What to Wear to Swing Dance? (Explained for Beginners)

Swing is a social dance that involves high energy moves to jazz music. Knowing that you’ll be swinging and kicking up a storm may cause you to wonder about the best apparel choices to make for class. 

While some dance classes propose strict attire rules, this isn’t so with swing dance. But that doesn’t mean you should wear just anything. Due to high activity levels, it’s best to wear non-restricting, comfortable clothing that’s made from breathable fabric.

Stick around to learn more about the things to know about your attire for swing dance.

What to Wear to Swing Dance

Suggested Swing Dance Attire

Whenever you sign up to learn a new style of dance you may have questions about the best way to dress for class. Ballet requires you to wear clothes that hug your body so that the instructor can see your clean lines. But is it the same for swing dance?

There are many different types of swing dance. West Coast Swing, the Lindy Hop, the Charleston, and East Coast swing are just a few. Because of the variations in dance style, there isn’t any formal attire required for swing dance classes. You wear what makes you most comfortable.

But there are some guidelines you’ll want to follow in order to keep safe throughout the class and have a more enjoyable experience.

Clothing Suggestions for Swing Dancing

You want to be able to comfortably move around when swing dancing. So your clothes should be roomy, but not so loose that they’ll get in the way. 

Avoid tight clothes altogether. It will be difficult to catch on to swing dance moves if your range of motion is limited.

Period dress is okay, but not required. If you elect to wear vintage swing dance attire, be certain that it is breathable and will absorb your sweat. 

Sweat absorption is better than sweat wicking. If you wear performance fabrics like athletic leggings or tank tops that wick sweat away from your body, then your sweat might land on your partner. That wouldn’t be cool and might make your partner feel uncomfortable.

Casual dress is encouraged for dance class. This can include a flowy skirt with dance shorts underneath, or a pair of stretchy jeans with a tank top. Khakis and a polo shirt would be equally acceptable.

Swing Dance Clothing Tip: Aim for breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Non-restrictive apparel will make the experience more enjoyable.

Shoes to Wear When Swing Dancing

Fully enclosed flats are best. Your shoes should also be comfortable enough for swift movements. You want to be able to make it through your class without foot discomfort or injury.

Low or medium-height heels are acceptable, but high heels can cause injury to both you and your partner. So if you must wear heels, go no higher than 1.5 inches and make it a low block heel. 

Ideally, the soles of your shoes should be made of leather. Not only does a leather sole protect the dance floor, in comparison to rubber soles, leather soles help make your steps more stable. 

You won’t feel any jerks to your limbs, which can help you dance longer. Being able to grip to the floor without abrupt stops or excessive gliding is key. 

To this point, you’ll want to steer away from athletic shoes. Their soles are not designed to be worn on the dance floor. You will find it difficult to move your feet around because your shoe soles will cling to the floor. When your shoes grip the floor like this, not only can it lead to injury, you can create too much friction in your limbs, hurting your knees and ankles. 

Swing Dance Shoes Tip: Avoid athletic shoes. Smooth rubber soles might be okay but suede or leather soles are ideal. Sandals, high heels, and open toe shoes won’t work.

Here are some examples:

Rubber Sole Shoes

Some people who are new to swing dancing start out with smooth rubber sole shoes, like Converse, TOMS, Keds, or Vans. If this is what you have on hand and you would prefer not to spend a ton of money on new shoes, then you can start here. The only exception is if the dance studio you attend has objections to rubber soles worn on their dance floor.

Just know that you might experience some friction and your feet might stick to the floor at times. Both instances can cause you to feel more exhausted as you dance because your body is having to work harder to properly execute each move.

These Converse Chuck Taylor Shoreline slip-ons hug the foot in a comfortable manner. TOMS loafers like these have a cushioned insole and flatter bottom sole, which might make them more comfortable.

The benefits of rubber soled shoes are that they’re more affordable, and you’ll be making less of an investment up front. If you choose not to continue with swing dancing, then you probably won’t feel anxious about having bought more expensive shoes. 

A disadvantage to wearing rubber sole shoes to swing dance class is that they might cause injury, depending on the type of floor you dance on.

Suede Sole Shoes

If you already own a pair of flat rubber sole shoes and want to prevent knee-jerking, then you might want to add suede to the sole. 

Suede sheets exist for this reason. They’re literally a sheet of suede with strong self-adhesive backing designed to attach to the bottom of your shoe to convert it into a suede soled dance shoe.

This is a DIY route where you trace the sole of your shoe onto the sheet, cut it out, and then adhere to the sole of your shoe.

The primary advantage is that you can convert existing shoes instead of having to buy a new pair. Another advantage is that you can more easily navigate quick dance moves, which helps to protect your limbs as you dance. 

One disadvantage is that these suede adhesives can collect a lot of dirt and dust, making them too smoothe. You’ll have to use a suede sole shoe brush to make the surface more gritty.

There are also suede sole dance shoes available. This particular pair is lightweight, and highly flexible.

Leather Sole Shoes

The best option by far if you plan to take swing classes indefinitely, is the leather soled shoe. 

Opting to try leather soled shoes might even present you with more options. You don’t have to buy dance shoes specifically, but you will want the shoes to be comfortable and supportive, which dance shoes typically are. 

Leather soles offer just the right amount of glide on the dance floor. But if you’re transitioning from rubber soled shoes to these, then you might notice more rapid movement across the dance floor. Just be aware so that you can make adjustments.

This Capezio Cadence Oxford has a leather sole perfect for swing dance. Its heel is only 1.25 inches.

Whichever pair of shoes you choose, always try them on prior to class to make sure you feel comfortable enough to dance around in them for a few hours.

Dress with Your Partner In Mind

Part of the enjoyment surrounding swing dance is that you experience it with a partner. It helps to wear clothes and shoes that won’t distract or frustrate you or your dance partner.

Uniquely Designed Apparel

Skirts that flare out too wide, beautiful blouses with an open back, strings and tassels that extend from a blouse or skirt. While nice for dinner or a night on the town, apparel such as this can be a deterrent when swing dancing. 

With all the twists and hand to body contact, a partner’s hand might get tangled or scarred. 

Projectile Accessories

Jewelry or accessories can hit your partner as you turn, making the experience uncomfortable for you both.

One night my cross body bag annoyed my partner and me. I had to repeatedly adjust it, and my partner had to keep dodging its impact every time I swung around. It was a total nuisance.

Blinding Colors

In addition to wicking sweat onto your partner, wearing neon athletic gear can have an impact on your partner’s eyesight.

Bright colors combined with rapid movement can lead to a migraine headache. Keep the colors to more subdued tones.

Contained Hairstyles

Keep in mind that the momentum you generate can cause your hair to swing along with your body. Flying braids and tresses can hit your partner in the face or cause their eyes to burn if hairs get caught in it. 

Try to style your hair in a way that keeps it close to your head, not causing any disruptions.

Here’s an example of what can happen when accessories are not secure. It’s a Lindy hop snippet from Hellzapoppin’ and this dancer handled it brilliantly.

Lastly, bringing a change of clothes and shoes with you is completely acceptable. Some dancers sweat out of their attire and need to change before getting back on the dance floor.

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