The majority of professional ballet dancers wear tights with holes in them, positioned on the bottom of the feet. Have you ever wondered what these are called and why dancers wear them?
Ballet tights with holes in their feet are called convertible tights. These are used by dancers so that they can roll up their tights, exposing their feet if needed.
There are many uses for convertible tights and are used by dancers for a variety of reasons.
Why Do Dancers Use Convertible Tights?
The majority of dancers, especially in the professional world, use convertible tights. There are many reasons for this and they can vary based on dance style and person.
In ballet, female dancers dance en pointe once they reach a certain level. Most of the time, dancers don’t put their pointe shoes on until halfway through class. This means that they need to change shoes.
Many dancers add different accessories to their feet and toes, under their tights, for pointe work. These can include toe pads, tape, bandages, spacers, and more. Convertible tights makes it possible to add these accessories after having tights on already. They can just roll up the feet, add the accessories, and pull the tights back down over their feet.
Some dancers enjoy dancing with their feet bare in their slippers or other dance shoes. This is yet another reason to roll up their tights above their ankles. Some dance styles even require being barefoot at times, such as contemporary, and other times have tights on their feet, such as pointe work. The ability to convert their tights is essential for these types of dancers.
Lastly, rolling tights up is also nice for getting to and from the studio if changing at a different location. Some dancers will wear their dancewear home and change there, which means that rolling up their tights to put on different socks or shoes can be really helpful.
Letting your feet breathe can be a really nice feature of convertible tights. Dancers can take their feet out of the hot tights during breaks or in between classes, rehearsals, or even different pieces in a show. This is just another added bonus to using convertible tights.
Why Do Some Dancers Use Tights Without Holes?
While most dancers do prefer convertible tights, there are a select few that don’t. Some dancers dislike the feeling of the hole at the bottom of their foot, especially if they are using certain types of dance shoes. Some dancers claim that it messes with their ability to articulate their feet or creates an undesirable sensation.
Another reason that convertible tights can be undesirable is for those who are hard on their tights, such as younger dancers. The extra seams around the hole mean that runs occur more easily. For younger dancers, this can be a significant problem, causing them to go through their tights much faster.
Younger dancers may also try to take their tights off their feet at improper times, so it can be preferable by some studios for dancers to not start using convertible tights until they are older.
How To Prevent Runs in Convertible Tights
One issue that every dancer faces is runs in tights. These can occur from simple wear and tear, but unfortunately convertible tights can be slightly more susceptible due to the extra seams around the holes.
If a snag occurs or a fray begins on a seam, then action should be taken to prevent it turning into a bigger hole or run. One popular remedy is clear nail polish. A few dabs of clear nail polish on the fray or snag can stop a run in its tracks.
Hair spray is another great solution for any sort of run, fray, or snag in ballet tights. Hair spray over a large portion of the tights can help with preventing runs or snags, but it can also be used as a spot treatment.
Convertible tights can be hair sprayed around the holes, which can prevent them from fraying and causing runs later on. This is especially helpful before a show, for example, or an important audition, etc.
Should You Buy Convertible Tights Over Regular Tights?
Whether or not to buy convertible tights is mostly up to personal preference. However, there are a few cases that one or the other may be better for you.
You should buy convertible tights if…
- You are planning on adding pointe shoe accessories under your tights
- You are planning on changing in and/or out of your dancewear outside of the studio
- You have large time gaps or breaks between classes, rehearsals, or shows
- You need to be barefoot for certain classes
- You prefer to use your dance shoes barefoot
You shouldn’t buy convertible tights if…
- You dislike the feeling of the hole under your feet
- You are buying tights for a young dancer
- You are especially hard on tights and don’t have a strong need for convertible tights
At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Some people have a strong preference one way or the other. Some people don’t. Whichever works better for your situation is the better option for you. Most studios and companies don’t care whether you have convertible tights or not, just do you.
Other Types of Tights
There are actually 4 main types of tights. Convertible tights and footed tights are the most popular, but there are 2 other types of tights: stirrup and footless.
Footless tights are around ankle length and have no foot on them whatsoever. They are like leggings, but made out of normal ballet tight material. These are helpful if you are always dancing barefoot, such as in some contemporary styles.
Stirrup tights are similar to footless tights, but they have a thin piece of fabric that goes around the dancer’s ankle and arch to hold the tights in place. Some dancers prefer this for pointe work, but they aren’t super common.
Footed tights are what most people know as ‘normal’ tights. These are tights with a full foot and no holes anywhere. These are often preferable for younger dancers.
Lastly, convertible tights give you the option to use the tights as footed or as footless. These are ideal for most dancers, especially professional dancers who are dancing all day and partaking in many different dance styles.
Things to Remember
Remember, ballet tights with holes in them are called convertible tights. These are useful for a variety of reasons including:
- Letting your feet out in between classes
- Wearing sandals outside the studio with your tights on
- Adding pointe shoe accessories under your tights
- Dancing barefoot in one class and in shoes for another
It is also important to remember that some dancers prefer regular tights and younger dancers shouldn’t use convertible tights unless absolutely necessary. They can be easier to damage and can cause dancers to go through their tights more quickly.
Most studios don’t care what types of tights you use as long as they are the correct color. Choose the best option for you based on personal preference and the pros and cons listed in this article. Don’t let anyone tell you which is better, because whatever works for you is better for you.