Misty Copeland made history in June 2015 when she became the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theater. The Brown Girls Do Ballet Instagram has almost 90,000 followers, spawning both a book and a movement. Slowly but surely, the dance world is becoming a more diverse place.
And yet, as with many other corners of the clothing and beauty industry, there is still a lack of inclusivity when it comes to options for dancers whose skin tones aren't white. Although some companies do offer dancewear in multiple skin-tone shades, options for darker tones are few and far between.
Mahogany Blues, a dance apparel company started by swimsuit designer Whitney Bracey, hopes to change that. She learned of the narrow offerings in nude leotards following the success of Brown Girls Do Ballet, which was started by Bracey's friend Takiyah Wallace. Bracey told The Huffington Post she decided to do something about it back in March of 2015.
"I began to research and found that many dancers have to dye their leotards in various ways, from using makeup all the way to using tea to dye them so that the leotards would match their skin tones," she said. "I felt like dancers whose skin isn't considered the nude norm shouldn't have to go through these extreme measures just to be up to par with other dancers. This should be something that is readily available to them."
With her swimwear background in tow, Bracey set out to make an inclusive line of leotards. A company that started out quite small -- Bracey was creating and sewing all the garments herself -- has grown to a team of two thanks to Elizabeth Law, who Bracey calls "the other half of my team." The line will soon grow again to include menswear, and the current offerings will grow from four shades to six: another dark option, and one paler shade -- the result of Bracey learning that, as she put it, "not only dancers of color have this problem of finding the right nude."
Bracey, a Dallas native, told The Huffington Post she believes it has taken so long for more nude shades to be introduced is because until now, "the typical nude ... matches the skin tones of the majority of ballerinas that you see in the spotlight." But based on the sheer volume of business Mahogany Blues has done in the past year alone, clearly the demand for a more inclusive range exists.
"The most rewarding aspect is just being able to read testimonials and hear stories from people who have purchased from us or that have heard about us, or how our products have impacted their daughter's lives in such a positive way. Something as simple as offering these leotards in different shades of nude makes them feel like they matter and that they are important, because our company intentionally created products with them in mind," she said.
For those of us who are not actually dancers but, you know, want to keep the dream alive, we suggest wearing these leotards (which retail for $45 and are named after Disney princesses) with a pair of those inclusive Christian Louboutin nude ballerina flats.
Head to Mahogany Blues to learn more.