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Arm bands


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Hello, I'm a ballet Dad whose DDs and DW do quite a lot of dancing...


One thing I was curious about and was hoping I might get enlightenment on is why do so many ballerinas wear those frilly arm-bands with their tutus (tuti?)?


I presume it's a traditional thing, but to me it spoils the look of the arms...

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Hello thewinelake, welcome to the forum!


That is not a question I've ever heard before - I would assume that dancers in companies wear the costumes they are given and don't have a lot of input into the design of the costume. Maybe the arm frills are traditional, dating back to original costume designs?

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If you go to Google Images and look at old costumes of the Romantic Era, you will see that most of the costumes had much more of a sleeve.  I think the arm band type frill (which is often almost invisibly attached to the costume rather than a truly detached arm band) is a "residual" sleeve.


Generally speaking, the ballet costumes of yore were much less revealing.  An example is the "short"  tutu which was longer and droopier than the ultra short, hard, discus like tutu we see today.  Look at pictures of Anna Pavlova and see how long her short tutus were!  Sleeves - though short - were important not so much to cover the arms as to cover the shoulder.  Or pretend to cover the shoulder.


Even today in some very traditional weddings it is religiously important that the bride's shoulders are covered and some also include that protocol for the arms.


Also different was that frills were added to the panty of the tutu so that it blended in much more and the lines not so shsarply obvious between the skirt and the panty.


There are a number of "residuals" in costuming - such as the barely visible piece of cloth at Giselle's waist - that used to be a rather full size apron which of course made clear her social status as a peasant/working class.


People of yore were very particular about who was allowed to wear what.  The sumptuary laws are full of those prohibitions and details.

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I scribed for an adjudicator at a festival who disliked arm band sleeves intently and commented on the reports of all who wore them, 'sleeves are not necessary!'

Edited to say, this was when dancers were wearing tutus, not any other costumes!

Edited by Karen
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