Learning how to make a leotard is surprisingly simple, from drafting to sewing. When creating one yourself, it’s fun to completely customize the project, from the design to the fabrics. The project you’ll make with this tutorial works well in black or pink as a ballet leotard, but you can also use these instructions for any other type of dance or gymnastics leotard. You can even use this to fashion your own bodysuit (leotard for adults, really).
Follow these simple instructions to learn how to make a leotard!
If you are feeling creative, add a longer sleeve by tracing a long-sleeve tee during the drafting process. You can also make a sleeveless leotard (or even a bathing suit!) by finishing the sleeve openings the same way as the neckline.
What you’ll need
Pattern drafting materials
- Fitted bathing suit (for length and width)
- Fitted T-shirt (for sleeves and neckline)
- Large paper
Leotard sewing materials:
- Knit fabric (four-way stretch is ideal)
- ¼” elastic
- Ballpoint needle
- Sewing machine or serger and your usual supplies
- Optional: walking/even foot or dual feed foot
Notes on sewing knits
Make sure the fabric you use stretches a similar amount to the bathing suit and tee you use for drafting. This will ensure your final product will fit properly.
Drafting the leotard front
Fold bathing suit in half with the front side out along the side seams. Align the suit with the fold of the straight edge of your paper. Trace around the suit. (The pink line in the photo above.)
Turn the tee inside out and fold it in half. Fold the sleeve back inside the bodice so the sleeve seam is exposed. Line the shoulder up with the bathing suit shoulder and the tee side seam with the side of the pre-traced bathing suit line. Trace the sleeve area from where it meets the side seam to the bathing suit marking at the shoulder. (The purple line in the photos.)
Move the tee so the fold is along the edge of the paper and the shoulder is still aligned with the bathing suit markings. Trace the neckline. (The black in the photo below.)
Add a ½” seam allowance to the crotch seam, sides and shoulders. Add ¼” seam allowance at neckline and leg openings.
Mark the pattern piece with a fold notation and any other important information. Cut it out to use while drafting the back of the leotard.
Draft the leotard back
Trace the leotard front pattern on the paper edge to use as a reference. (The pink line in the photos below.)
Re-fold the bathing suit with the back side out. Align it with the traced leotard front and trace any portion that is different (i.e. the leg openings). Make sure to add ¼” seam allowance along the leg opening and account for previously added seam allowance from the traced leotard front. Make sure crotch and side lines still match up. (The purple line in the photos.)
Draw in a lower back opening to allow for easy dressing without closures. The bottom of the new curve should be at least as low as the bottom of the sleeve opening. (The purple line in the photos.)
Add ¼” seam allowance to the new back opening. (The black line in the photos.)
Mark the pattern piece with a fold notation and any other important information.
Draft the leotard sleeves
Keeping the tee inside-out, fold the tee into the sleeve and lay the folded edge along the straight edge of your paper. Trace the curve and bottom edge of the sleeve. (The pink line in the photos.)
Draw a 90-degree line from the paper edge to the end of the sleeve. (The pink line in the photos.)
Add ½” seam allowance around the entire sleeve. Mark the pattern piece with a fold notation and any other important information.
Cut the leotard fabric
Use the pattern pieces to cut your fabric. Cut one front, one back and two sleeves on the fold. Mark the top center of each sleeve once it is cut out.
Sew the leotard
Align front and back shoulders with right sides together. Pin and sew shoulders with a ½” seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to ¼” and press open or to the back.
Measure a piece of ¼” elastic that is the length of the entire neck opening.
Baste the elastic to the neck opening with a wide, long zigzag stitch. Line up the edges of the neckline and elastic as you go. Take care not to stretch the elastic or neckline fabric as you sew.
Turn the elastic under once along the entirely wrong side of the neckline. Topstitch about ¼” away from the edge with a stretch or zigzag stitch.
Press the sleeve hem under ½” to prepare for hemming.
Match the top center sleeve marking right sides together with the leotard shoulder seam. Continue to pin the sleeves to the leotard sleeve opening to prepare for stitching.
Stitch each sleeve in with a ½” seam allowance. Stitch with the sleeve fabric next to your machine’s feed dogs to help ease sleeve in. Trim the seam allowance to ¼” or press towards the bodice.
Place the leotard front/back and sleeves right sides together, aligning the side seams. Unfold the pressed sleeve hem and stitch the side seams from the leg opening to the end of the sleeves with a ½” seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to ¼” or press it toward the back.
Refold each sleeve along the pressed line. Hem sleeves about 3/8″ from the fold with a zigzag/stretch stitch or twin needle.
Stitch crotch seam with a ½” seam allowance. Trim to ¼” and press open or towards the back.
Baste and stitch elastic into each leg opening the same way as you did with the neckline.
Now your little one is ready for ballet, gymnastics or just playtime!