Several years ago, Chasta Hamilton was judging a competition when a group wearing white briefs, without tights underneath, took the stage. “During the dance, a girl started her period,” she remembers. “It was uncomfortable for me, so I know it had to be uncomfortable for her.” The no-underwear trend for dancers is one that’s been around for a while—Hamilton remembers “No underwear in class” being posted on the wall of the studio she grew up attending—but it’s one that deserves reevaluation.
Visible underwear might not be an aesthetically pleasing look onstage or in the studio, but where does that leave menstruating students? Now, as the owner of Stage Door Dance in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hamilton operates with a very different mindset from that of her childhood teachers. “‘It’s this way, and it’s the only way’ is not an acceptable answer for 2022,” she says. “It’s not my job to say ‘Don’t wear underwear,’ if that’s what makes you comfortable.”
Dress Code Remix
At Stage Door Dance, Hamilton approaches her dress code from a sensible, inclusive place, asking dancers to start with a leotard base and layer leggings, tights or shorts on top. “Our dress code is built upon creating a distraction-free environment,” she says. “There are no two-pieces, and it’s never just a leotard.” This gives dancers the freedom to wear underwear or other undergarments that support their needs and offer them confidence. “When you’re dressed in a confident way that makes you feel good, that’s also what you’ll project to others,” she says. “You’re not going to feel nearly as confident if you’re wearing little apparel and you’re asked to do extreme athletics.”
If your studio’s dress code or approach to costuming has hard-and-fast rules that might make some dancers uncomfortable, it’s worth taking another look. Students with more modest approaches to undergarments or who might need more layers underneath their dance clothes when they’re on their period will be grateful to have options that feel right for them. “As educators, it’s our duty to make sure we’re having these conversations about appropriate apparel but not forcing any one answer,” says Hamilton. “The first step is asking yourself, ‘Are you making choices that people can wear on any occasion and still be comfortable?’ That’s not an unreasonable question to ask.”
Tips for Unnoticeable Undergarments
Skin-tone underwear To camouflage undergarments that might poke out from underneath leotards and costumes, Hamilton recommends advising students to purchase underwear that matches their skin tone. It’s also a good way to ensure modesty and comfort during, say, quick costume changes backstage.
● Safety pins “Lots of costumes have linings, but some people will still want to wear underwear,” Hamilton admits. “I’m not going to stop them, but I’ll ask them to pin their underwear to the inside of the costume, so it doesn’t look tacky.”
● Tights or athletic shorts Don’t underestimate the power of tights to offer another layer underneath leotards or costumes, says Hamilton. “Tights are a great undergarment!” she says, also noting that many students at Stage Door opt to wear shorts over their leotards as another layering technique.
Tried-and-True Dance Undergarments
“From the dance market, Capezio and Bloch are always solid,” says Hamilton. Here are a few options to consider for dancers who want to wear underwear under their dance clothes:
● Ladies Armelle High-Waist Briefs, $16.50 This full-coverage brief features a high rise, a wide waistband, a regular leg line and full seat coverage.
● Ladies Support Full-Back Bodysuit, $33 With clear, convertible straps and a seamless brief, this bodysuit enables easy costume changes and a seamless silhouette.
● Foundations Brief, $16 Thanks to bonded waist and leg lines, this minimal show brief won’t peek out from under leotards and costumes.
● Seamless low-rise thong, $15 Soft and breathable, with antimicrobial protection to wick moisture, this thong has minimal seams for smooth coverage under dancewear.
Thinx: Absorbent Underwear
“It’s also not our job as dance teachers to say ‘You have to wear a tampon,’” says Hamilton, who’s heard great things about the period-underwear company Thinx. Thinx’s washable, reusable underwear is breathable, moisture-wicking and leak-resistant, with five different absorbency strengths and long-lasting protection. (The super style, for instance, can absorb up to five regular tampons’ worth of fluid.)
According to Courtney Newman, director of product design, Thinx offers 22 different underwear styles. “There are a variety of options for dancers to choose from depending on their needs,” she says.
● Thong, $25 “The thong style would be a great choice more toward the end of the cycle, as it will simultaneously provide period protection while avoiding underwear-line exposure,” says Newman.
● Sport, $35 This style is better for a more medium flow, Newman says, providing “a comfortable, everyday fit made from an ultrathin micromesh that would work well under fuller-coverage costumes.”
● Thinx Teens, $16 Thinx’s Teens line is specifically made for teens and tweens, offering the same period protection as the signature line but with fuller coverage styles. “The bikini style is great for under leotards and stockings, as they are high-cut around the legs,” says Newman.