What To Wear

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Square Dancing Attire

One of the things that sets gay square dancers apart from other Modern Square Dancers, aside from the callers often asking “Are you a girl or a boy?” is the dress code, or, more precisely, the lack thereof. Most square dance clubs insist on a fairly strict dress code: Men must wear long-sleeved shirts (usually Western-style) and long trousers with leather shoes, the ‘ladies’ must wear skirts with petticoats and/or crinolines (those undergarments that make their skirt stand up like a steroidal cheerleader costume) and appropriate dancing shoes. No gay square dance club that I’m aware of enforces a dress code of any kind. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when deciding what to wear for square dancing.

First, be comfortable. When we dance, we move quite a lot, and nothing heats up a room faster that filling it with dancing bodies. In the summer, most of our dancers wear shorts and T-shirts. At any time of year, it would probably be a bad idea to show up for a dance wearing a sweater, however lovely, unless you’re planning to take it off to dance.

On the other hand, be modest. While there are occasions in gay square dancing when revealing costumes are entirely appropriate and even encouraged, in general it’s a good idea to dance in outfits you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in by your mother. (and if your mother frequents nude beaches with you, perhaps you might think of someone else’s slightly more conservative mother. She may be dancing in the next square.)

Wear good shoes. There is a lot of turning and spinning in square dancing, so your knees and ankles will thank you for wearing shoes that slide easily across the floor. Leather soled-dance shoes are a good choice, as are leather-soled cowboy boots. Bowling shoes also work well, as their leather soles are designed for sliding. That said, many gay square dancers dance in sneakers or running shoes. I find that my knees get tired if my feet can’t slide properly, but rubber soles seem to work for a lot of people. No matter the sole, though, any sort of sandal is probably a bad idea. Your feet will likely be stepped on at least once in an evening, and unless you’ve got toes of iron, leaving them unprotected just seems unwise.

None of this, by the way, precludes your wearing traditional square dance attire if you’d like to. For special dances, I almost always wear a nice Western shirt with jeans and cowboy boots. If twirling around in a big fluffy skirt makes you happy, by all means feel free to indulge—even if you normally wear a shirt and tie to the office.

—Ron Legters