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  • Writer's pictureDawn Matthews

What Do I Wear to a Modern Jive Class?

Updated: Apr 17

What to wear to a modern jive class blog banner - image shows a woman looking at her wardrobe

The first time I ever attended a class, I know I had the same thought I think many women do – what on Earth do I wear? Now, 15 years on, I can’t actually remember what I did wear! I do know that there’s a lot of people that wonder the same thing I did, so I thought I’d do a little round-up of tips for what to wear when you’re attending your first Modern Jive class.

Stick to Your Usual Style

If you know, or have searched anything about jive, Modern Jive, or Lindy Hop, you’ll probably have seen the photos of ladies wearing fabulous flared, 50’s rock and roll style dresses, and men wearing braces and turnups. While there are definitely Modern Jive dancers that wear those styles, if it isn’t your thing then don’t worry – you don’t have to wear that type of thing ever, if you don't want to. Stick with clothes that you already own, and that suit you, and you’ll be much happier throughout your first class. If you want to go for a 50s look, by all means do so, but know that you don’t have to, and (certainly at the classes on the South Coast of the UK, where I dance) those that do are in the minority.

Comfort is Key

When you’re learning a new dance, you've got a lot going on, so make sure you’re completely comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. Bear in mind that your arms will be above your head sometimes, so if you have any insecurities about your belly, make sure your top is long enough to cover it when you put your arms above your head. The same thing goes if you’re wearing a dress, make sure it doesn’t ride up when you put your arms in the air.

As you’ll be spinning and turning in class, if you’ve chosen a dress or a skirt that flares out, make sure you can spin quickly without showing your underwear. If you’re unsure if you’ll be flashing your M&S specials, a pair of cycling shorts underneath will protect your modesty. You don’t want to be worrying if you’re accidentally flashing more than you planned to, and cycling shorts don’t add too much of an extra layer. If you decide to wear a long dress, make sure you're not going to catch it with your shoe - falling on the floor in your first class won't give you the confidence you need!

If you choose trousers, make sure you can move in them easily. Your tightest skinny jeans might look amazing, but if you can’t travel around the dancefloor comfortably, then you’re going to regret wearing them. Pick something with a bit of give – leggings, loose trousers, or a dress or skirt that you can move in are all good options.

Men, your choice of clothing is much narrower, but the same goes about your shirt – if you’ve any hang-ups about your midsection, make sure your shirt is long enough. If your trousers are even slightly too big at the waist, then make sure you wear a belt, since you’re going to be in control of the dances, you don’t need the distraction of hitching your trousers up constantly throughout the night!

Dancing Through The Summer

Dancing in the summer is a whole different ball game to dancing in the winter, when most of us can get away with wearing jeans for dancing in. Summer dancing is hot, humid, and sweaty – and so you need a different approach to the usual trousers and a top that most of us default to in the winter.

When it is super hot, look at sportswear – sweat wicking t-shirts and underwear are a good idea, and skirts and shorts are absolutely acceptable on the dancefloor. If you’re not comfortable with your legs out, find loose trousers, linen and cotton are breathable and so can help keep you that bit cooler.

You might also want to consider bringing a second – or third – top, a towel and deodorant, so you can change through the evening and make sure you’re smelling fresh, no matter how steamy the dancing gets!

What Shoes Should I Wear to a Modern Jive Dance Class?

I see a lot of new dancers showing up in trainers – which is a logical thing to do, since it is a movement based activity, and trainers are comfortable. But a lot of trainers have really grippy soles, and that doesn’t make turning and spinning on the dancefloor all that easy to do. So, what should you wear instead?

Ladies, if you find them comfortable, you can wear a heeled shoe – anything like a court shoe or a sandal is fine. Make sure whichever pair you pick will stay on your feet (you definitely don’t want them coming off mid-spin!) and that they're not so high that you're going to be sent off balance when you turn. If you’re not a fan of heels, then you can wear any type of shoe that will allow you to turn your foot easily. Ballet flats, sandals, and so on are all OK to start out in, and many long-term dancers like espadrille type shoes similar to those made by the brand Toms, so if you have anything like that, give them a go.

Other than trainers, stiletto heels are a no-no, because they damage the floor, and no matter how comfortable you find them, they simply aren’t safe for a busy dancefloor. Wedge heels aren’t good either, since they don’t allow you the flexibility you need.

Men, you can wear any type of shoe really that allows your foot to move easily against the floor. You will see some guys dancing wearing flat bottomed, skater style trainers, but most men wear a smart type of shoe – anything you’d be comfortable wearing to the office is the usual type of shoe, until you’ve established your dance style and decide you want to level up to a 'proper' dance shoe.

When you’ve decided that Modern Jive is something you want to do more of, then you can think about buying specialist dance shoes. I've written a bit about buying dance shoes, so when you're ready, that's a post you might want to have a look at.

One Last Thing – Make Sure You’re Super Clean!

Modern Jive is a partner dance, and in most beginner classes, you’re encouraged to move around the class rather than sticking with the person you attended the class with. That means you’re going to be up close with people you don’t know, but who hopefully will become friends, or at least friendly acquaintances. With that in mind… Consider your personal hygiene. Make sure you’ve showered before you head out, use deodorant, clean your teeth, and men, wash your hands after you've applied your aftershave.

Many dancers carry items such as baby wipes, deodorant, and either chewing gum or mints in their bag, just in case they need them, as well as towels and extra tops in the summer months. You don’t want to be the dancer that people avoid because they aren’t quite as fresh as they could be!

Final Thoughts: What to Wear to a Modern Jive Class

There’s a lot to think about when you’re going to your first Modern Jive class, but the key takeaway is that you need to be comfortable. Stick to your usual sense of style, make sure you’re not going to accidentally show off a bit of your body that you’d rather not, and make sure you wear a pair of shoes that allow you to turn easily. Good luck with your first class – not that you’ll need it, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to have a great time! When you've decided whether it is for you, be sure to check out my post about Modern Jive dance etiquette, and how to build confidence in your dancing.

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