Ballet Slippers Explained

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If you've never taken ballet before, but you're enrolling your budding ballerina in classes for the first time, its natural to have some questions! Some of the first and most common questions have to do with the ballet uniform. At Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, the uniforms required for our children's classes - and all of our classes - are based on what is largely considered to be a "traditional" ballet uniform. Today's post will begin to tackle the uniform from the ground up - with the shoes.

Slipper or Shoe?

In some ways, the term "ballet slipper" is a fair description. A proper ballet shoe, made out of canvas or soft leather, is much more supple than a typical shoe (like a sneaker, boot, or sandal) that you would wear outside.

In other ways, the term "ballet slipper" is largely misleading. The proper ballet shoe, or slipper, is not the same thing as the fuzzy house shoes that also may be referred to as "slippers."

How can you tell the difference between a proper ballet shoe and a similarly-termed, and sometimes similarity-styled slipper? Ballet shoes should be made of canvas or leather, not satin, and should be form fitting to the foot, like a glove. If you're not sure you've purchased the correct shoe for your child's ballet class, leave the packaging and tags in tact. Bring the shoes to your first class, and ask your instructor to have a look! She will be able to let you know if you have the correct shoes and, whether or not they fit properly.

The Drawstring

The two ends of the ballet shoe's drawstring stick out of an opening right near the front of the foot and the toes when worn. The question of the day always is, what do I do with the strings? 

A lot of the time, young children will come to their first ballet class with the drawstring ends tied in a big, rabbit-eared bow. This is one of the most intuitive things you could do with the drawstring, and of course, to those of us who are girls, it seems like a pretty, decorative touch to the outfit, right? In a perfect world, yes, the bow would add a nice touch. In reality, it only has about a 20% chance of remaining in tact longer than the first three minutes of the ballet class. After that, the drawstrings are flying everywhere, and most often, this causes the stressful need to stop dancing and retie the bow (sigh). Once the bow is retied...three minutes later...you can imagine.

The solution to this involves a careful, two-fold process of tucking the drawstrings away so they aren't able to cause so much distraction during class.

The first step is to carefully evaluate the length. Most ballet shoe drawstrings come with a little extra string. With that in mind, you can usually safely tie a knot at the head of the shoe, where the drawstrings first emerge, and trim the excess without a worry. The only caution is to not cut too close - make sure to allow for growing room within the shoe, and don't cut so close that you're at risk of loosing an end of the drawstring inside the shoe. Lost drawstrings are very difficult to remedy.

Once the drawstrings have been knotted and trimmed, the rest is very simple. When you slip the shoe on the foot, tuck the ends of the drawstring in so that they slide inside the shoe as the shoe goes on. The drawstrings should tuck in fully, with nothing besides the knot showing on the outside of the shoe. In most cases, the drawstrings will now remain safely tucked in through the entire duration of ballet class!