Ballet leotards are very close fitting garments that covers the torso but not the legs. It is a garment worn by dancers, gymnasts, athletes, actors and circus performers for classes, rehearsals and performances. Leotards come in sleeveless, long-sleeved, or short-sleeved. Now days there are so many different designs for leotards. Short-sleeve leotards can come in camisole, tank, halter and everything in between. They are often worn with tights. A garment that also covers the legs is called a unitard.
The leotard was invented in the mid 19th century by the French acrobatic performer, Jules Léotard. He was a trapeze artist and wanted a garment that would not get in his way when he was performing but would also show off his physique. At the time he called it a maillot (which is now French for swimsuit or jersey). It wasn’t until after his death in 1886 that it was termed a leotard after him. Thanks to Mr. Léotard many of us have enjoyed dancing with freedom of movement with the leotard.