A lot is expected of Gymnastics Leotards – they must be stunning to look at, stretch and fit the body like skin and not cost an arm and a leg to buy. To meet all these requirements we’ve got to come up with some very special fabrics and methods of manufacture but the trade-off is that you’ve got to take extra care in looking after them. Gymnastic leotards are very much like F1 racing cars, both are high performers but fragile, abuse them and they will fail.
So here are some important instructions on looking after your gymnastics leotard, and if followed will help keep your leotard as good as new for many sessions to come.
After your Session
It is best to take off your leotard as soon as you can after you have finished your session and to then turn it inside out. This is to allow any moisture (or if you are a man, sweat) to evaporate rather than be trapped within the leotard. Never scrunch-up a leotard within a bag but rather gently fold it and ideally carry it in a mesh holdall bag as this will allow the air to circulate around the leotard and help dry it.
How to wash your Gymnastics Leotard
The manufacturer’s instructions for washing your leotard is mostly a list of what not to do, but with good reason.
- DO NOT use detergent
- DO NOT use bleach/detergents or fabric softeners
- DO NOT tumble dry
- DO NOT iron
- DO NOT rub or scrub foil print or metallic garments
- DO NOT hang over radiators
Now that you’ve been told what not to do, here is what you can do:
- DO wash your leotard inside out in cold water by hand
Oh joy! Don’t you just love hand washing
However, ever pragmatic the makers of The Zone leotards state that you can realistically get away with putting the leotard in a short machine cycle at 30ºC but the leotard must then be hung up to dry on a coat hanger away from heat.
Foil print and metallic garments may fade or dull with wear and repeated washing. Areas that incur friction or abrasion may show some loss of foil. This does not constitute a fault.
How to Dry your Gymnastics Leotard
Ideally dry flat and away from heat, but always avoid using clothes pegs as they weaken the fabric and, especially with velours, leave unsightly pressure marks. As previously mentioned, The Zone leotards may be hung on a coat hanger.
What Fabric are Gymnastic Leotards made from?
Gymnastics leotards sold by Dancemania typically come in two types of fabric, Lycra or Velour. These two fabrics are used specifically for gymnastics leotards because of their stretchy characteristics.
Spandex, Lycra or Elastane …it’s all the same thing
Spandex was invented in 1959 and the name is an anagram of ‘expands’, because that’s what it does. It is a copolymer, and as such is composed of long chains of compounds that ride over each other to provide the stretchy attributes of spandex.
Velour is a plush, knitted fabric that is made from either cotton or polyester. Being knitted gives velour its stretchy characteristics.
Varying the blend of Spandex with other fibres creates fabrics of strikingly different appearance and behaviour, and the makers of your leotard are expert at getting the most out of these fabrics by panelling the leotard so in fact all parts of the leotard stretch and cling in a different way to the other parts of the same leotard.
Having developed fabrics that best support the function of the gymnastics leotard the makers set about adapting these fabrics to make the most decorative designs. A great technique for making eye catching leotard designs is using foil print. Essentially a foil print is where a metallic foil is glued to the fabric under pressure in a heat press. The resulting designs are both intricate and attractive. A more recent technique is digital printing, used very effectively in the majority of Milano‘s latest designs. Here a design is printed with special ink on to paper and the design in transferred to the material in a heat press using a technique called sublimation.
You can’t write about gymnastics leotard fabrication and not mention Diamante. My personal favourite design application is the use of diamante (and lately metallic jewels) whereby a crystal is glued to the leotard using a high-melt glue, again applied under pressure in a heat press. These little beauties really catch the light from the gymnasiums lighting and cause wonderful flaring effects during a routine – not so widely used by the men this one!
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