Generally, shoes specifically made for dancing are preferred for both social latin and competitive ballroom dancing. However, there are many social dancers who prefer not to wear dancing shoes when going out to clubs to dance. Competitive ballroom dancers always use dance shoes, though practice dance shoes may be used for practice and regular dance shoes used for competition.
Dance shoes have many different styles and types, but they are all characterized by a flexible, suede leather bottom. This allows the dancer to flex their feet and turn smoothly and quickly on a wood floor.
Our members at BLDA frequently purchase dance shoes through VE Dance, though you can buy dance shoes through many outlets such as Amazon, dancewear stores, etc.
Specific dance wear is not required for social latin, but it is strongly preferred for competitive ballroom. When social dancing, wear something that is comfortable and secure so that nothing goes flying off during a particularly fast spin!
Competitive ballroom standard requires a long, ankle-length and flowy skirt or dress for ladies. There are many specially made Standard dresses that range from plain to very showy. For men, dance pants and a white collared shirt are preferred. High level Standard male ballroom dancers will often wear a full tail-coat outfit.
Competitive ballroom latin is more flexible in terms of dance wear. Ladies can wear dresses/skirts of any length, though shorter is generally preferred. The most important part of a Competitive Ballroom Latin outfit is that it moves with the dancer–so often these outfits will have fringes or extra material on the skirt that creates a “flouncy” effect. Male competitive ballroom latin dancers wear black dance pants and usually a black shirt. Higher level dancers will often have costumes with rhinestones.
There are more places to buy dance wear than dance shoes, so long as the outfit is in line with the specifications of the dance style. VE Dance is a good resource for competitive ballroom costumes.