How to dress for swing dancing

How to Dress for Swing Dancing (2021 Update)

So you’re getting ready for your first ever swing dancing class, but you stop for a minute and ask yourself: “What should I wear?”

This is one of the questions I often get asked from beginner swing dancers, and it’s important to consider how you want to portray yourself on the dance floor. Keeping to the classic swing roots from the ’20s and ’40s, we recommend particular types of clothing that capture the rich history of the dance.

We’ve listed some of the best swing dancing clothing for both men and women, to save you from the headaches that many beginner swing dancers have as they prepare for their first swing dancing event.

Swing dancing near a crowd

When it comes to swing dancing, women are truly spoilt for choice. However, we’ve decided to take our picks based on the most versatile clothing worn by women in the 1940s.

Dress

Dresses are the best swing dance outfits for women. However, you don’t get to wear just any dress from your closet. An A-line dress, shirtless dress, and the 1940s dress are the ideal dress outfits for swing dancing.

Wedtrend women’s 1950s Retro Vintage swing dress is an excellent choice if you are looking for a monochrome dress. It comes with a thin belt, a concealed zipper, and a lapel neck. It is also perfect for several other outdoor evening engagements such as a garden wedding, dinner, prom, and more. The dress comes in several colors to choose from, and we think the flashier ones such as the yellow and red look extremely elegant.

For an elegant polka dots dress, the Dresstells 50’s vintage 1950s Rockability retro cocktail dress is a great choice. The dress is stylish and equally versatile. It is made of cotton and elastane for maximum comfort, and comes with one detachable sash. The color options for this dress look stunning, too!

Blouse and A-line skirt

A blouse and an A-line skirt are perfect alternatives to a dress. To attain that perfect look, ensure that the blouse features a small collar and can be buttoned down. Some swing dancers will prefer cushioned sleeve caps for that extra bit of comfort when the follower’s arms are raised.

The blouse is to be buttoned up and tucked in.  Your blouse should be ironed smooth and be kept as simple as possible. Plain colors with no bows or laces make the right outfit. Women vintage collared button-down stretch blouse is an example of an elegant swing dance blouse that is also fairly priced.

This Women’s A-line pleated vintage high waist skirt is extremely versatile. It can be worn with a button-down blouse such as this one here or a sweater when going for an evening outing. It also comes with a bowtie for added versatility.

Shorts and pants

Shorts are classy, modern, and a great alternative to skirts and dresses. The 1940’s shorts were wide-legged, while those of today are tight and shorter at the bottom. Comfort and decency are factors to consider while donning shorts or pants.

DIDK Women’s Tartan Wide Leg High Waist Plaid pants are a classic example of swing dance pants. They are wide-legged for that relaxed look, and can be paired with a sassy blouse or a vintage short-sleeved top.

We consider shorts to be very suitable for swing dance classes and training, but not for that electric performance that you will enjoy when going to socials or performance balls.

Shoes

Having proper swing dancing shoes will give you the complete swing dancer look. There are several vintage shoes that are made explicitly for swing dancing, and we’ll cover a few of them here. Make sure to check out our full guide on the best shoes for swing dancing.

Women heeled ankle buckle block pointed to cut out pump sandals are great for airing your feet while ensuring that you don’t accidentally hurt your toes if you miss a step on the dance floor.

Suede shoes are also quite popular among swing dancers thanks to their soles that make spinning and swiveling much easier. They work their magic best on sticky floors, but the main downside with these shoes is that they easily collect dust, making them look less stunning over time.

Leather shoes such as Bloch Women’s Grecian Sandal Leather dance shoes are perfect for swing dancers who need extra soft support while dancing. They feature a 1-inch heel for reducing strain on the Achilles tendon and calf – which, believe us, can be a life saver!

Rubber-soled shoes such as sneakers or canvas are affordable, lightweight, and extremely comfortable. These shoes have become so common on the dance floor, even though they can be a bit irritating to dance with on sticky floors. Keds Women Champion Canva Sneakers are designed to hug your heel without putting a strain on it. They are ideal sneakers for female dancers who are looking for comfortable arch support.

Accessories

When it comes to accessories whilst swing dancing, they are meant to add a touch to your outfit (but not overshadow it completely).

Hats that fit snuggly on your hair might be all you need to revamp your swing dance outfit. For example, fascinator hats are known for their fancy charming design, which makes them ideal for an evening of swing dancing. An excellent example of a pocket-friendly one is this Fascinator hats 20s 50s hat pillbox hat cocktail for girls and women. It is versatile and great for many occasions.

Pearls will always be in style. We love the PAVOI sterling silver Round White Simulated Shell pearl necklace for two reasons. First, it is uniquely designed and fits women of different ages. Secondly, it comes with a 90-day guarantee and excellent customer service if you have any queries.

Best Swing Dance Clothes for Men

What should men wear to swing dancing? Like women, men have a wide variety of clothing to choose from. However, it is important to note that some of the outfits can be quite restrictive, making it harder to move around freely (or lead some very fancy moves).

Short-sleeved cotton shirts

Cotton shirts are the best when you’re looking for maximum breathability on the dance floor. Choose those with an open collar for that stylish touch. Also, those with blades on the shoulders are less restrictive when you dance.

Clothe Co. Men’s short Sleeve Wrinkle Resistant Button Up Shirt is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. We love the fact that it is a wash and wear, and its pure cotton material makes it extremely comfortable. Not to mention, it’s available in several sizes for a perfect fit.

Vertically striped shirts with a round collar were very popular in the 1920s. This design remains an excellent choice for men who are looking for a timeless swing dance attire. We recommend to always choose cotton over other materials to increase breathability and ensure you have a great swing dancing experience.

Pleat front pants

Swing dancing clothes are all about style and comfort. For men, it is the wide-legged and pleated high waist pleated pants that do the job. Men’s pants from the 1930s through 1960s were wide-legged and high waisted. High waist pants are perfect for swing dancing since they let the hips loose for that unrestricted dancing feeling.

We feel that this Men’s eCLo Sria Expandable -Waist Pleat Pant from Heggar are great swing dance pants. They have an expandable hidden waist for customizable fit and comfort. We love the permanent crease, which means that the pants will maintain this design for many years to come.

For that admirable look, tuck in your vintage shirt into the pleated pants and put on your preferred swing dance shoes for a complete look.

Zoot suits

Zoot suits might be from the 1950s, but they are still going strong in the swing dancing world. The beauty of zoot suits is that you are not limited to a single design or color, and the secret to looking outstanding in your suit is to select a custom size. Zoot suits also come with different pieces that you can choose to wear separately or together.

Check out this Underwraps Zoot Suit Costume in Blue. With its one-size-fits-all size, the pants come with an attached chain and a faux shirt front with a tie. The pants are wide-legged, and the coat is extra-long with padded shoulders.

Shoes

For men, your shoes can either make or break your entire outfit. Therefore, you must choose a pair that blends effortlessly with the rest of your outfit.

For new dancers, a pair of light leather sole shoes will be fine for a while. As you get used to swinging dancing, it is recommended that you get yourself a pair that is designed specifically for the dance, as this will ensure extreme comfort and flexibility.

Plimsolls are perfect for those unforeseen slippery floors but are no match to leather shoes in terms of elegance.

So Dance CH95 Men’s Man-Made Leather Swing Dance Shoes are hand-made leather shoes with a rubber heel (at an affordable price).

Brogues are another excellent option for experienced, fashion-enthusiast swing dancers. They provide high stability as you move around the dance floor. Check out ECCO Men’s St. 1 Hybrid Brogue Oxford (which is one of our favourites).

Most men’s shoes, especially those made of leather sole, can be easily replaced when worn out.

Accessories

Men have significantly more choice when it comes to accessories whilst swing dancing, so here are some to consider for your next social:

Suspenders, braces, and pullies – all these do a great job holding pants in place. Bottom suspenders hold your pants better as compared to alligator clips suspenders. Ensure that the pants you intend to wear feature suspender buttons.

Suspenders should never be worn with a belt. Both of these accessories do the same work- hold your pants up. The Men’s Y- Back 1.4 Inches wide 4- Clips Adjustable Suspender is made up of elastin and polyester, and features a decent adjustable length – making them perfect for different body sizes.

Ties – these come in multiple colors and sizes. Bowties are especially stylish and come in different ready-made designs. CHTIE Men’s Bow Ties are a pack of 8 pieces that are 100% woven microfiber. This stylish (and affordable) pack gives you 8 different colors to choose from.

Chains – chains were popular in the 1950s, mostly among band dancers.  Swing dancers quickly adopted this accessory in the mid-1970s.

A chain can be attached to your pants to help you not lose your watch while on the dance floor. Alternatively, you can wear a wallet chain, which we think is pretty glamorous and functional. Long chains, those that go beyond the dancer’s knees, may restrict movement and, in some cases, cause injury. It is best to choose short ones for more comfort.

Hats – there are several types of swing dancing hats that you can choose from. A wide-brimmed hat should be worn with a zoot suit for that classy look. The Jack & Arrow Fedora for men wide Brim Adjustable hat is a comfortable and versatile choice for male swing dancers.

Note: there is one golden rule that every swing dancer should adhere to; which is that hats cannot be worn on the dance floor.  You can show up in a classic hat as long as you don’t wear it while dancing.

Tips for Swing Dance Dressing

Here are some takeaways for both men and women when dressing for swing dancing.

Tips for Women

  • Twirly skirts are not always the best for swing dance. They can be quite distracting, depending on how much they twirl. To avoid a revealing look, you can pair them with shorts. This is a simple tip that lets you wear your twirl skirt while ensuring that you remain less distracted during your dance.
  • Vintage swing dancing outfits are not great for evening swing dancing. The material is not breathable, which may ruin your evening on the dance floor. Remember, comfort is essential if you want to fully enjoy an entire evening of swing dancing.
  • Blouses with an open back are not the best for swing dancing; they can easily tangle your dancing partner.
  • Shoes are an essential aspect of your swing dancewear. Experienced dancers can wear almost any type of shoes without any issues, but certainly not a stiletto of more than 2 inches. Flat shoes are the best for beginner swing dancers.

Tips for Men

  • Men’s swing dance clothes should be comfortable, yet elegant. Try to avoid wearing pants or t-shirts that restrict you from fully extending your arms and legs. It is not unusual for tight pants to get ripped while on the dance floor – and trust us, we’ve seen this happen many times!
  • Ensure that your pants are double stitched for durability. Pants are prone to a lot of friction during dancing, so the more compact, the better.
Swing dancers outdoors

Why trust us?

As a team of dance enthusiasts, we know how important it is to find the right information when learning to dance – as this will help you progress quicker, and avoid injury! That’s why we built DanceSage.com – Here’s why you should trust us:

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  • We appreciate feedback from our readers, so please contact us as you please.
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