Sewing A Ballet Leotard

I did it, I’ve sewn my first leotard! It went really well, and I’m a bit surprised. I’d never worked with stretch fabrics before, let alone something as crazy as spandex. But it was easier than I thought it would be and I can’t wait to make my next one. I hope to try out a few different styles, the first one was pretty basic. I want to just start by saying this isn’t a very detailed tutorial. I just didn’t take enough photos for that and I’m not always great about remembering all the details of my sewing projects as I tend to make things up as I go. But I hope this can help people out since there’s really nothing about making your own leotards online. Especially ballet ones. There are some skating costume and gymnastics outfit tutorials, but for ballet I’ve only found one. I hope to make more of these and I’ll try to take photos of the process with those if I make a different style. Just to sort of ensure something’s out there for people who want to sew their own. The first thing I did was make a paper pattern. To do that I needed to prepare my paper. I could buy paper, but why when Amazon is happy to send me that stuff for free. ๐Ÿ™‚

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This is the packing paper Amazon sends in their boxes. It’s a great size, thin enough to pin through easily, and of course you can draw on it. Also I don’t worry about messing up and “wasting it” because it was free and they’re only too happy to send me more, lol. It does usually show up pretty wrinkled but I just iron it on medium high heat, no steam. You may still see a few wrinkles in the photos but I promise you this was 100% flat.

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After I ironed it I laid my best fitting leotard onto it and traced the shape.

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The front part gave me a bit more trouble cause I couldn’t fold the rear fabric out of the way to do the crotch. So I laid a scrap piece over the front and used my finger nail to press a line into it around the edge of the crotch. Then I marked the beginning and the end, cut it out, and laid it over the pattern I was making and traced the line. Presto! Perfect pattern lines without the hassle.

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After I cut out my pattern I cut two front pieces (it was a smidge sheer), and a back piece. I used a rotary cutter to cut out my fabric, I would never have tried this with regular scissors the fabric was too slippery for that and the likely hood of error was too high. After I had my pieces I hand basted the two front pieces together and then basted the front to the back. At this point I tried it on and it fit well. I had already made a practice one with plain jersey so I suspected it would fit, but this fabric didn’t have as much stretch and when you double it up it can make it stretch even less though this particular fabric seemed to still function fine.

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I decided to use FOE on the leg openings. I liked it and it looked really pretty, but I felt like there was too much room in the rear so instead of grabbing my seam ripper, pulling it off, and cutting down the openings I decided to just fold it over.

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As you can see (seam on the left) it looks fine and fits much better. Though I’ll be making adjustments to the leg openings in the future it fits okay. I just forgot that my butt is flat and my leotard had a bit too much room in that area before I made the pattern. It’s okay though, those adjustments are easy.

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Here it is, the finished garment. The crotch looks weird because I didn’t bother to move my dress form’s pole, it looks better on me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I used FOE for the straps and I like the way it looks.

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As you can see I used the FOE to bind the back as well. I could have just hemmed it but I thought this looked better. ย It was also much easier.

All in all there’s a lot I’d change in the future. I dislike the top of the front it didn’t come out well, and I don’t like how the straps are attached. But for my first attempt at something I’ve never made, with a fabric I’ve never used, I think it’s pretty good to get a wearable garment. I wore it to class today and it was very comfortable, I felt like I was wearing nothing. I’m very happy with that, I want to be focused on my dancing not some rubbing seam or loose strap.

I did order a bunch of swatches from Spandex World and despite a small hiccup I hope to have them by next week. The next one I make will be a solid color with contrasting straps. The fabric I got for this came from JoAnnes and I really like it. It’s “Performance Spandex” and wasn’t labeled as being for dance but it works very well for it. It was very fast drying and comfortable, but it was also thinner. I would use it again.

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9 thoughts on “Sewing A Ballet Leotard

  1. this is so cool!! i first found your blog when i was hunting around for some photos of yumiko fabric swatches a few months ago (thank you for taking those photos!), and then today i stumbled upon your page again after reading loran’s world blog post about her leotard adventure and seeing your comment about having a go at making your own leotard. what a coincidence. im going to have to give this a try! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you! It was no problem sharing the Yumiko swatches, I think it’s a shame the company doesn’t do it. Unfortunately the store was blindingly bright so I feel the colors are slightly off, but it’s still MUCH closer to real life colors than the chart on their site. I’ve sewn two more, they’re mostly complete but I’m unhappy with them. I feel one was too gymnasticy and the other I just got frustrated with. But when I finally complete another I’m happy with I’ll post it here. As always I’m taking pictures for the process, wether I like the end result or not so I’ll be able to share my process.

      I did purchase another Yumiko and two Eleve leotards this week and will post photos and my thoughts as soon as I get them in (August at the earliest). So keep an eye out!

  2. I also purchased a fabric from JoAnn’s “performance spandex” section and mine is also see-through. You said that you doubles the front panel and I am curious if it works well for you. I am a busty dancer and because my studio isn’t a competing studio, our dress code is less strict so I am able to wear a sports bra. With this fabric though, MY BRA IS STILL VISIBLE! Do you have any suggestions besides doubling the material? I am wondering if I put a black material underneath if it will cover more. Thoughts? Feelings? Opinions? Thank you so much!

    • I only made the one leotard (and sorta kinda didn’t fully complete about 5 others) and yes, doubling the material was more than sufficient. To test this you can simply double the fabric and hold it to the light, see how much passes through. Try stretching it and see if it’s still opaque, or if it’s still too sheer for your taste.

      Now if you have tried this and find that it’s not sufficient for your needs, then you can pick a different lining material. You could line it with a black spandex. I have some colored leotards and one crop top that are lined in a black spandex and they are completely opaque. Although the material was dark to begin with (they all seem to be purple). Just be aware that when you line something so sheer with a dark fabric, it’s going to change the overall color. On the other hand you could try to line it with a light fabric, like white or beige. But it’s the same deal, it could effect the overall look. It’s like using a white base before putting on eyeshadow, all the colors you put on top afterwards are twice as bright.

      So what you really need to do is this. Think about your finished product. What exactly is the look you’re going for? Do you want the fabric to look just as it does on the bolt on you? Will you be okay if it looks brighter, duller, etc.? Take a swatch with you to the store and hold it up against potential lining material to see how it does. For me, I’d just double up the fabric I’m already using and if that didn’t work I’d use a thick spandex that matched my own skin color. This is especially important if you have dark skin, because if you double up the front and it’s light, then the backside will look crazy weird! Spandex World is a good place to shop online, I’ve bought from them before and I recommend them. If you can’t finding a lining fabric you like in store, just test for color in store then buy online.

      Hope this helps, and please feels free to ask any other questions you might have I’m always happy to help. ๐Ÿ™‚

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