The studios I listed below are "open class" studios, and with the exception of one teacher (David Marquez who requires you to wear all black form fitting cloths), you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. I happen to wear booty shorts I made myself (by cutting off long black leggings to a length I am comfortable with) and a leotard to every class I take. Other people wear sweat pants and baggy shirts, others wear a sports bra and uber short booty shorts, others wear pink tights and leotards, some wear fishnets, some wear black tights, one very well-known male ballet dancer is famous for wearing what is essentially a purple snuggie to class. Yes - a Snuggie. The most important thing when dressing for dance class is to make sure the cloths allow you to utilize your full range of motion (stretchy!) and that you feel comfortable and beautiful enough to walk into a room full of mirrors confidently. You are pretty much always safe in tights,shorts (baggy or tight fitting), yoga pants (anything from lululemon works beautifully), a ballet skirt, a leotard, a sports bra with a form fitting t-shirt, or a yoga top. For boys, you will NEED a dance belt. (It protects vital equipment.) It always seemed self explanatory to me, but one poor boy once wore his dance belt OVER his tights. You should know, a dance belt goes UNDER your tights/pants/shorts. Otherwise, you can wear just about anything you'd wear to work out in - t-shirt, sweat pants, tights, gym shorts, booty shorts, sweathshirt, and if you are a particularly fit guy, some teachers will let you go topless when it get starts getting steamy in the class room. I promise you, no matter what your insecurities are, no one in the class is judging you based on what you are wearing. They are all too busy feeling self-conscious about themselves.
The most IMPORTANT thing is to have the proper FOOT WEAR. Teachers may ask you to leave the class if you don't have proper footwear. So what IS proper footwear? Well it changes based on the class. Here is a basic set of guidelines.
Ballet - Flat ballet slippers. Black, white, tan, or pink all work. Canvas or Leather work equally well. I would recommend a split sole shoe. I use the "Sansha Pro" which is a canvas split sole, and is sized exactly the same as a street shoe. Socks aren't typically considered acceptable, although a few teachers will let you take your first class with them in socks. I HIGHLY encourage you to invest in a pair of flat ballet shoes. They are inexpensive and you will use them.
Jazz/Theatre Dance - a typical jazz warm-up will be in bare feet or socks. When you move into the "center" or start on the combination you will be asked to switch into "flats" or "heels." This means - flat JAZZ shoes (ballet slippers can be used in a pinch if they are all you have, but you will feel "jazzier" in jazz flat) or for females - it may also mean character shoes with heels. Most of the "fierce" dancers will be using a bran called La Duca, but Capezio makes equally solid shoes. For beginners I recommend inch and a half to two inch heels. Three inch heels are difficult to dance in, and not really necessary. Lower than an inch and a half and you won't get the "dancing in heels" effect. When trying on character heels, you should test if the arch allows you to pointe your foot. This means the arch of the shoe is mobile and will bend a little like a flat shoe, making your lines longer and dancing for comfortable.
Tap: You really need to wear tap shoes to properly tap. Flat shoes are easier, but most auditions and shows will require girls to dance in heels. I'd recommend getting an inexpensive pair of one and a half or two inch heels and attaching taps. You do NOT want the center of these shoes to "pointe and flex." It will make tapping far more difficult.
Contemporary/Modern: These classes are usually barefoot or in socks. There is a brand called Dance Paws which makes fun dance shoes that look like you are dancing barefoot but protects the soles of your feet if you are worried about blisters.
For specialty classes such as Flamenco and Belly Dancing check the course descriptions or call the studio ahead of time and ask what shoes and equipment they recommend. (When I walk by Flamenco Classes they have special shoes and long skirts that flare out, and belly dance classes often have "jingle skirts," scarves, and finger cymbals.
Here are some of my favorite places to shop for dance clothing and equipment.
Discount Dance Supply
a great place for everything dance (shoes, cloths, bags, etc...) with great prices!
La Duca Shoes
The famed dance shoe maker. They are pricey, but they have a more economical student line.
(they designed the leotards for Black Swan.)
These are my favorite leotards. They have a pre-made line, but you can also custom order your own designs and colors. Very flattering! If you can, visit their boutique on 46th st. in Manhattan!
Capezio makes great shoes and has a good selection of dance wear.
Their store has lots of cute dance clothing, they also make my favorite ballet slippers
If Discount Dance Supply doesn't have it...Dancer's Warehouse will.
This is primarily a yoga/pilates store, but all of their clothing makes great dancewear. They have very cute tops and bottoms which you can mix and match. They also have fabulous cover-up, jackets, and bags.
Freed makes beautiful pointe shoes. They have a store in Queens that specializes in personalized shoe fittings. They also sell lovely leotards and cover-ups.
Class-In is a secret shop on 72nd st and Amsterdam. They custom make leotards and have a great array of ready to wear leotards. They are known for their bright colors and fun prints.
If you are lucky, you might have a Bloch store near you, or you might have to order on-line. Their leotards and shoes are all fabulous and durable. I highly recommend all of their products!
A new line of leotards and cover-up. They are all designed by a beautiful dancer named Merrin Trombka - so all of her creations are incredibly dancer friendly!
A lot of dance studios will also have boutiques where they sell dance friendly cloths and shoes!:)