Your Guide to Buying Tap Clothes

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Your Guide to Buying Tap Clothes

Tap dance is a classic dance art involving the use of the floor as a percussive instrument. The dancer is fitted with special shoes that have metal pads on the soles of the heel and toe for making noise with. The shoes are then used to beat out rhythms onto the floor with the toes and heels. Tap dancing has been popular for years and can be seen in nearly any 1950s broadway musical. Most of the actors at the time were both singers and tap dancers.

Today, children and adults still enjoy performing tap dancing and the great amounts of satisfaction they get when tapping out a timed rhythm. The dance requires practice, time, and dedication, but it is both rewarding and a good form of exercise. The tap clothes to worn while dancing makes a big difference in performance. Most teachers will require that their students dress a particular way. If not, there are universal rules that everyone can follow. Continue reading to learn what tap clothes to get and where to buy them.

History of Tap Dancing

Throughout history there have been several notable tap dancers that have raised the bar and kept the art alive. Tap dance is believed to get its origin from early African American dancing combined with the Irish step dancing of the 1800s. The two cultures would imitate each other at minstrel shows and combine each other's dance techniques. The popularity of minstrel shows declined but tap dancing kept on through artists like John "Bubbles" Sublett and Ford "Buck" Washington who changed the idea that tap dancing was an act for clowns by dancing in tuxedos.

Perhaps the more well known artists came in the 1930s - 1950s when dancing, singing, and acting were all combined in film. People like Shirley Temple, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and many other big names tapped their way across the stage in many famous movies.

What Tap Dance Clothes to Look For

When it comes to tap dancing there are several things that all performers need in their wardrobe. The following are tap clothes to get before starting lessons. Also keep in mind that it is a good idea to have several of these clothing items on hand for backup.


Tap dancers need to be able to see their full silhouettes in the mirror as their practice the dance moves. By seeing how they are moving they can determine if they are doing the steps correctly or if they need improvement. In order fully visualise their movements, tight clothes are required so tap dancers wear leotards.

Leotards can be fun to shop for because they come in a variety of colours and styles. However, if there is a skirt make sure that it is sheer so that movements can be seen underneath. For sizing, measure the chest, waist, hips, and girth, then use the chart below. Leotards come in sizes of  XS, S, M, L, and XL.

UK Size






Chest (cm)

76 - 81

81 - 86

89 - 91

91 - 94

94 - 99

Chest (in)

30 - 32

32 - 34

35 - 36

36 - 37

37 - 39

Hips (cm)

76 - 81

81 - 86

89 - 91

91 - 97

97 - 1012

Hips (in)

30 - 32

32 - 34

34 - 36

36 - 38

38 - 40

Girth (cm)

132 - 137

137 - 142

145 - 150

152 - 158

160 - 165

Girth (in)

52 - 54

54 - 56

57 - 59

60 - 62

63 - 65

Waist (cm)

56 - 61

58 - 64

66 - 69

69 - 74

74 - 79

Waist (in)

22 - 24

23 - 25

26 - 27

27 - 29

29 - 31

Before ordering any leotards, be sure that the teacher has no requirements in colour or design. Some classroom prefer that everyone wear black.


Tights are worn during tap dancing because they are professional and they cover up the legs without hiding them. This is important for visualisation. The chart below lists the sizing methods that most manufacturers use.

UK Size

Height (cm)

Height (ft)

Hips (cm)

Hips (in)

Weight (kg)



















X Tall






Extra 1

150 - 175

4’11 - 5’9

119 - 137

47 - 54

70 - 110

Extra 2

155 - 180

5’1 - 5’11

137 - 152

54 - 60

70 - 110


150 - 170

4’11 - 5’8

177 - 102

30 - 40

40 - 60


150 - 185

4’11 - 6’1

97 - 122

38 - 48

45 - 90

Be sure to get several pairs of tights because they can rip easily. Luckily they are inexpensive. If there are no requirements by the teacher, consider getting several different colours to mix things up.

Tap Shoes

Tapping is a form of art, and the tap shoes are the instrument. As with instruments, the material and build of the tap shoes makes a difference in sound quality. Tap shoes are made with leather, canvas, wood, and plastic. Most dancers opt for leather because it is the highest quality. There are also different styles to choose from such as Mary Jane, oxfords, or two-tone spectators. The choice in style is based on personal preference and the classroom requirements. Some teachers want a uniform look for performances on stage.

When it comes to sound and quality, there is a choice in the kind of sole to get as well as how many screws are in the taps. Solid sole shoes are more affordable but split-sole shoes offer more flexibility. For sound, the shoes come with one to three screws. The screws are loosened and tightened to adjust the sound, so the more screws there are, the more controllable the sound is.

Lastly, make sure that the shoes fit snuggly. In order to deliver precise taps in rhythm, the shoes cannot be loose on the feet. Women can simply order the same shoe size that they do for their current dress shoes.

Performance Clothes

When tap dancers perform they either wear the same costumes or they get leotards and tights that are the same colour. In some cases people perform solo or in duets and that gives them more say over what they wear. Just keep in mind that the outfit needs to be tight and preferably a lighter colour so that the audience can see the movements of the performer.

Finding Tap Clothes

Tap clothes and dance clothes in general are rarely found at general shops around town. In order to get them, people have to go to the smaller specialty shops that only sell dance items. The difficulty with this is that these shops usually price their items high. They have to do this in order to stay open because they do not sell products that are needed everyday by the public.

Another solution is to go online to websites like eBay. By shopping there, dancers can find thousands of leotards, tap shoes, tights, and anything else they need for lower prices because they can bargain shop. This also allows dancers to find clothing that is perfectly suited to their taste because they have a larger selection to look through.

How to Shop for Tap Clothes on eBay

eBay gives shoppers a way to find everything they need for tap dancing in one central location. To begin your search, go to the ebay homepage. If you know exactly what you are looking for, type the name into the search box and click Search. For example, enter "Pink Leotard". If you are not sure what you want yet, type something more general such as "Tap Dance Leotard" or "Dance Tights". The website will then show you a large amount of dance tights or leotards that you can start looking through.

As you are shopping, see if the seller has more than one product for sale. If so, you can save money by ordering multiple items from the same seller. This save cost in postage because the seller can ship it all to you in one box rather than ordering each item from a different seller and paying postage multiple times. Some sellers will even have the same item in different colours which is useful if you want a variety of clothing options.


Tap dancing is a unique form of dancing in which performers amaze their audience with tightly choreographed tap routines that create a distinctive sound. For the performers, the dance is fun, invigorating, and rewarding. An important part of every tap dancer’s practice is having the right clothing. Quality shoes that are adjustable can make all the difference and appropriate outfits help the dancers critique their movements to perfection, but there is some flexibility in the styles of the shoes and the outfits that still allows the dancers to express themselves. Performance outfits may be regulated, but if not, dancers can find unique costumes on eBay along with their other dance apparel.

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