Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.
Bachata is a very sexy, sensual intimate dance with a lot of close body contact. Like any partner dance, bachata is a physical and social activity, so you want to wear clothes that are comfortable and give you a free range of motion, while also looking good.
So ladies, if you want to know how to enjoy sexy, romantic bachata dancing without worrying about your clothes, keep on reading!
What Are the Different Types/Styles of Bachata Dancing?
Before we get started, I should point out that there are two types/style of bachata: Dominican and Romantic/Sexy. Dominican bachata is usually danced to fast and upbeat music and features a lot of complex footwork and is danced in an open dance position with a double-hand hold. Sexy/Romantic bachata is danced to slower music with a heavier, earthy feeling, and is about both partners holding each other very closely, usually with full body contact, and moving together as one whole unit.
Romantic/sexy bachata tends to be more common, but it varies from place to place. This is good to know so this way you can be more prepared about to expect when you go out dancing if you’re new and/or would like to know about bachata dancing in general as you work on developing your skills and finding out which style of dancing you prefer more.
Regardless of the style of bachata you will be dancing, the clothes you should wear are about the same because there is a lot of overlap between the types of movements you will be doing.
What Bachata Dancing is Like:
So let’s get started and figure out what you should wear to go out dancing bachata tonight!
First things first, bachata is an athletic activity, so you will probably be getting hot and sweaty over the course of the evening (unless you’re one of those rare people that doesn’t sweat much).
Second of all, you will be dancing a lot with your knees bent and legs spread open. (Yes, I know how that might sound, but it’s true!)
To get an idea of what this is like, stand with your legs shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly (about 45 degrees for you math people). This will be your standard measure to help you figure out what you can/can’t wear since you will be in this position most of the time when you’re dancing bachata with your partner. So if you’re ever unsure about whether or not you can/should wear something to dance bachata, just get yourself into this position and dance the basic and take a few steps right and few steps left, and see what happens to your outfit!
I tried to post some videos that showed bachata, getting down and dirty, just so you can get an idea of what it's like when you go out to dance. You will get really really hot and sweaty dancing over the course of the night, so don't be surprised when you see how hot and sticky all of the dancers are in this next video!
Hot and Sweaty Bachata
What Kind of Skirts You Should Wear
In my previous experience, I have discovered that tight skirts are not particularly conducive to dancing bachata because I have my legs spread open a little bit, with my knees bent, so my skirts tend to ride up and I find myself in an awkward situation of having to pull it down nonstop.
Conversely, I’ve found that skirts that are knee-length or longer cause another problem restricting my movement in that they tend to get tangled up and stuck between mine and my partner’s legs while we are dancing and I find myself (or my partner!) having to pull up my skirt a little to get it out of the way so we can move comfortably.
Conclusion: Wear a shorter skirt that hits you above the knee and loose-fitting, so you can dance the basic comfortably without it riding up. I also recommend wearing full-coverage panties like boy-shorts so you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing your naked butt in case your skirt gets moved by accident when you’re dancing!
What Types of Shirts/Tops You Should Wear
Since you’ll be dancing a lot and getting sweaty, you should wear a top that is lightweight and will keep you as cool as possible for as long as possible, and not show sweat (or at least hide it). I usually wear something made of cotton because it’s lightweight, easy to wash, and breathes so I don’t hot so fast.
Another thing to make a note of is that if you are dancing with a sweaty guy who is holding you closely, you might end up with a sweat print on the front of your shirt, which I saw happen to a girl before. I was looking at her wondering how she got this huge dark sweaty spot on the front of her shirt, and she said it was because she danced closely with a sweaty guy. So if this happens to you, go to the ladies room, take off your shirt and blow-dry it under the hand dryer. Trust me, this works! It’s great for whenever your shirt is all sweaty and you want to make it dry again.
Conclusion: You can wear V-neck t-shirt, tank top, or halter top.
What Types of Shirts/Types You Should NOT Wear to Dance Bachata
Don’t wear strapless tube-tops because they tend to slide down and end up showing your bra, so you’ll have to keep pulling it up from it rubbing against your partner when you’re dancing and moving around because that happened to me before and my partner was like “I like your bra” (which was super embarrassing because I had just met the guy that night and didn't realize that my bra was showing).
I don’t recommend wearing a backless shirt/top because your back is going to get super sweaty and guys get grossed out touching a woman’s sweaty slippery back, it’s like ugh!!!! I’ve had several guys complain to me at dance about how women wore these backless tops and danced a bunch so their backs were all sweaty and slimy and the guys had to wipe off their hands on something afterwards! So don’t be that person!
Avoid wearing anything that’s delicate/fragile, like a crochet/knit/lace top because it’s easy for it to get caught on the shirt buttons of the guy you are dancing with, or get caught in his belt buckle (both of which have happened to me before), and then you’ll end up in an awkward, confusing, not-so-fun situation of trying to get your shirt untangled from your guy without ripping/tearing it!
What Types of Dresses You Should Wear
If you’re going to wear a dress to dance bachata, you should follow my previous advice that I wrote about what kinds of tops/shirts and skirts to wear since a dress is kind of like a skirt and shirt combined. So here is my dress advice:
Wear a dress that’s loose fitting on the bottom that allows you to dance the basic and bend your knees and spread your legs apart comfortably without riding up. So don’t wear something super tight because it’s going to ride up and/or restrict your movement. If you watch the video I posted below, you'll see the woman is wearing a short dress and that it rode up while she was dancing, so if I were her, I'd be very concerned about exposing myself.
The top half should be short-sleeved or sleeveless so you don’t get too hot. Avoid anything strapless so you don’t have to hassle with pulling up your dress all night long. And don’t wear anything backless so this way your partner doesn’t have touch your sweaty back because that feels gross.
Couple Dancing a Sexy Bachata
Can I wear Jeans, Pants or Leggings?
Yes, you can wear any of these types of bottoms to dance bachata, no one’s going to pull you off of the dance floor and make you leave if you wear shorts or jeans! Personally, I don’t like wearing jeans to dance because I feel that they’re too tight and don’t have enough stretch to give me the full range of motion I want. Try an experiment wearing a pair of jeans you want to wear to dance, and do a plié (or squat with your legs apart) and see how comfortable it feels. If you feel like your jeans are about to rip in two, don’t wear them to dance, because it’s very possible that they will rip! (I’ve seen it happen!).
Another problem with wearing pants to dance that have an open bottom (as in not skinny jeans or leggings that wrap around your leg and don’t have any extra opening at the bottom), is that your heel can get caught on your pant leg! I say this because it’s actually happened to me several times when I was younger and for that reason I have not worn pants/jeans to dance in years!
If you want, you can wear leggings, just make sure that they’re opaque and that your butt is covered by your shirt so this way you’re not showing off to everyone what color underwear you’re wearing!
Leggings are great to wear in winter when it’s colder, especially if the place you’re going isn’t well-heated or you’re not planning to work up a sweat. I like to pair my leggings with really short light-weight dresses or longish shirts that have a belt, so this way my outfit looks balanced and not like I’m wearing too many clothes.
Another option is to wear Jeggings (jean/denim leggings), which look like skinny jeans, but are soft and stretchy like regular leggings. I love jeggings because they’re very stretchy and flexible and much more forgiving than regular jeans! So if you’re in the mood, you can substitute jeggings for regular jeans without a problem.
Can I Wear Shorts to Dance Bachata?
Yes, you can absolutely wear shorts to dance bachata! I like shorts because they let you show off your legs, without the worry of exposing yourself. I recommend getting some that are a little bit longer and more on the “modest” side (personally I’m a big fan of the ones at Ann Taylor and LOFT), that have a 2-4” inseam so they cover you up appropriately and don’t run the risk of looking trashy.
You can wear shorts year-round, it just depends on the material and what you pair them with. In summer I like to wear white or colorful cotton shorts, and in winter I usually wear thicker and/or satin-y black ones with tights. Non-denim shorts are a great substitution for class as well as social dancing.
If you’re worried about being under-dressed, don’t worry! All you have to do is get shorts that are slightly longer (about 3-6” depending on your height/body type) that are made of a nice quality material, a pretty top, a nice necklace (and some interesting tights if it’s cold) and viola, you’ll be ready to go!
If you’re going somewhere more casual, you can also wear denim shorts. So if you want to wear jean shorts and look appropriate, without drawing negative attention to yourself, find a pair that follows these guidelines. Make sure that they completely cover your butt and at least 2” below it!
Don’t wear short-shorts and/or booty shorts unless you’re dancing on the beach or you’re teasing your boyfriend! Usually it’s best if you get jean shorts that are a solid darker navy blue color, without any rips/holes/tears/distressing, etc. because that tends to look sloppy.
What Clothes I Wear to Dance Bachata
Usually, I wear a skirt or a dress when I go to dance. However, lately I’ve switched over to shorts because I’ve found them to be more practical, especially since I’ve been going to salsa nights where they also play a lot of reggaeton (which is like Spanish/Latin equivalent of booty-poppin, drop-and-lock hip-hop).
I will admit that I’m also going through a shorts phase right now and am tired of all of my skirts.
Since I also dance a LOT when I go out, I try to wear a cotton-y top that’s open and breathes, and a pretty necklace. I go for dance more for exercise now so I’ve simplified my outfits.
But if I’m going more to “hang out,” I’ll usually put on a nice dress or skirt with a sexy top and necklace since I won’t be so worried about “ruining” my outfit by totally sweating through it like I do normally.
What Kind of Shoes to Wear
Since bachata is a Latin dance, I usually wear my Latin dance shoes. If you don’t own any and/or don’t want to ruin the suede bottoms by dancing on a dirty floor, you can wear a pair of single-soled leather bottom dress shoes with a heel that’s 3 inches or lower (so no crazy 6" stilettos). Anything more than that is going to feel uncomfortable dancing, especially since you’ll be in a lowered position which is really hard on your feet and ankles. For more information about what shoes to wear for bachata and other Latin dances, please read the article that I wrote on it.
If you ever feel overwhelmed or hopeless about what to wear, an easy outfit is some nice shorts, a sexy/interesting top, and/or a pretty statement necklace and you’re ready to go.
If you’re feeling bloated, wear jeggings or shorts with extra-give and a low-cut top with some rouching and interesting necklace to draw the attention away from your midsection. I’d recommend staying away from skirts since they tend to feel tight around my waist when I’m bloated. You can also wear a low-cut dress that’s a little looser on the bottom, so you don’t feel like a stuffed sausage.
Bachata is a fun, sexy, romantic partner dance with a lot of full-body contact so make sure that your clothes allow you the freedom of movement and range of motion that you need. However, don’t get too hung up on making a fashion show or wearing the most sexy/interesting/cool/trendy whatever outfit. Yes, you should try to look nice and wearing something that makes you feel good about yourself that you can also dance in comfortably, but it shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all to enjoying your evening!
© 2014 Anya Brodech
Killgore Kyle on October 31, 2020:
Jennifer Lynch from Stowmarket, Suffolk. on February 23, 2019:
Yeah, great article, video etc. I dance the bachata but not like this! Great ideas for clothing though - fabulous.