Best Apparel for a Gymnast: Leotards, Leggings or Shorts?

Leotards for gymnastics are the most common apparel kids wear for their classes. But what if your little one is just starting out? Leotards (or leos for short) can be rather pricey. Is any other clothing acceptable? Must you buy $50 fancy leotards for gymnastics? Thankfully, the answer is no! Let’s take a look at all your options!

Before we talk about the best gymnastics clothing to wear, let’s look at what gymnasts should not wear.

  • Clothing that has buttons, snaps, zippers or buckles. These will scratch equipment and can hurt your child if he or she is circling a bar or rolling on a beam.
  • Baggy shirts. Gymnasts can get caught up in a loose t-shirt while tumbling or circling a bar. They’re dangerous for coaches who are spotting a student. They may lose their grasp or get their fingers wrapped inside the shirt.
  • Baggy shorts – especially long baggy shorts. These also may become twisted around a bar and cause difficulty for the spotter.
  • Ballet skirts and tights. The same dangers apply here: difficulty spotting and slipping on surfaces.
  • Socks. Balance beams, trampolines and floor surfaces can be slippery when wearing socks.

Now that we’ve covered what not to wear, let’s look at all the acceptable, safe gymnastics clothing for kids.

Leotards for gymnastics are the most common apparel worn by gymnasts.

What Is the Best Apparel for My Little Gymnast?

Beginner gymnasts need to feel comfortable during their class. Comfort levels not only include physical comfort, but emotional comfort as well. Feeling self-conscious will cause them to focus on themselves rather than the instructor. Keep this in mind as you choose their apparel.

Gymnastics clothing should also be light weight, non-restrictive and well-fitted. The options discussed here will apply to both very young gymnasts and older kids as well.

Boys Apparel. Boys are easy! Shorts and a t-shirt are fine as long as neither of them are baggy.

Girls Apparel. Girls have several choices, but the favorite is clear (…)

Gymnastics Leotards

Leotards for gymnastics are by far the most preferred apparel by gymnasts and coaches. Here’s why:

  • Leotards allow a full range of motion. The fabric is comfortable and will stay in place as the gymnast moves about. Complete freedom of movement also allows young athletes to develop full flexibility.
  • Leotards are safe. There is nothing on a leo that can get caught on any equipment. And when it comes to spotting, coaches can feel assured they are spotting the gymnast and not the gymnast’s clothing!
  • Leotards provide a clear view of body alignment. Proper execution of each skill is important for the gymnast’s safety and progression. Coaches must have a clear view of the gymnast’s body alignment to make needed corrections. This becomes especially important for gymnasts who compete. The coach must be able to clearly see every detail of each skill during practice. Otherwise, it results in deductions and a lower event score at meets.

“What about underwear? Do gymnasts wear any under their leotards?” Great questions! The answer? Yes and no.

For the littlest girl gymnasts, it’s a good idea. The extra layer of protection is always nice. The same applies for biketards (described below).

Like swimsuits, leotards should be form-fitting. Generally speaking, underwear is not worn once past the preschool age. They’re made like a swimming suit with no need for it.

Modesty is also important at every age. The gymnast’s personal comfort level needs to be considered. For this reason, most companies that sell leotards also sell special underwear too.

What Else Can Girls Wear Besides Leotards for Gymnastics?

Gymnastics Biketards

Biketards (also called unitards) are another popular choice for gymnastics apparel. These are an all-in-one combination of a leotard and bike shorts. They make great toddler girl gymnastics outfits. Many parents opt for these for both tots and preschoolers. No need to worry about diapers or undies showing! Proper fit still allows for a safe, full range of motion.

They’re also the preferred apparel for many older girls who want a little more coverage.

Gymnastics Leggings

Leggings are not only acceptable options, they’re lots of fun! Dozens of designs, colors and patterns are available. Kids are well-covered yet can move without restriction. Leggings can be worn with tucked in t-shirts or with form-fitting tops.

Gymnastics Shorts

Gymnastics shorts are often worn by preteen and older gymnasts. They provide that little bit of extra coverage so they can focus without distraction. Spandex, cotton and soft velour are typical fabrics. All are comfortable and do not restrict movement.

Biketards are a popular alternative to gymnastics leotards for little girls.

3 Questions to Ask When Choosing Leotards for Gymnastics

1. How much does it cost?

Good quality gymnastics apparel is not cheap! But no one wants to spend oodles of money at first. What if their child decides they don’t want to continue in gymnastics? And yet it’s also true that you get what you pay for. Hmmm…what should you do? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Shorts and a t-shirt are perfectly fine for first timers. As long as they’re not baggy shorts or big, loose-fitting t-shirts, these will do. After a few classes, if she’s still interested, you can upgrade a notch.
  • Cheap leotards are available at many big box general merchandise stores for under $10. If the other kids are all in leos, your daughter may feel more comfortable in one of these. But don’t expect it to hold up too long!
  • Good quality leotards will last until your child outgrows them. If cost is not a factor, you can find a wide variety of durable well-fitted leotards. Which brings us to our second question:

2. What is the proper size and fit for a leotard?

Leotards for gymnastics should provide a snug comfortable fit that allow for flexibility. They should be long enough to cover the hips and bottom but not sagging. Make sure the leg openings will remain snug while performing all movements, but are not tight.

There are actually two types of leotards. You’ll want to measure for a workout leo. These allow for room to grow and may show a few wrinkles when worn. Competition leos must be snug without wrinkles.

Trying on leotards is always best, but many parents order from reputable companies. This website will explain in detail how to measure for the best fit.

3. Where should I buy gymnastics leotards?

There are dozens of leotard brands to choose from! This list is not anywhere close to exhaustive. However, each company does offer a nice selection of stylish, quality, reasonably-priced* leotards. Some offer biketards as well. And all these companies supply lots of fun accessories!

Destira offers both leotards and unitards in super cute designs. Prices start around $40 and sizes range from child XXS through adult. Their size chart link is on every page and is clear with tips for proper sizing.

Snowflake Designs is a USA based company. All apparel is designed and hand-crafted in the country. Sizes begin with child XS. They also offer both workout leotards and biketards with a handy size chart. Prices begin in the mid $40 range.

GK Elite Sportswear is the leading gymnastics brand in the world. Their products are durable, well-fitted and the favorite among competitive gymnasts. Kids leotards are very affordable. Prices begin at $20 with their GK Stars collection. Biketards are not their specialty. They don’t offer as large a selection of ‘cutesy’ apparel as the above brands, but the quality is clearly a plus.

*2023 pricing

Whatever apparel you choose, remember that gymnastics should be fun!

Your choice of gymnastics apparel must suit the sport. Clothing must not restrict movement or contain hard closures. These may cause harm to the child or equipment and must be avoided.

Clothing that is comfortable, but not baggy, and allows free range of motion is best. Form-fitted outfits made especially for the sport are the best option. Leotards for gymnastics are clearly the ideal choice for girls.

Whatever you choose, remember that above all, gymnastics should be fun! Don’t get too wrapped up in providing the proper attire. The last thing you want is for it to become a stress point for either you or your little gymnast. Feel free to choose well-fitted shorts and t-shirts for starters. You can upgrade later to more stylish, comfy leotards.

Girls will find leotards in patterns and designs that are an extension of their personality. Gymnastics is a great confidence-building sport. Buying leotards adds to that feeling of confidence in the same way buying new clothes does. It should be one more way for them to enjoy the amazing sport of gymnastics!

Well-fitted shorts and snug tops are great choices for beginning gymnasts.

EmethGym offers gymnastics for both girls and boys. Classes start with the earliest walkers and go all the way through high school. Take a trial class and tour our gym. Become a part of an amazing family-centered community. We’re building confident, fit and focused leaders, ready for the future.

We also have our own pro-shop where you can buy leotards for gymnastics! You’ll find a great selection along with shorts, sweatshirts and other fun accessories!