When I first began classes, I dressed to impress. It was summer, and this meant knee length skirts and sleeveless blouses. Whenever I’m nervous, I dress up. Even if I have no idea what is to come, putting in that extra effort helps me to feel in some small ways prepared. As time went by and the nerves went away, skirts and blouses were being replaced by yoga pants or jeans and tank tops. Of course, I still wear the skirts (because they’re fun), but I’m now less worried about looking nice and more about being comfortable when I was guaranteed to feel hot, gross, and sweaty by the end.

By sheer luck, I was wearing a skirt the day my teacher had me bring up my leg and hook my knee around his hip. Throughout the lesson I didn’t think much about it. I was too focused on getting my leg right where I needed it and preoccupied with how much fun I was having. Then on the drive home, I was halfway out of the parking lot when it hit me.

“I can never wear jeans again.”

Sure, they were fine when my feet stayed on the floor, but this move was already testing my about average flexibility. There was no way I was getting it done in denim. What if this was just the tip of the iceberg? (It was.) I bought more yoga pants.

Around the same time, I decide to wear a long lacy crochet top to my lesson. I loved the way it flared out at the bottom and twirled when I spun. Not even halfway through I had to take it off because it wouldn’t stop getting caught on my teacher’s clothes.

As we were preparing for our first performance, my teacher rejected my first choice of dress and gave me criteria that took out my second. He explained to me how I wouldn’t be able to move the way I needed to; particularly how it’ll interfere with my footwork. I spent the next week scouring the internet for the perfect skirt, relieved when it got the thumbs up for its first “test run.”

I start putting the clothes I buy through Dressing Room Dance Test. I pick up my knees and lift my arms, twist in place and try a limbo. I execute a few dance moves most likely to get my feet and legs tangled in the fabric. Most importantly, I give the skirts a swish. I love a dress with the extra fun factor of a good twirl. When I let slip to a lead that I wore a dress for just that purpose, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate me. Sometimes they’ll even admit to giving me a few extra spins and turns just to watch my skirt whip or flare out.

Fast forward a few weeks, I’m at the mall taking a skirt to the dressing room for the test: full length with a slit all the way up the side: perfect for tango. But then I try it on, and find out the inner skirt is a pencil skirt. I’m staring myself at the mirror, thinking “I can’t dance in this!” How can I dance if I can’t even walk?  But it’s on clearance and I’m in love with the look. So I get it home and put a second, hidden slit in the inner skirt. It gets me lots of compliments in tango class.

Jump ahead a couple months, and I’m at a social wearing a brand new dress I found just the day before. The hem is uneven and fun, it spins out great when I turn, and the material is super soft. I’m having a great night, but then in the middle of a dance I kick my leg up behind me, and as my leg comes down my heel catches on that uneven hem. I stomped down on my dress, and it took me with it, falling on my butt. I haven’t worn it since.

So do the clothes make the dance? They can definitely help, and they can certainly ruin it too.