Leotards Throughout NCAA History

Since its beginning 40 years ago, NCAA gymnastics has changed a lot. Its format has changed, teams have changed, skills have changed… And leotards have changed, too—a lot. Let us take you through a quick history of the NCAA in the shape of some of its most memorable fashion designs.


Are we at the Olympics? The NCAA adds gymnastics as a championship sport in 1982. The following year, Utah wins its second consecutive national title wearing a “stars and stripes” leotard. It’s the decade of Olympic boycotts and national patriotism reigning supreme.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


It’s not Utah’s world after all. The colors are similar, but the team is different. For the first time in six years Utah loses its national crown to Georgia. The Gymdogs sport a rather modern-looking leotard: black with a touch of red and white. Some crystals are also shining through, a rare sight in the 1980s.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Monochrome with a twist. Alabama’s first national championship win sports a typical 1980s leotard: white with a touch of something extra. The twist here is an intriguing red stripe pattern that runs down the side of the sleeves and the body. Is it worthy of a contemporary revival? Oklahoma would definitely say yes.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


It’s Missy Marlowe’s world (and we’re just not living with this leotard). It’s 1992, and Olympian Missy Marlowe helps Utah win its seventh national title. She also wins the all around title and scores perfect 10.0s on all four events (not in one all around competition). Yet while we’re in the presence of gymnastics royalty, all we can think about is: What on earth is this “Jane Fonda meets the 2010s elite pink extravaganza” leotard? Only Marlowe could pull it off with style.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


The Jenny Hansen era is the nylon era. With Kentucky’s three-time all around national champion Jenny Hansen bursting onto the scene, blue leotards also make their entrance into the NCAA world. The fabric is difficult, but it’s the 1990s and it’s all about nylon.  

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


The perfect 40 is velvet. It’s 1996 and Georgia’s Karin Lichey becomes the first and only gymnast to ever score a perfect 40.0 in NCAA gymnastics history. She does it while wearing this gorgeous red and black velvet leotard. Velvet is glamorous, almost as much as making history.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


It was always you, UCLA. UCLA’s leotards have always been in a league of their own, and this one proves it. The Bruins win their first NCAA national title wearing a leo that sports a fluorescent pattern, an unusual choice of color and an especially weird chest cut—you can’t get more UCLA than that. But also UCLA is a team of stars, and it was so from the start. Enjoy Stella Umeh and forget about the rest.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


It’s all about the shoulders. UCLA’s leotard from 1997 may be unique in its choice of color, but the pattern is all too common. As we enter the late phase of the 1990s, leotards are all about the shoulders and the arms. Our favorite is this one from Iowa. It seems to say, “Batman who? We are gymnasts. We are the real superheroes.”

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Multicolor extravaganza. As the world prepares to say goodbye to the old millennium, leotards get bolder and more extravagant. One of the best examples? This Florida gem, worn here by two-time vault national champion Susan Hines.

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The crystal revolution. As the new millennium begins, leotards get more sparkly. It’s the beginning of the crystal era. It’s also the era of Jamie Dantzscher, Elise Ray, Kristen Maloney and Mohini Bhardwaj. You don’t welcome a new millennium every day. You don’t cheer on gymnasts of this caliber every day either.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Mesh-merizing. Welcome to the world of mesh. You either love it or you hate it. This one we love. It’s so simple and elegant. Also, the back. And Ariana Berlin.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Classic is perfect. There’s nothing like a simple leotard that perfectly embodies the spirit of a school. Similarly, there’s nothing like a gymnast who becomes the emblem of a school. It’s the late 2000s. Georgia reigns supreme and so does Courtney Kupets. 

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Crimson is the new black. As Oklahoma wins its first of four NCAA national titles in six years, we are introduced to a whole new level of leotards. They are bold, they are fierce and they are unique. They are made in Norman. 

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Sublime-ation. It’s 2015 and Florida wins its third consecutive NCAA title. This team is nothing less than sublime (all hail Kytra Hunter, please) and so is this sublimation on mesh leotard. These are the years of the ombre revolution. We’re still living in it, and we love it.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Titan War. 2018, what a year! It’s UCLA v. Oklahoma. It’s Kyla Ross v. Maggie Nichols. It’s the Katelyn Ohashi floor party. Leotards reflect the extraordinary moment the NCAA is living. They’re meant to stand out and to be remembered. They do and they are.

Click here to see the leotard in motion.


Salt Lake City’s beautiful. Did you know SLC is beautiful? Utah takes leotard designing to the next level by unveiling this leo inspired by SLC’s skyline. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Gymnastics meets human rights. Teams show their support for social justice and human rights by wearing LGBTQ+ and BLM-inspired leotards. Gymnastics is more than a sport.

Click here to see the leotard in motion. 

2021 (The Happy Ending)

Something borrowed, something blue. Michigan wins its first ever national title with a leotard that embraces the trends of the 2020s—with tons of crystals and a complicated design—but keeps a retro flavor, thanks to its use of velvet and traditional colors. It’s beautiful and so is this victory.

Click here to see the leotard in motion. 

READ THIS NEXT: Leotard Rankings: Throwback Olympic Leotards

Article by Talitha Ilacqua

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  1. That Jane Fonda leo was really popular. Alabama had one, and I seem to remember a blue one, but can’t remember the other schools. It looked like a wedgie, which was unfortunate.

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