How to make a leotard

Updated April 17, 2017

Constructing a leotard can be easy and fun. Making your own leotards can save money and the fit is assured with just a little careful planning. Leotards are used for gymnastics, professional dancers and figure skaters.

Choose a leotard pattern. Some patterns are rated as "easy," "moderately difficult" and "advanced." Determine your size by matching up your body measurements against the back of the information on the pattern envelope. This is the size you will be using from the pattern sheets. Choose a fabric with 70 per cent four-way stretch, such as Lycra swimwear fabric. This fabric is easy to sew and requires no special handling.

Gently iron the pattern sheets to remove wrinkles and fold lines.

Prepare your fabric by matching up the selvedge edges and checking to make sure the grain line (the direction the fabric was woven) is straight and even. Lay out your pattern pieces according the to layout directions on the pattern instructions. For a simple sleeveless leotard, there can be as few as two pattern sections; a front and back section. It's a good idea to weigh down the pattern pieces with weights, such as unopened canned goods. This ensures the patterns pieces won't slip or move while you're cutting the fabric. Mark notches where indicated. (Notches are used for when you assemble the garment together to make sure it hangs straight and seam lines match up.)

Double-check you have all the proper pieces by matching up your pieces with what is shown on the pattern directions. With sewing pins, carefully pin the front and back pattern pieces together, right sides facing each other, matching notches and grain lines. If lining is required, carefully follow the instructions included with your pattern for using lining where necessary.

Follow the directions on your pattern for proper seam allowances. Where elastic is indicated, (usually on the leg-openings) finish the edges first with a good zigzag or serger stitch before attaching elastic. This helps protect your leotard's seams from unravelling as well as provides a finished edge. If you're using a straight-stitch sewing machine, make sure that you remove the pins as you sew. If you're using a serger, the pins should be nowhere near the blades of the serger. If you serge over a pin, you can ruin the timing on your serger and destroy the cutting blades.

Try on your leotard for a test fit. If you've followed the directions and used the proper seam allowance, you should have an adequate fit. However, if you're not pleased with the fit and if you assembled the garment with a conventional machine first, you can use a seam ripper and carefully remove the stitches and resew with a larger seam allowance if so desired. Torso length fit is sometimes an issue with constructing a leotard, to adjust torso length check your pattern directions for lengthening, this is usually found on the front and back sections of your pattern, near the waistline and is stated "lengthen or shorten here." If you used a serger, you can either use the garment as a test muslin and make pattern adjustments to it, or donate it to a charitable organisation.

Make your hem allowances, if and where indicated, using an over-lock stitch, then if you're machine has a double-needle function, top stitch the hem allowances down using a long-stitch length, which works sufficiently for hems because some stretch is necessary.


It's always a good idea to test your pattern first preferably on fabric that has the same stretch as the fabric you plan on using for your finished garment. If you're having fit issues with your leotard pattern, try a different knit fabric Sergers are generally recommended for finishing the edges of knits. Use quality thread. Certain fabrics require a certain sewing machine needle, check your machine's user guide for needle suggestions. Keep a small magnet near your sewing machine by to catch stray pins. A sturdy table is essential if you're using a serger. When using elastic, gently stretch the elastic as you sew to provide a snugger fit.


Sewing machines and sergers are not toys, keep children and small pets away. Never leave pins lying on a sewing machine. Never leave food or drink near any electrical device.

Things You'll Need

  • Leotard pattern
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Thread
  • Knit fabric
  • Lining fabric (if pattern indicates)
  • Elastic (if indicated on pattern)
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine capable of a zigzag or over-lock stitch
  • Serger (optional)
  • Seam ripper
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About the Author

Katelyn Lynn has been writing health and wellness articles since 2007. Her work appears on various websites. Lynn is a certified holistic health practitioner who specializes in orthomolecular medicine and preventative modalities. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health sciences from TUI University and has extensive experience in botany and horticulture.