Gymnastics leotards are an essential part of any gymnasts’ wardrobe. With a wide variety of colors and fabrics, it’s easy to get carried away while shopping.
However, it’s important to consider fit, brand, shape, cut, fabric, sleeves, gymnast’s measurements, whether you’re buying a competition or training leo, and your gymnast’s personal preference to ensure you get leos they will actually wear.
To help you do this, we have created a gymnastics leotard buying guide designed to help you buy the right leos for your gymnasts.
Table of Contents
- 1. Determining the Right Fit for a Gymnastics Leotard
- 2. The Difference between Training and Competition Leo Styles
- 3. Sleeve Types
- 4. Leotard Style Backs
- 5. Leotard Fabric Choices
- 6. Wash and Dry Tips for Leotards
- 7. How to Choose the Right Leotard Size
- 8. Always Check a Gymnastics Leotard Manufacturer’s Size Chart
- 9. Best Gymnastics Leo Manufacturers
- 10. Unitards – Great for Boys and Younger Girls
1. Determining the Right Fit for a Gymnastics Leotard
If you ask a group of gymnastics moms or coaches on how a leo should fit, chances are you will get a variety of answers. One of the most important aspects of how a leo fits is up to the gymnast.
If a leo is too tight or uncomfortable, a gymnast will likely be distracted. On the other hand, if a leo is too big, it could be dangerous because it could catch on equipment.
A leotard that is too big will also likely bunch around the hips or waist, which will cause it to look horrible and be uncomfortable.
When choosing the perfect fit for a leo, you also have to consider whether you are buying it for training sessions or competition. Getting the right fit is important because there are different requirements for each leo type.
Training Leotard Fits
If you are buying a leotard for training sessions, you can buy a leo with a little bit of growing room. The leo should fit in the shoulders and torso pretty well, but leave a little room near the buttocks.
For example, if a gymnast tries the leo on, and you can pinch a bit of fabric just under the buttocks, you have a bit of growing room in the leo. When it comes to competition leos, you don’t want a ton of growing room.
Competition Leotard Fits
When you are buying your daughter a competition leo, you want it to fit like a second skin. It’s important for competition leos to have a sleek fit so that judges and coaches can see muscle definition and precision.
The sleeves of the leo shouldn’t be too long and the butt area should fit perfectly. It’s important to keep in mind that you want this leo type to fit like a second skin, but you don’t want it to feel restricted. If a leotard is restrictive, it could interfere with a gymnast’s movements or cause an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
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2. The Difference between Training and Competition Leo Styles
Since we’re on the topic of training and competition leos, it’s a great time to talk about the difference between the two. Training leos can have just about any pattern or color you can think of. These leos can have different sleeve types and even be a bit big.
However, competition leos are an entirely different beast. In general, gymnastics competition leos are extremely glitzy and made of solid colors. For some gyms and coaches, the jazzier and more embellished a comp leo is the better.
3. Sleeve Types
When it comes to gymnastics leotards, there are basically three types of leo sleeves; tank (sleeveless), three-quarter length, and long sleeve. Below, we will go over the different pros and cons of each sleeve type.
Sleeveless Leo Pros and Cons
- Allow sweat to escape
- Doesn’t keep a gymnast warm in cold weather
- Usually not preferred for competitions
Three-Quarter Length Sleeve Leos
- Great for cold weather
- Provides benefits of both long sleeve and short sleeve leotards
- Can be worn in competitions
Long Sleeve Leos
- Will keep gymnasts warm in cold weather
- Some gymnasts find them very uncomfortable
4. Leotard Style Backs
When it comes to choosing a gymnast leotard back, you have a ton of options to choose from as well. The most popular leo backs include:
- Cami straps
- Wide open
Each of these leo back types has their own pros and cons; however, the changes aren’t as significant as sleeve length. Since the changes in back types are so subtle, many gymnasts will have a variety of back styles in their leo collection.
However, when choosing a leo, it’s important to think about the type of undergarments your gymnast will wear under it. With wide open, cami, and keyhole backs, you will have to worry about covering bras. Most bras are easily hidden under tank style leos.
5. Leotard Fabric Choices
If you have ever shopped for leotards before, you already know there is an abundance of fabric choices to choose from. Many gymnasts prefer one type of fabric over another because of body type or comfort. Below, we will go over the most popular leotard fabrics and explain the pros and cons of each.
Metallic Fabric Pros and Cons
Many gymnasts and shoppers are drawn to metallic fabric leotards because they are flashy and bright. However, this type of material also doesn’t have a lot of give to it, which means some gymnasts will feel uncomfortable in it.
For instance, gymnasts with wide shoulders may not appreciate the tightness around their shoulders and torso from a metallic leo and increasing the size won’t fix that issue for them.
Lycra Fabric Pros and Cons
Another popular leotard material is Lycra. Lycra is extremely stretchy and gives a lot without interfering with modesty. This leo material is especially popular with gymnasts that have sensory issues or don’t like scratchy, tight materials.
The downside to Lycra leos is they usually aren’t chosen as competition leos because they are unable to hold up with rhinestones, appliques, foils, and other decorations.
Nylon/Spandex Fabric Pros and Cons
Nylon/spandex material is also a popular leotard material choice. In fact, this material is a happy medium between scratchy, tight metallic leos and lycra materials. While nylon/spandex leos usually don’t have a lot of decorations on them, they are offered in a variety of colors and designs.
Velvet or Velour Fabric Pros and Cons
While not as popular as it was in the late 80s and 90s, velvet or velour fabric is still a popular choice for leotards. One of the reasons this leo material is so popular is because it is extremely forgiving.
Velour and velvet also hold up well. The only problem with velour and velvet leos is they can make girls hot and sweaty, even with minimal effort.
6. Wash and Dry Tips for Leotards
Most people will tell you to hand wash and dry all of your gymnast’s leotards. While that’s perfect for competition leos and leotards with lots of decorations, it’s not really necessary for lycra, nylon/spandex, and velvet material leos.
Instead, wash all of your leos together on low with cold water. Then tumble dry the leos on low as well.
7. How to Choose the Right Leotard Size
Choosing the right size leo for a gymnast seems like a daunting task until you actually do it. Here, we will provide you with tips to help you choose the right leo size, even if you can’t have your gymnast try it on before you buy. Before shopping for a leo online, you need to have the following measurements:
Most coaches, leo manufacturers, and veteran parents will tell you that girth is the single most important measurement in choosing the right leotard. But, we will go over how to take all measurements to ensure you can choose the right leo size from any sizing chart.
To get an accurate chest measurement, have your gymnast put her arms out to the side and take a deep breath and hold it. While she is still holding her breath, measure her chest (just under the armpits) all the way around.
Waist measurements are easy because you look for your gymnast’s natural waistline. Take a measurement all the way around and make sure you measure the waist and not the hips.
To measure a gymnast’s hips, you want to find the fullest part of their buttocks and then measure all the way around. It’s important to make sure you find the fullest part of the buttocks, or your gymnasts could end up with her cheeks hanging out of her leo.
Girth measurements are also commonly called torso measurements. As we said above, the girth measurement is generally the most important measurement to achieve the perfect leo fit. In fact, if you only get one measurement make sure it’s girth.
To achieve this measurement, you need to find the center of the gymnast’s shoulder and hold the tape measure there. Then take the tape measure to the crotch and bring it through to the same shoulder. It’s important to make sure the tape measure is snug in the crotch to make sure your measurements are accurate.
8. Always Check a Gymnastics Leotard Manufacturer’s Size Chart
When you are shopping for a gymnastic leotard online, it’s important to realize there is no universal sizing chart. In fact, sizing charts can vary greatly by company. This is why knowing your gymnast’s measurements is so important.
If the company offers girth measurements on their sizing chart, you will get the most accurate fit by following the girth size recommendations. If your daughter is in between girth measurement recommendations, you can safely choose the size up and still get a great fit.
9. Best Gymnastics Leo Manufacturers
Now that you know leo size recommendations can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another, it’s time to introduce the best leo manufacturers on the market today.
Hands down, GK leos are the most famous brand. This brand is so popular that even people who know nothing about gymnastics will recognize this type of leo. One of the reasons GK leos are so widely recognized is because they are the exclusive brand for USA gymnastics.
GK also has a consignment program that allows shop owners to purchase GK leos, which is why they are in team shops all over the country.
GK also makes a wide variety of leo designs and materials, which means they appeal to everyone. Chances are when you attend a meet, 90% of the teams at the meet will be wearing a GK competition leo.
Their classic Mystique Tank Leotard is our most favourite. The simple design means that it will never go out of style.
SnowFlake Designs are moderately priced leos that many girls are obsessed with. They offer great leotards at affordable prices Although much smaller than GK or Alpha Factor, SnowFlake Designs has grown in popularity because of their prices and sales.
From time to time, the company has amazing clearance sales and even offers grab bags, which allow you to get a bottom dollar leotard. You can easily order their leotards online through their website. Make sure to check their Amazon listing out as they usually offer some deals there.
Another popular small leo company is TumbleWear. This company offers both long sleeve and short sleeve leos in a variety of colors and sizes. Gymnasts can choose long sleeve or tank training leos and can even have a custom made leo from this company. They sell online both through their site and Amazon.
You may have never heard of FlipFlop Leos, but you should. They specialize in cheap lycra leos that are perfect for training. The business was started by a former gymnastics mom on eBay. All leos are homemade and come in a variety of colors and sizes. In fact, you can get creepy skull printed leos or leos covered in peace signs from this funky store.
10. Unitards – Great for Boys and Younger Girls
Lastly, we can’t talk about leos without talking about unitards. Unitards are worn by male gymnasts and are perfect for younger girls. A unitard is a one piece leo that includes a tank style top and mid-thigh shorts.
When shopping for a unitard, you want to make sure you have measurements and choose a unitard that best fits a company’s size chart.
Now you know everything there is about buying a gymnastics leotard. With this information, you and your gymnast should be prepared to purchase a leo that looks good, feels good, will hold up well, and fits properly.
It really helped when you mentioned how you need to consider whether you are planning on buying a leotard for [ractice or for a competition. I can understand that taking this into consideration can help you find the best material that will help you look great and be comfortable while doing your routine. My daughter wants to get into gymnastics and they are required to get a leotard, so I’m glad I found your post.
This is a great article thanks very much, we manufacture and design gymnastics leotards in the UK and your advice is really helpful. In addition though we believe that fabric design is critically important along with the leg cut. In competitions especially you want to catch the judges’ eyes but only for the right reasons. A leotard cut too high on the leg that shows too much hip can sometimes cause gymnasts problems – perhaps most important is to find a leotard in which you’re comfortable.