Make your little girl her own unique leotard, and save a ton of money while you’re at it, with this free sewing pattern & tutorial!
I’m so excited about today’s DIY because it’s so cute, fun and functional! My girls LOVE leotards, whether they’re jumping on the trampoline, doing gymnastics & dance classes or just dressing up. The only problem is, if you want anything other than plain black, they’re ridiculously expensive!
After making girls’ swimsuits for the first time last year, I decided it couldn’t be all that hard to make my own leotards. And turns out, it isn’t! Really! The best part is that you can give your little girl as much coverage as you’d like.
Read on for the full tutorial and free basic leotard pattern! This one is for a tank top pattern but it wouldn’t be hard to turn it into a short or long sleeve leotard either.
NOTE: the free pattern fits about a size 6, but scaling it up or down is not too difficult. It’s designed for a little girl with a crotch-shoulder measurement of about 36″ (loop a measuring tape from one shoulder, down your model’s front, between her legs and up the back to the same shoulder). You’ll just need to add or subtract inches from the center of the leotard in order to go up or down a few sizes.
If going up or down more than 2 sizes, you’ll also need to add/subtract a bit of length in the shoulder straps. Performance fabric is super stretchy though, so it’s very forgiving! You might try laying a swimsuit that fits your little girl on top of the pattern and to see where you need to make adjustments.
*Printed copy of the free PDF sewing pattern. (see below) Make sure your printer’s set to “do not scale” or “print at 100%” before printing! Overlap the short edge of each page with the next without trimming & tape together.
*1/2 – 1 yard of performance lycra or spandex blend (i.e. swimsuit fabric or similar stretchy fabrics) My favorite source for cute prints is The Fabric Fairy!
*1.5 – 2 yards clear elastic (like this kind)
*coordinating thread & sewing machine
If this tutorial is a bit above your skill level, you might want to try this paid pattern instead (this one is super cute too!). I love Peek a Boo patterns and with a paid pattern, you can cut out exactly the size you need and follow their very detailed step-by-step instructions.
STEP 1: Cut out the paper pattern pieces and decide whether you want to do any color blocking or stripes. For Kira’s leotard here, I decided I wanted two diagonal stripes (black and pink) running across the front. I drew diagonal straight lines where I wanted the stripes on the pattern, then cut out a center panel of the pattern piece.
I cut out the top and bottom of the leotard front out of the floral fabric, and then used the center strips I cut out from the pattern to cut black and pink strips. NOTE: you’ll always need to add a seam allowance (I used 1 cm) along the cut edges where you’ll be sewing these pieces together. For example, I added an extra 1 cm to the top and bottom of both the pink and black stripes before cutting and sewing them to each other and then to the top and bottom floral pieces.
Also cut 1 leotard back and 1 gusset out of matching or coordinating fabric.
STEP 2: Sew front and back pieces, right sides together, along the shoulder seams and side seams, leaving the crotch unsewn for now.
STEP 3: Sew gusset to inside front of leotard (wrong sides together), matching up one short end of gusset with raw edge of leotard front. Sew along this short edge and both sides of gusset (leaving the other short end loose). Then match up the leotard back and front crotch and sew, right sides together.
STEP 4: Here comes the only tricky part! Measure your model around her shoulders and upper thigh, where you want the edge of the leotard leg holes to sit. Keep the measuring tape taut, but not too tight. Then cut a piece of elastic about 2 cm SHORTER than this measurement, for all 4 openings (2 arms and 2 legs). Do the same for the neckline, for a total of 5 pieces of elastic. Be sure to not mix them up!
STEP 5: Stitch the elastic to the edge of each opening using a zigzag stitch, stretching slightly as you go so that the elastic fits the opening. I overlap it a teensy bit where the elastic edges meet. (This is a good time to try leotard on your model and adjust opening if necessary!)
Then fold the raw edge under to hide the elastic and topstitch close to the fold, again using a zig zag stitch. Repeat for all openings.
**If you have trouble getting the leg openings to fit correctly (or any openings for that matter), you can also try basting the elastic in place and then trying it on your little one. After you do it a couple times you’ll get the hang of it!
Voila! Aren’t you so proud of your mad skills?? Now go whip up 3 more and make all the little girls in your life squeal with joy! (and save yourselve oodles of dough.)
Lisa // Cucicucicoo: Eco Sewing and CraftingFebruary 10, 2017 at 3:02 am
That is adorable! I’ve been trying to get my daughter to try gymnastics, but alas she’s not into it. But I’m definitely sharing this! Love it! 🙂 Lisa
BonnieFebruary 11, 2017 at 3:44 pm
Darn kids – why don’t they do what we want them to?? 😉 Thanks Lisa!
Lisa // Cucicucicoo: Eco Sewing and CraftingMay 3, 2018 at 2:23 am
I know I already commented a year ago, but I wanted to thank you again for the pattern, which I’m linking to in my newsletter today! I’m sure it’ll come in handy to lots of people! 🙂 Lisa
BonnieMay 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm
Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing Lisa!
DIY Wraparound Towel - Easy sewing projectJune 13, 2017 at 3:02 am
[…] Find the tutorial for the leotard/swimsuit Kira (on the right) is wearing HERE. […]
AlexisMarch 15, 2018 at 1:23 am
wow. it’s very good.
BonnieMarch 15, 2018 at 11:45 am
Thanks so much Alexis!
JanineNovember 20, 2019 at 1:29 pm
What are your seam allowances on the pattern? Thanks!
BonnieDecember 16, 2019 at 9:25 pm
I used 1/4″ seam allowances
Amelia FinchJune 16, 2021 at 7:05 am
Is it absolutely necessary to add the gusset? My granddaughter will have tights on with her leotard. Thank you for sharing your tutorial.
BonnieJune 16, 2021 at 8:47 pm
Good question! I’m sure it’s fine without it especially if she’s wearing tights. I’m pretty sure the main reason for gussets is to act as almost an undergarment between the body and the leotard’s outer fabric.
TenvdaJuly 13, 2022 at 2:34 am
Thanks for share! Love to try!