There are six different styles of Morris dancing, originating from Cotswolds, Border (England & Wales), and the North West, with many different dances within each style. Alongside the different dances come a great variety of Morris dancing clothes, ranging from the tattered coats worn by the Border dancers to the well known white outfits heralding from the Cotswolds. You will also see a multitude of accessories used to enhance the basic dance costume; garlands; bell pads; armbands; rosettes; sashes; neckerchiefs; waistcoats; wooden clogs and a variety of hats. Face painting and full face black makeup is also an age-old tradition, particularly within Border Morris dancing. You may have seen the headline “Shrewsbury Folk Festival bans ‘blackface’ Morris dancers” which has resulted in a move away from using full face black makeup to other inventive presentations of face paint and disguise. Handkerchiefs, sticks, bells and sometimes swords are also used within the choreography. Often danced for an audience, part of the interest of the performance is the tradition of enhancing the dance by wearing a costume. However, you can vary the clothing that you wear and even make the accessories yourself. For the basics, any comfortable trousers can be worn or a pair of breeches with long white socks, a plain white shirt, and black shoes. Some dancers wear a tunic, a tabard or a baldric; two loops of coloured ribbon which pass over your shoulders and cross front and back. Then you can get inventive, choose some of the accessories from those listed above and away you go! Your Morris dancing clothes can be as simple or outrageous as you want to make them, as long as you can move comfortably. You are dancing for fun, so really anything goes!
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