Diversifying dance, one accessory at a time

Alexandra Hutchinson painting her shoes to match her skin
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Alexandra Hutchinson painting her toe shoes to match her skin tone. Photo by An Rong Xu for NYT.

Hi, everyone!

A few years ago I wrote a piece on intimate apparel companies that have begun selling wider ranges of “skin tone” items. The one that offered the widest range of colors was Nude Barre.

Ingrid Silva of Dance Theatre of Harlem, dyeing her shoes. Photo by An Rong Xu for NYT
Ingrid Silva of Dance Theatre of Harlem dyeing her shoes. Photo by An Rong Xu for NYT.



Many dance troupes require “flesh colored” tights, bras, and dance trunks as part of performance uniforms. Nude Barre’s founder, Erin Carpenter, retired from professional dance herself. She formed the company in order to provide a range of colors not previously available from dancewear companies. She remembered spending hours every week dyeing costumes to match her skin and wanted younger dancers to have better options. Her company now offers 13 different shades of professional dance hosiery and lingerie.





As dancers of color move up the ranks of traditional dance companies, the struggle they face to keep their gear dyed has come into the open. In September 2016, the Huffington Post published an Instagram post made by dancer Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy showing “paint day”. The photo included her personalized bottle of shoe dye, one pink toe shoe, and the one she just finished dying to her skin shade. Fentroy, a soloist with the Boston Ballet, is lucky enough to have a wardrobe department able to mix her custom skin shade to dye her tights and shoes.

Principle ballerina Misty Copeland of the American Ballet Theatre commented in a recent interview about how much effort goes into dyeing her shoes to get them the right color, as do several Rockettes in this interview about their footwear.

Guardian 2018 interview with ballerina Misty Copeland

Who, What, Wear blog interview with two Rockettes about their feet, costumes, and shoes

Ballerina Alexandra Hutchinson
Alexandra Hutchinson while with the Nashville Ballet Company. Photo by iheart12am.



Larger companies, such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Rockettes, and Ballet Black, in London, have relied on wardrobe assistance for years. Dancers in smaller companies have often had to concoct their own dyes. Dancers’ have mentioned cheap makeup and acrylic paints as personal fixes for this.

Refinery29’s 2017 announcement of new Gaynor Minden toe shoe shades

This is changing. In early 2017 American toe shoe company Gaynor Minden began offering their range of toe shoes in Mocha, Cappuccino, and Espresso, alongside traditional offerings of pink, black, white, and red satins.




BBC News announces Freed of London shoe collaboration with Ballet Black

In November 2018, another important producer of toe shoes began producing these elite accessories in several non-white colors: Freed of London now offers two non-traditional shades, Ballet Bronze and Ballet Brown, beside the classic pink, white, and black.

3 skin tones offered by Freed of London
Freed of London’s toe shoes page

The new shoe options have been welcomed. “This isn’t about shoes, this is about who belongs in ballet and who doesn’t,” said Virginia Johnson, the artistic director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, in a phone interview. “It’s a signal that the world is open to you.” (NYT 11/4/18)

Ballet Black on stage
Ballet Black on stage

New York Times 2018 article about diversity and dance accessories

Several more companies produce inclusive ranges of dancewear and lingerie:

Shades of Dance hosiery company

Capezio dancewear company

The Rockettes in candy cane costumes
The Rockettes, in a candy cane costume that shows the range of shoe and tight colors they require. Photo by Mike Pont.

Here’s my previous post on inclusive lingerie:

Volumes & Issues July 2017: Word-Worthy Women: Relearning the lingerie biz

And here is a list of many other black dancers currently working:

Dancers changing the face of ballet

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Magazine of the Week

Family grouping decorating a fir tree outside

Welcome back! This week, for the holiday season, we have a New England tradition. Leon Leonwood Bean developed a waterproof hunting boot in 1912 and he set up a store in Freeport, Maine, to sell it. He made up a flier to advertise the boot to his fellow hunters and the L.L. Bean catalog was born. This “duck boot”, with a leather upper and rubber base, is still the symbol of the L.L. Bean company, represented in a oversized sculpture in front of the company headquarters and two “Bootmobiles” the company uses for publicity events.

L.L. Bean Bootmobile

The company is famous for it’s functional outdoor gear and New England-style daywear. Often called “preppy style”, the cardigans, plaid shirts and khaki pants reflect a conservative and practical style hearkening to American workwear fashions of the 1920s and ’30s, as well as collegiate styles of the 1950s.

Shearling boots from L.L. Bean catalog




They are particularly famous for durable outerwear that keeps the wearer warm and dry despite varied conditions. The company’s employees have historically been people who loved outdoor sports and used the gear in the field themselves.




range of sizes for khaki pants




In the 1980s, with the resurgence of preppy style, L.L. Bean’s clothing enjoyed a popularization that introduced it to a wider audience, often including more urban customers with less use for their fishing gear and more for their useful luggage and sturdy jeans and khakis. Many of the catalog items also can be ordered with monogramming.



Bathing suit selection from recent L.L. Bean catalog



Through the years the company has increased its women’s division to fill gaps in the market, such as sizing that accommodated petite and curvy women. They were early adopters in the business of selling items in multiple cuts, such as jeans or khaki pants cut slim-leg, straight-leg, or boot-cut, as well as options for petite, a curvy misses, a medium tall, and a tall size range. In addition they were one of the first retailers to offer bathing suits for women selling tops and bottoms separately. This innovation made it easier for women whose bust and hips sizes didn’t fit a single size’s measurements.



L.L. Bean image advertising sweaters



We wish you and yours a warm and cozy holiday season, whether you’re here in NYC or home someplace far from here!






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Magazine of the Week

Double magazine cover, #36

Hi everyone! This week’s magazine is new to us, but has been around since 2000. Double is published in Paris. The title is published 2 times a year and focuses primarily on lush and inventive photography, with a smattering of fashion thrown in for good measure.

Fashion layout styled by Marie Chaix, photographed by Colin Dodgson
Fashion layout styled by Marie Chaix, photographed by Colin Dodgson


The editor in chief is publishing veteran Fabrice Paineau. Its creative team includes noteworthy photographers David Sims and Terry Richardson, and fashion insiders Juergen Teller and Marie Chaix.

Article about Talk Talk band front man Mark Hollis
Reverie about Talk Talk front man Mark Hollis


In addition to the many photographic layouts, the title wanders through pop-culture of all sorts: music, philosophy, interior design, and the art world get the occasional nod, all in the latest minimalist typefaces. These creative vibes are punctuated by advertising campaigns from luxury brands such as Berluti (footwear) Celine, Chloe, Hermes, and Paco Rabanne. Its enthusiastic avant garde qualities earned it advertising from Doc Martens and Guess.


Lehlonolo photographed by Kristin-Lee Moolman, 2018
Lehlonolo photographed by Kristin-Lee Moolman, 2018



“Paper is a luxury material and I think that consuming our magazine is a luxurious experience.” said Penny Martin, editor of The Gentlewoman, said in an interview (link below) with Business of Fashion. That definitely crosses over to the heavy cart stock and lavish use of photographers offered by Double.


Business of Fashion 2015 article on independent magazines

Double website

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