How should I set up my pointe shoe fitting area?
The most important part of your fitting area is the floor. You need to have a firm, smooth surface similar to a dance floor, such as hardwood or “marley.” Otherwise, the pointe shoes won’t function properly and it will be difficult to see the dancer’s technical needs as well as the fit of the shoes she tries on. Concrete could harm the shoes, and even the thinnest carpet has too much “give.”
Your flooring choice will also be affected by aesthetics. Wooden flooring, either hardwood or laminate, is a top choice among dance retailers. It provides the correct surface and it also has a beautiful appearance. Tiles could also be attractive, but must be very smooth yet not slippery. It is important that dancers feel secure in bare feet, ballet slippers and pointe shoes.
It’s very helpful if the fitting floor is raised, so that the fitter can sit comfortably on a chair or the edge of the floor and be on a level with the dancer’s feet. Some stores build a mini-stage that provides an element of elegance and excitement in addition to its practical purpose.
The fitting area should also include a ballet barre and a mirror. The mirror allows the dancer to see how the shoes look, and it also provides the fitter with more angles from which to examine the shoes and feet. When the fitter asks the dancer to stand on pointe, the dancer should always have one or two hands on the barre for safety and support in balancing. Having the dancer hold the barre also helps protect the shoes from the harder use that might come from unsupported standing on pointe.
Keep all the accessories you’ll need close by. Keep a supply of disposable stockings for dancers to wear while they try on shoes, and a selection of toe pads for their use. (When dancers use their own toe pads, make sure that the pads are clean and fresh-smelling. The store’s toe pads should also be kept clean through regular washing, and they should never be worn over bare feet.) Fitters who use spacers during fittings should have those within reach, as well.
You can provide informative materials for dancers and their parents. Line sheets, educational articles, catalogs and guides are good choices. Parents of pointe beginners are especially appreciative when you offer them Russian Pointe’s Parents’ Guide to Beginning Pointe, a thorough, comprehensive and reassuring publication that answers parents’ most frequently asked questions.
Make it your own
Once all the essentials are in place, you can consider the design of your fitting area! Depending on your space and personal style, there are many ways to make the fitting area a special part of your store. Velvet curtains, beautiful posters, a “spotlight” design, a different color scheme, “dissected” pointe shoes to show their inner workings – let your imagination and goals guide you to the perfect fitting area for your store!