The Language of Dancewear

Language is an important tool that dominates our everyday ideas and ideals. These ideas and ideals are especially important in marketing. However, in a time of supposed equality, the language used to sell items changes dramatically if a company wishes to pander to the feminine market or the masculine market. This remains true even in the areas of the arts such as dance and the language used to sell dancewear.

A Bit About Dance and Dancewear

image1-3Dance styles: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and ballroom dancing all have different types of dancewear associated with them. Most of these dance styles have a strict uniform for both female and male dancers. In many dance stores, the ratio of women’s dancewear and men’s dancewear is skewed in favor of the traditional female dancer. Speaking for personal experience as a sales associate in a dancewear store, this skew towards female dancers often discourages young male dancers from wanting to enter a dancewear store, even if it’s to get something as simple as a new pair of dance shoes. Online stores improve this situation by providing a larger selection of dancewear. Unfortunately, sizing in the online market for dancewear is different than within the physical store. Often trying on items can be more time consuming when done at home instead of in a retail store. Since male dancers are more likely to shop online than in the store, many retail stores struggle to see a need to improve their selection for men.

Women’s dancewear description

Online dancewear retailers are often creative with their descriptions. With the lack of time and a large selection provided online, the descriptions tend to be repetitive and tailored toward women. We can see this within CoCo Chanel and their phrasing such as:

“Coco Chanel knew best when she said, ‘Modesty is the highest elegance.’ This reigns true when you wear the Long Sleeve Unitard. Our best-selling unitard features a moderate scoop front and back.”

“Style icon, Audrey Hepburn knew best when she said, ‘Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.’ This reigns true when wearing the Georgette Long Wrap Skirt made of delicate chiffon.”

These generic descriptions feed into the idea that companies believe female dancers only care about how they look. This helps create the many different variations of the same thing we see in the store, with only minor differences to help with the comfort level of the garments.

image2-2.jpegMen’s dancewear description

When the same online marketers are creating the copy for men’s dancewear, they focus almost exclusively on highlighting comfort and utilitarian function. Sometimes, they only state the bare facts about the item. The reasoning behind this is rooted in the idea that masculine dancers do not care about looks, which affects both how much is offered to these dancers and creates a harsh stigma when a male dancer tries to break away from the monotone color palette of black and white. With the hundreds of different style and color options that female dancers have, it is only right that male dancers are given the same opportunity to stand out and put their best foot forward. In the New York City Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the United States, the only category where male dancers outnumber female dancers is at the Principal level, the highest level a dancer can achieve in a company. Ballet and other dance forms need strong male dancers and until something changes, the stigma will remain the way it is and some of the best male dancers will be lost before they have even given this wonderful art form a try.

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