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Whether you’re a dancer, gymnast, yoga practitioner, figure skater, wrestler, acrobat, athlete, or you just love them as nightwear, leotards are a wonderfully versatile garment that offers great comfort, style and flexibility.
There are different types designed for different activities. You’ll find gymnastics leotards, boys’ leotards, girls leotards, men’s leotards, club leotards. It’s wise to know all about them before you go buying leotards.
What Are Leotards?
Leotards are a light, form-fitting garment that covers the whole torso, leaving the legs bare. There are different versions and styles.
Going back a little in history, leotards are named for the man who invented them, Jules Leotard, a French acrobat and trapeze artist, in the late 1800s, though they became popular after he died.
They’re an essential garment for men and women ballet dancers/acrobats and compulsory wear for gymnastics competitions.
They became popular as exercise wear in the 1980s, when the aerobics trend took off. Students and home-makers found them ideal as casual wear. Exercise leotards can be worn with t-shirts, crop tops or tights too.
In the 2012 London Olympics, American athletes showcased a dazzling array of bejeweled, glittery gymnastics leotards decorated with sparkles, Swarovski crystals, with mesh accents, etc. in brilliant colors.
Modern club leotards are decorated with the club logo, while evening-wear types are dressy and available in different fabrics, including velvet and velour, mesh, hologram fabric, metallic and synthetic blends, decorated with embellishments (lace, sequins, rhinestones etc.) that are heat-sealed into the fabric so that they remain firmly in place.
Tips On Choosing The Right Leotards
Choose the right section in the store that stocks leotards – boys leotards, girls leotards, mens leotards, etc. It’s important to analyze the purpose for which you’re buying leotards. Dance, exercise, aerobics, casual wear, stage wear etc. have different materials, styles, fabrics and colours for practice wear, stage wear etc.
Leotards are form-fitting garments, so get the perfect size. If you’re buying special occasion leotards for a growing kid, it’s tempting to pick a slightly larger size, because they’re more expensive and your kid’s growing in leaps and bounds. But that’s a huge mistake if you’re buying competition.
Competition/gymnastics leotards should be comfortable, without being too tight and uncomfortable, as this could distract/disturb the athlete. If they’re too loose, they could catch on equipment, which is highly risky. The right size is crucial for muscle definition and precision so that judges can evaluate correctly. A slightly bigger size is fine for training sessions with a bit of extra room around the bottom.
While leotards conform to certain basic elements such as being a form-fitting, one-piece garment, women’s and girls’ leotards available in a bewildering variety of styles. The sleeveless type is available in tank or camisole type, while the sleeved ones can be cap-sleeved, three-quarter or full-length sleeves. The back can be racerback, keyhole, wide-open, high back, cami etc.
While choosing the back for women’s or girls’ leotards you have the choice of high or low necks, belted, frilled, skirted, etc. Men’s leotards and boys’ leotards are available in singlet style for gymnasts and these can be worn under a pair of shorts. Long pants can also be worn over the leotards. Male ballet dancers usually wear either one with a full-seated bottom or in a thong style.
Choose the fabric based on what the leotards are intended for. Practice leotards are generally manufactured from blends of cotton, spandex, lycra, etc. since they have to be fitting and flexible, yet breathable and comfortable. If you have allergies, stick with natural fabrics. Metallic fabrics stand out on stage, but don’t stretch much. Lycra is good for practice leos, being stretchy with good coverage, but it doesn’t support embellishments. Nylon/Spandex are ideal for both practice and showtime. Velvet/velour are great for shows but could turn sweaty.
When it comes to buying leotards it’s easy to get confused by the sheer variety of styles, colours, fabrics and designs available when you start shopping for leotards. Select the right ones according to your requirements, preferences and budget.