For years, catwalk and high-street fashion has been influenced by archetypal ballet wear; from ballet pumps and cross-over cardigans, to chiffon skirts and slouchy t-shirts. Even Harrods recently featured Principal dancer, Bethany Kingsley-Garner in a fashion shoot. 

Yet, whenever we take our guests to visit the studio, a point of conversation is often the strange fashion in class. So what are dancers actually wearing (and why)? We talked to some of the dancers to find out…   

Legendary ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev was famed for wearing layers of leg warmers and clogs to class. What is your go-to studio outfit for when you’re warming up in class?  

Roseanna Leney (Artist) – When I’m warming up, I start by putting more layers on, and once I get warm I can start taking layers off. I usually end up in leotard, tights and a skirt. I always tend to wear flowery skirts and now people know me for them. We all wear these booties [pictured]. They are comfy and warm, and that’s important because if you are cold you can injure yourself more easily, especially for girls in pointe shoes; you need to make sure your toes are really warm.

Eado Turgeman (Artist)– They are really easy to slip on and off and walk around in between class and rehearsals. 

Do you wear ballet shoes underneath the booties? 

Barnaby Rook Bishop (Artist) – Yes, sometimes and they get a bit smelly. I like to wear a comfy tracksuit to class. I don’t really mind how I look! My purple leg warmers are my favourite, they fit really well and they go with everything.

Who is the most stylish dancer in class?

Barnaby – It’s definitely not me. Ha, ha!

Roseanna – Clarissa (former Artist) has about 500 different leotards. Every day we always ask ‘is that a new leotard?’ and she says ‘no, I just haven’t worn it yet’. Everyone is always borrowing her leotards!

Who wears the most outrageous outfits in the studio? 

Roseanna – Mia Thompson [Artist] has two funny leotards; one has unicorns on it and the other one has bananas on it! I’m not sure if she has worn them to class yet, but she tried them on in the dressing room.

Please explain for our readers, why do you wear one leg warmer? 

Roseanna – It could be because a dancer is in pain. If I have a bad left foot, I will just have a leg warmer on my left leg, and if, for example, someone had a pulled hamstring they would roll up the leg warmer to keep that part of the leg warm.  

Eado – It’s also a way of showing everyone that you have something wrong. I also like to wear a leg warmer on my left foot because my left isn’t as good as my right leg. Ha, ha!

Barnaby – I think it’s about feeling as comfortable as possible, and you don’t want to have something on your mind while you’re working.


'When a dancer has an injury or is coming back from an injury on one leg, the leg warmer keeps the muscles warm. In Company Class, it’s very unlikely you’d see anyone wearing two leg warmers. The time when a dancer might wear two is to keep the legs warm between rehearsals or periods when they are inactive but may be required to dance at short notice.'

Fraser Johnstone, Scottish Ballet Massage Therapist

Words by Sarah Potter for Backstage Magazine - Spring 2017.