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Leotard vs. Unitard: What’s the Difference?

Leotard vs. Unitard

Different performance categories such as ballet and gymnastics showcase different qualities, including poise, steadiness, grace and strength. Due to the clarity and difficulty of performing the above categories, the performers’ attire should be very comfortable and flexible and that’s why it’s important to know what’s the difference between gymnastic and dance leotards.

While most children become a part of gymnastics programs as young as toddlers, it’s never too late to sign up for dance classes. The appropriate clothing and accessories for your dance class are put in place for a good reason and they can help you learn to your best capacity. Contemporary and modern dancers need clothing that allows freedom of movement and visibility of the body.

Leotards and unitards are common dancewear, however, when it comes to specifics, every dance studio may differ a little. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check with your teacher before you start the classes, to determine whether you need to begin with a unitard or leotard NZ dance stores offer. To help you select the right dancewear, here is all you need to know about the two, their similarities and their differences.

Leotards vs. Unitards

picture of a girl dancing on a roof of a building
source: shoplightspeed.com

They are both tight, one-piece garments with long, short or no sleeves and are both unisex outfits. Both leotards and unitards are designed in a way that helps dancers feel comfortable and allows them to move easily, focusing on the moves without being distracted. They are both supposed to be snug and fitted like a second skin to the body, without any excess material to allow teachers to better see the student’s movements and notice if the dancer has proper hip alignment and correct posture.

The key difference is that the leotard covers the torso of the wearer, but leaves the legs exposed, while a unitard has long legs and sometimes long sleeves. You can choose a leotard NZ dance stores offer, which is most suitable for ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance or a unitard, which is usually worn for classical dance or as practice wear for contortionists and aerial dancers.

Apart from classes, leotards can be used as performance wear for various dance shows as well. When it comes to ballet, leotards and tutus are some of the essentials. It’s important that ballet students dress in line with the dress code requirements as group uniformity can help the teacher spot mistakes such as a hip too high or an elbow in the wrong place.

Leotards come in many different styles and can be made of cotton, spandex, nylon or lace. You can choose from a wide range of leotards, including tank, camisole, short sleeve, long sleeve or ¾ sleeve styles, plain leotards or with decorative details such as ribbons, lace, strappy backs, rhinestones and more.

A Little Bit of History

picture of a woman in unitard in front a statue holding hula hoops
source: Dmitry Dreyer on Unsplash

Many people think that the leotard has a longer history than the unitard. That’s because the word unitard can be broken into the prefix uni- meaning one or single, and -tard, the last syllable of the word leotard. Since it derives from the word leotard, many assume that this garment came after the leotard, but if you look closer at the initial design of the maillot that was first introduced in the 1800s, by the French acrobatic performer Jules Leotard, you will see that it was a full-body suit, very similar to the unitard as we know it today.

Although the name leotard can be attributed to the French acrobat mentioned above, it wasn’t until the creation of nylon and then spandex and Lycra in the late 1900s that this garment became the staple of dancewear it is today.

In the early 1900s, dancers and models wore flesh-coloured unitards to stimulate nudity and most of these unitards were thin and covered the whole body, except for the face and hands. It was at the same time when the leotard became popular with women. Initially, the leotard was created as a garment for men, but in the early 1900s, it became popular as a women’s swimsuit.

By the 1960s, designers began creating leotard-like lingerie and in the 1970s, the leotard gained its popularity as both mainstream streetwear and fitness wear. When it comes to the unitard, today dancers can still be seen wearing fresh-coloured unitards to simulate skin, however, there is a vast choice of colours they can choose from than the original flesh-coloured hue.

How to Choose the Right Size Leotard or Unitard

picture of a woman on a sand dancing in the air wearing blue leotards
source: OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

When buying unitards or leotards NZ dance stores offer, you can choose from a quality selection of garments designed for all shapes and sizes, so you can easily find what you are looking for. Choosing the right fit is based on combining function and beauty and finding a balance between close-fitting, but not too tight as you don’t want to feel restricted because of your garment, but safe and confident.

Make sure to carefully review the charting size before ordering as and look for quick advice on how to measure if necessary. You will need to measure your chest, hips, waist and torso and compare on the charting size and then choose according to your body type.

In the end, remember that wearing the appropriate dancewear is important as it shows discipline, respect for the activity and enhances your ability to fully participate.

By Jessie Sanner

Always weighing things, the life of a Libra isn’t easy and that’s something Jessie is well acquainted with as a Libra herself. The confusion with having to choose between things is what helps her write for the blog, in the hope of making it easier for readers who are indecisive themselves. Interested in contrasts, like period dramas and sci-fi, casual and classy outfits, fries and detox shakes, the life of this young lady is anything but boring. Or is it?