drastically. The ballet dress now always included the wearing of the slipper, for both men and women. The slipper has hardly changed at all since its invention.
By the middle 1800’s, women were able to show their arms and have skirts that fell to the knee for their ballet dress. At the time, those skirts were considered extremely short. It was important at the time, that the ballet dress hid the female thigh. Men still wore ties and this was worn over a vest. Those skirts eventually changed into a shorter version which is now known as the famous ballet dress tutu.
Throughout the 1800’s, women still had to wear corsets, this was worn in conjunction with long stockings made of cotton that were held on by suspenders, a sleeveless bodice with ruffles around the neck, and a sash that went around the waist.
Finally, in the early 1900’s, ballet dress clothes began to evolve into what we are accustomed to today. Clothes began to be more simple, leotards were worn and eventually the tutus that we know of became commonplace in the world of ballet. Legs are still usually covered by nylons because it is considered important for ballet dancers to keep their leg muscles warm. Now, the official dress of ballet can be seen in so many colors and textures; the audience can see the true beauty of ballet with all of the movements in clear view and not hidden under clothes. What a long way ballet dress has come.