The International Square Dance Magazine


In this months CALLERLAB article it talks about how we play music and some of its changes over time. I am going to touch on another subject – clothing. Square Dance costuming has changed over the years. How Much? First lets take a look at square dance clothing and our culture over the centuries. As most of you already know, our heritage dates back to our colonial days.

The French quadrilles, Scottish and English Dances and other dances all formed the basis for square-dance activities. European settlers who came to America introduced this special type of country dance and its costume first in New England, but before long, square dance started to spread across the country.

Evening dress was the standard outfit for dancers: ankle-length hooped skirts for the women and formal jackets for men. Thank goodness this changed, I would not like to attend in evening jackets and most women would really dislike ankle length hooped skirts.

During the following two centuries, the cultural mix of European settlers in America has led to a variety of national folk-dance costumes. Farmer and cowboy dance wear were mainly based on components of everyday clothing: shirts, cotton trousers, and cowboy boots for men, and ankle-long cotton gingham dresses for women. A lot of ironing and hot clothing.

Later even more elaborate costuming became popular. Tailored long-sleeve shirts and trousers in a Western-cut style for male dancers and full floral-embroidered skirts and blouses for females. Accessories such as Western belts, string ties, or silk kerchiefs completed the square-dance outfit.

I look at many of the older pictures and see many longer skirts, reminding me of the current “prairie skirt” trend. What I fail to see from the forties and early fifties is the large petticoats that everyone seems to believe is the “traditional” Square Dance outfits. Colorful, yes, costuming, yes, different, yes. Times change. As we visit our Square Dance Clothing stores today, we can find really nice clothes that are comfortable in which to wear and dance. These stores can outfit us with matching costumes, and in most cases equip us with cloths that if we wanted we could wear on a daily basis. Times change, music changes, clothing changes, but Square Dancing endures. For hundred of years people have been doing some form of Square Dancing. Why? Because it is fun. Invite your friends to a dance. Don’t call it a class, it is a dance. Most of all regardless of costume, regardless of the number of dancers, regardless of experience, Square Dancing has a place for everyone.

We will see you all at the National Square Dance Convention next year.

Fun set to music!