Do you see those smaller circular pieces of tulle that sit next to the tutu skirt of this costume? Those are called armlets and you can sometimes see them worn by dancers during certain ballet performances. I became curious to know the history behind wearing armlets, so I decided to do a little researching to see what I could come up with.
On the dictionary-reference.com website, armlets are defined as “a band or bracelet worn round the arm for ornament, identification, e.t.c.”
Armlet history is harder to find because it goes back to almost the very beginning of human civilization itself. This description of the origins of armlets also comes from the same website:
A decorative band, usually of gold, silver, or other metal and sometimes featuring precious gems, worn for ornament around the arm, especially the upper arm. Armlets have been worn since ancient times: in Assyrian art, for instance, deities, monsters, and men are shown wearing armlets.
The women in ancient Egypt wore gold armlets that signified their wealth, class, or even their spiritual beliefs. I find it fascinating that something as simple as an armlet has such an ancient history. Older than ballet itself.
In conclusion, I find that the ballet armlet was adapted from an ancient creation and that ballet armlets are worn by ballerinas for several reasons; they enhance her arm movements and are used to further “decorate” the dancer.
The reason I like best is the fact that classical ballet armlets look like mini-tutus around the upper arm of the ballerina and they are simply beautiful!