Square dancing originated with the settlers who came to the US from distant lands. Therefore, their dress probably reflected their native country or the sensible attire they wore on the farms.
Today’s interpretation of the ritual, dubbed Modern Western Square Dance, has created a sort of dress code. The dress code has nothing to do with the origins of the dance, rather, society’s interpretation of what it should look like.
A Western Theme
Square dancing has been around for centuries. However, its popularity never really took off until after World War II. There was a definite spike in interest in the 50s and 60s.
Inspiration was derived from sources like western movies and TV shows. There were also traveling dance troupes that influenced the general square dancing population. Since those “famous” dancers wore a certain style, common participants chose to mimic it.
This western-themed dress code has been dubbed Traditional Square Dance Attire.
Men are expected to wear the following:
- A long-sleeved Western-style, button-down shirt (the collar corners are often tipped with metal)
- A string tie (called a bolo) or a kerchief
- Slacks or Western-style jeans
- Boots (often tipped with metal)
- Cowboy hat (optional)
Women are expected to wear the following:
- A white blouse with puffy sleeves
- A wide skirt with polka-dots, gingham or other pattern (usually a dark color)
- Multi-layered crinolines, petticoats or pettipants (optional)
Often times, the men and women coordinate their attire in regard to color or pattern.
Not everyone is expected to wear the Traditional Square Dance Attire. While the clothing is still popular for large dances, lessons and smaller gatherings tend to relax the rules. This modern adaptation is often referred to as Proper Attire or Casual Attire.
Clubs and organizations are free to choose a preferred attire; however, they are encouraged to advertise their selection so there is uniformity in the group.
Square dancing has its own culture. As such, the clothes worn play an important role in the overall experience.