Dance leotards

A dance leotard is a one piece skin tight garment which can be used by both males and females. This garment leaves the legs free and just covers the torso of the wearer. The attire gained popularity after it was used in performance by a French performer; Jules Leotard; hence the name. Most commonly, leotards are the preferred choice of dancers, gymnasts, acrobats, those who perform at circuses, those involved in figure skating, by athletes and by actors as well.

These garments are preferred while practicing as well as while performing an act. Dance leotards are also often worn in combination with tights, particularly by men, while women often wear ballet skirts on top too. Dancing leotards come in three variations that are with long sleeves, sleeveless, or short sleeves.

Variations of Dance Leotards

A variation to this is the dance unitard which is a one-piece suit that includes material to cover the legs as well. In the form of a casual garment, the leotard can be worn along with a belt. Apart from this, the leotard can also be worn under short skirts or while wearing overalls.

Dance leotards are very different from bodysuits, mainly because leotards are usually entered through the neck; whereas bodysuits comprise of snaps located at the crotch area. These snaps allow the garment to be pulled over one’s head. A variation to general leotards is the scoop necked leotard that has a wide opening for the neck. However, in spite of a broader neckline, the garment is held in one place owing to its elasticity. Other variations to dance leotards include leotards which are closed at the neck using a zipper or a snap, polo necked leotards, and crew necked leotards.


This garment was referred to as the leotard in 1886, which was a long time after the death of the original performer. The name that Leotard himself used for this garment was ‘maillot.’ This is a general term in the French language, referring to the sports shirts or tight- fitting shirts. During the early part of the 19th century, leotards were worn only during circus performances and acrobatic shows, by the people acting in the performance. Later, these were fashioned into female swimsuits during the 1920s and 1930s. As time progressed, this garment started being used by dance performers as well and it gained popularity as dance wear due to the efforts of showgirls in Broadway.

Dance unitards

Unitard as mentioned above; is a one piece garment which is skin tight, featuring long sleeves and providing covering for the legs as well. Dance unitards cover the entire body up till the wrists and the ankles. It is different from a leotard as only one piece of apparel is needed to cover the entire body; ‘uni’ signifying the suit’s oneness. It can also be considered as a leotard with tights. These are worn by almost the same category of people but are highly preferred by gymnasts and dancers. This garment provides ease of movement for the wearer.

Essentially there is very little difference between a dance unitard and a dance leotard, as both can be used to serve similar needs. The choice of buying one; simply depends on what you prefer to wear and what your requirements are.