What Not To Wear: Teachers In Tutus

This post is part of circle time over at Dance Advantage!

Sometimes my students say “Miss Maria, where is your tutu?” My answer: “It got lost in the laundry!” Then we giggle and that’s the end of that. They don’t ask often, but when they do I make sure they know it’s just fine that we look different. I encourage this between students too. I don’t have a dress code for my students, and if it’s up to me, I never will. I believe every student is different and therefore they should wear something different. After all, we are artists and that is one way we can express ourselves. 

A while back I saw a job posting for a teacher in a Facebook group I belong to that said this:

“Dance Studio seeking dancer to be our Ballerina Princess to teach 2-4 year olds on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Must be upbeat, energetic and wear our Ballerina costume that we provide.”

Ok, this post made me crazy upset. Ballerina costume? Sigh. I hope I can put my feelings into words about this without making any of you mad at me. I just think it’s insane that a teacher has to be a “princess” and wear a costume just to teach this young age. Whoever this person is would be blown away by what my 2 year olds can do as I teach in my sweat pants and bare feet. I am confident about your students too.

I know people have different opinions on this, so I don’t want too ruffle many feathers, but I do want teachers to think about what it is they are role modeling for these young students while being a “princess” and teaching in a tutu. As you can probably tell, my students dance about real life as much as we can. Meaning, they can take the dances and ideas and apply them to the real world. I know other teachers have other philosophies and that is the beauty of it all.

While I mulling over writing about this, I was trying to compare this to other art forms. Would a music teacher dress up as a  ummm, clown? or instrument? Would an art teacher dress up as a paint brush or crayon? NO WAY! They wouldn’t dream of it! So why would dance teachers dress up as a “ballerina princess?”

The best example I can give to what I wear to teach in is, I get dressed in the morning, teach 6 classes and then go out to dinner with my husband all in the same outfit. Ok, sweatpants are not the best dinner date option, but it works for me.

Does this bother anyone else as much as it did me? What you wear is what you wear and I respect that, but I do believe what you wear should not be a substitute for your teaching.

Just be a good teacher and what you wear matter. Right? 

There, phew! So happy to get that off my chest! Thanks for listening! 🙂

How about you? Have anything to say or share on this topic? I would love to hear and discuss it with you! xo




  1. I recently had a complaint from a parent that I don’t teach in a leotard and tights, even though I require my students to wear a leotard and tights. I wear tight-fitting pants and tank tops when I teach so that my students can see my body, and so that I can stay comfortable throughout my 12 hour days! I dress professionally and teach professionally. What I wear has no affect on the quality of my teaching. Give me a break!

  2. Even ballerinas don’t wear tutus in the studio…. they are reserved for special roles and performances. Look, I have been doing ballet for more than 25 years and I’ve worn a classical tutu exactly twice (romantic tutus a handful of times). The tutu is not the end goal. I actually like class uniforms (are you shocked?!?) because I’ve found that the outfits can be a big distraction for the littles. Plus it makes their recital costumes feel more special. Anyway, the whole idea of the teacher as ballerina is just a humiliating marketing scheme, in my opinion (and I’ll give it since I’m not afraid of offending anyone who is trying to put me in a size 10 fluffy skirt and a crown… 😉 ). Great post, per usual, Maria!

    1. Author

      I hear you on the dress code, but I teach 5 and under and it’s not that important yet to see their bodies in placement and such. I do think it’s important as they get older! Good point about the tutus serving special roles, what’s so great about a tutu anyway? Be right back, going to get you your crown! 😉 Thanks for stopping by Lauren.

  3. Oh, that makes my blood boil! How degrading to ask someone to wear a ‘ballerina’ costume. GRRR! We are not performers, we’re teachers. End of story.

    1. Author

      So glad I’m not the only one fired up about this. And the post was just so casual like it was “normal” for write that in a job posting. Ugh!

  4. I’m with Lauren about class uniforms – I think they’re important for various reasons. But a ballerina costume? Ridiculous. Reiterating Dancing Branflake, dance teachers are educators, not a spectacle. That job posting suggests that what we do is insignificant and trite.

  5. I love that you posted this! I think it would be crazy to dress up like a princess ballerina as a teacher. I do like to wear brightly colored tops or “fun” type of shirts, just to get the little ones attention…but I would think it would be hard to take a ballerina princess seriously as a teacher. I do not have a dress code. And it’s funny that you brought this up, because just yesterday one of my parents told me how much she appreciated that! I feel like whatever the girls/boys feel the most comfortable in for moving, the better..from sweat pants to tutus and anything in between. (as long as their pants don’t cover their feet–that drives me crazy) But, I just want them to come happy to class, and if they’ve had to battle with their moms and dads over what they “have” to wear, it’ll just take the joy out of coming to class. And, as a mom, I realize there are more than enough battles to fight..and why fight about clothing? And on the other hand, I can understand why serious, more classical ballet classes have a dress code, for the more serious aspect….ooh I just cannot imagine facing the parents as a teacher in a princess tutu!

    1. Author

      Jill, I love what you said about the struggle. I totally agree. And I also get thanked a lot for allowing them to wear whatever they want. I don’t think it’s distracting at all. It’s all in what the teacher makes out of it, you know? 🙂 I also wear bright tops, I’m a purple girl!

  6. I agree with most everyone on this issue. We have a dress code and that is they can wear anything they want so long as they can dance freely and safely, but no jewelry if possible. LOVE bare feet. Even in our recital there are no ballet slippers or tights. Love it!

  7. What a timely post! I live in a rural community and stereotypical expectations of what a ballet/dance teacher should look like are the norm. I tend to teach in a leotard with pants of some kind and sometimes a shirt. Sometimes I even wear tights. Not so much because of the expectation, but because I really like dance clothes:) I have a uniform for my kiddos. The little ones do get distracted and there are no dance supply stores near me so I end up with Walmart leotards with rhinestones and attached tutus that end up in their mouths (gross, right?). I do, however, have a Princess Tutu Week once a semester. On these days anything goes (proper shoes are still required). We do special performances for the “royal family”, a three ring circus, or whatever comes to mind. The students LOVE it! Even my older kids get into it. The parents love it because it gives them a chance to wear their recital costume again. This year, I did wear a tutu and a crown, and must say we had blast! I agree that attire is such a minor part of the greater gift of movement that there is lots of room for making it your own. I also agree that requiring a teacher to wear a provided “ballerina costume” is highly offensive.

    On a side note, not one of my teachers ever taught in dance clothes”) Every male teacher I had taught in jeans, tshirts and tennis shoes (or boots in one case).

  8. Pingback: Dance Wear Advice From The Across The Web | Dance Advantage | Studio News

  9. I’m assuming the dance teacher’s position in question was for a studio. At the end of the day, the dance studio is still a business and I’m sure it is a paid position. It is a choice to apply for the position or not, if a teacher doesn’t like it don’t apply. On the other hand perhaps the owner was trying out a marketing strategy . I’m not saying asking an employee to wear a specific uniform is right or wrong, I’m simply saying that it is the choice of the business owner and whoever takes the position. In my opinion, many of you are being a bit dramatic about the ad. The factors surrounding this position are: the class is intended for the youngest of dancers, and most likely the younger less experienced teacher as well. Perhaps it is a new studio trying something different to entice students. Maybe the strategy will work, maybe it won’t. It also doesn’t mean that the rest of the dance classes offered there requires the teacher to be dressed up in a costume. At my studio I don’t require my teachers to dress up in costumes, however, I do believe they should be dressed like dance teachers, easily identifiable, and in dance wear. I believe this sets a tone for what kind of atmosphere you would like to create for your studio. The same applies for other businesses who wish to differentiate an employee from a customer. I have a very large studio with many classrooms running at the same time. I know that it is helpful for new parents and students to identify staff members in busy lobbies and hallways. Having a teacher in dance wear also promotes the student to be dressed appropriately. Many of you agree that dance has a discipline element that is a necessary requirement for the art form and safety reasons. That is why top notch ballet schools have always required a strict dress code. The goal for the class is to create highly athletic and disciplined dancers. It is proven that students take their ballet classes more seriously when they are in dress code. The atmosphere is that of work ethic. Some studio owners want a more relaxed atmosphere and they will attract the families who also want a relaxed atmosphere. There is nothing wrong with that, this way there is something for everyone. Others want discipline across the board. That’s what’s great about this country, different opinions, different ways of doing things and lot’s of options.

    1. Author

      Mel, I agree with you that it’s the owners choice and the teachers choice to apply for the position. My opinion on this is and has always been to educate the children first, all the other “stuff” comes later. I am confident this studio owner is asking the teacher to dress “like a princess” just to get little ones into her studio. I think that if you are a great studio and a great teacher they will come on their own. I agree it is a business, but it’s not the kind of business I want to run. I have never once mentioned princess in any of my classes, and they still sign up and love it. I think this studio owner is taking the easy way out and is tricking her clients into something fake just to get business and that just doesn’t sit right with me. Thanks for your comment!

  10. Great post Maria. I’m with you on this issue, and I think it’s a hot mess. My baby ballet dancers wear leotards, tights, and slippers, but i have no requirement on color or style — and i can’t remember the last time I wore a leo, tights or a skirt lol. Teacher clothes should suit the teacher’s purpose, and for class — whether at a pre-prof studio or not, no ballet teacher needs to wear a tutu.

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