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Difference between swimsuits and leatard

almost | Posted in Patterns on

I have been starting to sew ice skating costumes again……I’m very creative but know nothing about pattern design (which means I agonize for hours trying to figure out if I change anything of the design on my simple skating pattern, what is the impact).  There are designs that I’ve seen in swimsuit patterns that I’d like to use for skating costumes, but didn’t know what the difference (if any) I should be aware of betwen the sizing of the two.  It seems to me that they are very similar since they both require the stretch fabrics.  Any thoughts from those more knowledgeable than I would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.


  1. pcraine | | #1

    Kwik Sew has swimsuit, leotard and skating p patterns in some pretty nice styles.  I’ve done only their swimsuit patterns, but can share some info on fabrics.  Making swimsuits is the most restrictive in terms of fabric because you need something that can take abrasion and resist salt water and pool chemicals.  So there I use only fabric labeled for swimsuits.


    When it comes to skating costumes, you have more choice; for example stretch velvet or those cool lcyras that hove foil decoration applied (which would never survive pool chemicals and salt water)


    As for construction - a serger makes it really easy, and Kwik Sew patterns in particular have really good instructions for this type of sewing.


    An excellent source for these fabrics, at great prices is: http://www.spandexhouse.com



    1. almost | | #2

      Thank you Phyllis for the information, but that isn't exactly the information that I was seeking.  I am trying to understand whether the cut/sizing  of a pattern for swim wear is the same as a leotard.   Since I have very limited knowledge about creating patterns I was hoping that those that have worked with both could tell me if there is or is not any difference.  For example, if I use a swim suit patttern for a leotard  do I need  to make an adjustment to the bottom to insure coverage.......do I need to add any additional length etc.  Maybe there is no diference, if so I would feel much better about trying to work with swim suit patterns.


      1. suesew | | #3

        If you are talking about a tank style swim suit, for example - something with the shoulder attached to the body, I would think it would make a perfectly good leotard as long as you use fabric with the appropriate amount of stretch. I have used swim suit patterns to make dancewear and it has worked just fine.

      2. Elisabeth | | #4

        I think they are pretty much the same in the basic body. The body motions for swimming and skating in the end are pretty much alike, arms and legs all over the place and the torso bending so the suits ought to be interchangeable except for fabric and style. Resulting length and coverage will vary depending on what fabric you use and on the individual's body type so you may need to adjust the pattern accordingly. Once you think you have a nice working pattern in one fabric, there is no promise that it will work in another even similar fabric. I had a home business making leotards for gym wear back in the day of the thong leotard (gosh, we actually wore those?) and made the occasional bathing suit as well and used the same type pattern. After you make a few it gets familiar and you'll know what works and doesn't and how to tweak it just right. I got to know my fabrics and basic patterns well enought that I could eyeball and freehand cut style variations. I didn't measure for size adjustments for custom work either. And it just struck me as funny that these days I am worrying about fractions of inches and millimeters in my pattern drafting efforts for wovens! I suddenly miss lycra :-). Before I forget, if you are considering putting a set in sleeve on a bathing suit pattern or other sleeveless pattern, check and see where the shoulder is actually going. It is often cut pretty far in on the shoulder even though the arm hole may look like the leotard pattern that does come with a sleeve. Have fun with the stretchies!

        1. almost | | #5

          Thank you very much Elisabeth!  This gives me great confidence in expanding my pattern options!

      3. carolfresia | | #7

        I know the rule is to cut bathing suits and such with the greatest amount of stretch going around the body, and this makes sense to me. But I heard once, and I can't remember who told me this, that the one exception to this rule is in skating dresses. Does anyone know if this is true, and if so, why? I can sort of understand that you'd want vertical stretch, but why would you need more in a skating outfit than, say, a ballet leotard, or a tank-style swimsuit for that matter?

        There--now I've thrown a wrench into the works!


        1. roone | | #8

          Hi, I've just read the postings regarding skating dresses. I've been making my daughters dresses for 12 years. I've used gymnastic and bathing suit patterns. I pick and choose the details and incorporate them into my base pattern. The key is not the pattern it's the fabric. For example I have to adjust the same pattern depending on the fabric eg. a lined slinky fabric dresses and a 4-way stretch velvet one won't fit the skater the same way - there is much more stretch in the hang of slinky than velvet. My advice is, use your pattern of choice make a mock dress out of inexpensive fabric and have your daughter try it on. Adjust for her figure and use that as your base, make a pattern then add or design your own straps or cutouts etc. One  company that makes excellent skating patterns is Jalie. They are a Quebec company. I have found theirs to be excellent base patterns. Good luck, contact me anytime, but be patient with me I'm on holidays until September so I don't check my mail as oftern as when I'm at school. Karen

          1. netizen | | #9

            I started out sewing bathing suits and went into skating costumes, and now do both. I most recently made a swimsuit for myself based on the bottom half skating dress that I seem to use the most. This was a Kwiksew pattern that I'd adjusted for length, etc. If my digital camera was working I'd put it up on pattern review I wanted to put up the review of the skating dress and the swimsuit side by side. I used swimsuit fabric for the skating dress. Eventually it will get there. There are differences between skatingdresses/leotards and swimsuits:Swimsuits are lined and skating dresses are not. The skater wears tights underneath and doesn't need lining. Swimsuits make more use of powernet. That would kill me if I was skating as I like to breathe.The leg cut tends to be more conservative on skating dresses because of the dreaded wedgie and skaters are not allowed to adjust that wedgie in mid program so the seat is fairly full. If I take that same seat and put it in a swimsuit, it makes for a droopy bum. Jalie is the exception, their skating dress panties are definite wedgers, and cut very high in the front.Swimsuits tend to have a two piece bum with seam up the back. Skating dress bums can be cut in one piece - there's a skirt overtop remember.Biggest difference is with the bust. Skaters tend to wear bras under, or the dress has a minimal shelf bra, in the young kids there aren't too many busty ones. Ease is then done through stretch and the dresses aren't "built" as much. The swimsuit I just made from my skating dress pattern was totally redone in the bust, It has a shelf bra ( I hate foam cups) and I'd adjusted the pattern for my DD bust. I wouldn't do this in my skating dress as I wear a bra under, but would adjust for large bust in my skating dress, just no shelf bra.OK, I guess what I'm saying is that if you're slim, no flabby bits and don't need support, there's not much difference between a leotard and a swimsuit. However in a swimsuit since you don't wear foundation garments, the swimsuit has to supply those.

          2. ACheryl | | #10

            I don't plan to make either but that was very interesting information.Do you think a shelf bra gives you enough support when active? I haven't figured out how to get enough support that I don't give myself a black eye.

          3. netizen | | #11

            Shelf bras in ready to wear don't give me any support whatsoever, I'd be in the black eye category also.What I did was to use a wider (1 1/4 inch) elastic for the band, and to make sure that the gathers for the bra lining were lined up with each boob. I also used a smoother lining that I found, it's similar to the lining on Speedo suits, it's not the typical rougher "swimsuit lining" sold and it has more support to it. I might have used another layer of lycra if I didn't find this. Definitely the bra lining was fitted to my shape, adjusted for cup size and negative ease.I do get a bit of a uniboob look, but that's my choice, I don't want foam cups. I am thinking of using powernet inserts to gently coax my boobies into a perkier shape, I had seen this technique on a Christina brand swimsuit but haven't gotten around to it yet.

          4. ACheryl | | #12

            I can live with uniboob and the time when I cared about perky is long past. But I can't live with the bounce. Thanks for the information.

          5. eauinaz | | #15

            what is powernet? I'm six feet tall and make a lot of my bathing suits. No danger of black eyes for me, but I like to know all I can about sewing swimsuits.

          6. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #17

            Powernet is a firm stretchy net fabric - think girdle fabric.  I sew it to the bottom of the elastic band that has the bra attached.  It's cut to the shape of the rest of the front of the suit and extends to the crotch and sewn in one with the front of the suit.  It does a beautiful job of controlling the tummy!

          7. roone | | #16

            Hi, just back from holidays enjoyed reading the responses around bathing suits and skating dresses. A couple of comments I'd like to add from my experiences making my daughters skating dresses. I've been making them for the past 16 years. One of the techniques I use that allows me to make dresses with low backs is to completely line my dress bodices. This allows the skater to go braless and the girls in our club like that. It also allows for a beautiful finish on necklines and backless lines. I find the finishing easier. There is a pride in seeing the inside look finished. It also makes it easy for attaching rhinestones- they go on before the lining and therefore the stubs don't scratch the skin as they skate as the dresses are fitted like a bathing suit. I usually use a medium weight skin colour or I have often used coloured spandex. Lining also helps slinky fabric to keep it's shape - slinky moves beautifully as they skate.  

          8. fabricstockings | | #18

            Typically rubber is used in a swim suit, which provides a smoother finish to the suit where it grips the skin.

  2. mem1 | | #6

     I wonder if a skateing costume leg would be cut a bit lower than a bathers ?

  3. almost | | #13

    Thank you everyone for the fantastic information....this has helped me a lot to figure out the adjustments I need to make!



  4. user-350489 | | #14

    I have been making and teaching classes in all kinds of active wear for many years.

    Most swimsuits are slightly tighter around the body than leotards (or ...that is what the wearer prefers).  Since each pattrn co. uses its own sloper, you need to compare a few patterns to be sure.  Also, be careful with stretch:  the greatest stretch should be lengthwise for real active movement.  Make sure the fabric had 4-way stretch.  Ease is sujective, so you may have to alter the first garment (fabric type will affect ease too).  The front leg opening of a skating outfit usually is at the point of the natural bend of the leg(seated).  HOpe this helps.

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