Why do Gymnasts Wear Leotards? (explained)

Discover the reasons why gymnasts wear leotards in this informative article. From providing maximum flexibility and range of motion to allowing judges to easily assess form and alignment, learn about the practical and aesthetic reasons why the gymnastics leotard has become an iconic piece of athletic apparel.

Let’s get started!

simone biles gymnastics leotard

Table of Contents

What is a leotard?

A gymnastics leotard is a skin-tight, one-piece garment worn by gymnasts during competitions, training, and performances. It is designed to allow maximum freedom of movement while providing coverage and support to the athlete’s body. Gymnastics leotards come in a variety of styles, colors, and designs, and are typically made from stretchy and breathable materials such as spandex, lycra, or nylon.

Brief History of Leotards in Gymnastics

Leotards have been a staple of gymnastics attire for over a century. The first leotard was designed in the 1880s by a French acrobat named Jules LĂ©otard, who was looking for a comfortable and flexible garment to wear during his performances. The garment was soon adopted by other acrobats and gymnasts, and by the early 1900s, it had become a standard part of gymnastics attire.

Olga Korbut 1972

I have looked in depth at the history of the gymnastics leotard and it makes for interesting reading.

Why Do Gymnasts Wear Leotards?

Over the course of the 20th century, the leotard grew in popularity for many reasons.

Freedom of Movement

One of the main reasons gymnasts wear leotards is that they allow for maximum freedom of movement. Gymnastics requires a lot of flexibility and agility, and loose or baggy clothing can hinder the athlete’s performance. Leotards are tight-fitting and stretchy, which means they move with the athlete’s body and don’t get in the way.

Body Alignment

Because leotards are skin tight it’s possible to see all major lines in the body and whether elbows or knees are bent at times when they shouldn’t be. At a meet, this is essential for judges as they will score based on technique and alignment.

For coaches too it is important to be able to identify areas for improvement and leotards allow coaches to analyze their gymnast’s performance correctly.


Another reason gymnasts wear leotards is for safety. Loose clothing or jewelry can get caught on equipment, which can be dangerous for the athlete. Leotards are designed to be streamlined and minimalistic, which reduces the risk of injury.


Leotards are also an important part of the aesthetic of gymnastics. They come in a variety of colors and designs and can be customized to reflect the athlete’s personality or team affiliation. The bright and eye-catching leotards add to the excitement and visual appeal of the sport.


Finally, leotards have become a tradition in gymnastics. They have been worn by gymnasts for over a century and have become a symbol of the sport’s history and culture. Wearing a leotard is a way for gymnasts to connect with the past and to honor the athletes who came before.


In conclusion, gymnasts wear leotards for a variety of reasons. They provide maximum freedom of movement, enhance safety, add to the aesthetic of the sport, and reflect tradition and history. While the design and style of leotards may change over time, they will always be an important part of gymnastics attire.