leotard rankings graphic

Leotard Rankings: Week 1

It’s NCAA gymnastics season and the leotards are as sparkly as ever. And with new designs comes your favorite series: Leotard Rankings! Each week we’re analyzing leotard debuts to find our weekly faves. There will be up to three points for design, up to one point each for fabric, sparkle, school spirit and uniqueness, and up to three points for overall appearance. This week Talitha, Allison and Emma are joining our editor-in-chief, Elizabeth, to help judge.

Don’t agree with our ranking? Make your opinion heard by voting in the fan poll at the end of the article each week or voicing your thoughts on social media. And, wondering where the new NCGA and USAG team leos are? Check out our ranking of those leotards the week after each respective national championship at the end of the season.

Illinois: 8.850

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 9.500

Design 2.8/3, Fabric 1.0/1, Sparkle 1.0/1, School Spirit 1.0/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.8/3

Best leotard of the week, maybe one of my top 10 designs of all time. The ombre is fantastic, and you all know how much I love an open back. The only thing I dislike is the weird upper chest rhinestone pattern. It reminds me of a bowtie. Get rid of that and this would be a perfect 10.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 8.900

Design 2.6/3, Fabric 1.0/1, Sparkle 0.9/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.7/3

Oh this is pretty! Beautiful use of ombre and mesh, and excellent combination of blue and orange. Illinois is really good at it, and it’s no easy feat. I’m less sure about the whole asymmetric business, and the stripes across the orange parts give the leotard a strange tiger look.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 7.700

Design 2.5/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 1/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

You thought Michigan had a lot going on? Illinois stepped it up and in a bold way. Yes, I love orange leos, but really I just love leos with bold colors. I’m loving the Illinois on the back in the rhinestones, the open back, and the ombre. Everytime I look at it, I find something new. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 9.300

Design 2.8/3, Fabric 1/1, Sparkle 1/1, School Spirit  1/1, Uniqueness  1/1, Overall Appearance 2.5/3

Wow. There is a lot going on in this design, but it all works so well together. The subtle rhinestones complimenting the lines really gives this a sophisticated feel, and the high neck together with the inverted V shaped bottom really made this stand out for me. This is my favorite Illinois leo of all time!

California: 7.875

View an image of this leotard here (second picture).

 

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 7.400

Design 2.2/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 2.2/3

Normally I don’t like this inverted V neckline style, but the way the fabric actually overlaps makes it work for me. I also love the subtle ombre with the Sather Stripe pattern on those straps. When this design was teased this preseason, I was indifferent to it, but seeing it action at SUper 16 made me like it more.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 7.800

Design 2.3/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.4/3

I like unusual leotards, so I quite like the front here, as well as the square back, which seems to be becoming a Cal pattern. However, the shade of yellow gives the leo a rather cold feeling, and the big rhinestones on the chest and sleeves are slightly tacky for me.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 7.900

Design 2.5/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.5/3

Where do I buy one? I am so into the criss-cross V collar, and the sparkling material that lines the straps, as well as the rhinestones all over the body. And the square open back? And the Cal in rhinestones? Be still my heart. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 8.400

Design 2.5/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.7/3

I am absolutely obsessed with this. Where do I even begin? The square back cutout, the ombre criss-cross lines and belt, the striped rhinestones… This checks off everything on my list. It’s unique without being tacky, and it plays into the Cal style so well.

UCLA: 6.750

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 8.600

Design 2.5/3, Fabric 0.9/1, Sparkle 0.9/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 2.6/3

This is one of the best leotards of the whole weekend, hands down. I am obsessed with the shades of blue, as well as the use of colored rhinestones and the white mesh. Normally side cutouts, especially asymmetric ones, aren’t my favorite, but I think it works here. A great debut for new head coach Janelle McDonald!

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 8.200

Design 2.4/3, Fabric 0.9/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 2.6/3

I quite like this—the shades of blue are pretty and award the leotard an ocean wave feel. However, I wish it was all blue, the white part really ruins it for me. Plus, the design and colors seem vaguely child-like.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 4.800

Design 1.0/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 1.6/3

While I don’t love this leo, I don’t dislike it either. I think I needed a touch more drama somewhere or something. I think a darker shade of blue worked into this would’ve done it for me. I do love the white sleeve and the way it cuts into the body of the leo, as well as the way the sparkles braid into the design. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.400

Design 1.2/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 1.4/3

See, I usually play devil’s advocate for asymmetric necklines and the more…unique…UCLA designs, but I can’t defend this one. It has a quirky prom dress vibe that I’m not really liking. If it had stuck with white mesh on both arms and an inverted V neck design with the blue, I would have been head over heels. Such a pretty blue; I wish it had been used in a different design. 

Fisk: 6.550

Video a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 6.600

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 2.1/3

WHat a great first leo for the Bulldogs! The design incorporates all the elements that are trendy lately: lower fabric for the back straps, “matte” fabric, a simple-yet-eye-catching design. I only with there was a bit more yellow incorporated. That would have elevated the leo from being more one-note to a true star.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 6.200

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

This is a pretty debut leotard! The back is a bit too busy for me, and the rhinestones could’ve been distributed in a more sophisticated manner, but overall great job!

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 6.500

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

Strappy? Glitter? Blue? I’m smitten. I could go for a touch more rhinestones and for sure a bit of yellow to round out the school colors. But I love everything about this design, from the thickness of the straps to the neckline. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 6.900

Design 2.1/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 2.3/3

I absolutely hate the straps on the back. HOWEVER, the rest of this leo is absolutely stunning. I’m always a sucker for full blue leotards, and it has the perfect amount of simplicity, mesh, and sparkle to make it really pop without being overwhelming on screen. Fisk knocked it out of the park.

Oregon State: 6.350

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 6.000

Design 1.6/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

When I first saw this leo, it looked so similar to designs the Beavers already have. While I like it, especially the number of sparkles used, it’s not exactly unique. The amount of orange is good, though, and I love the strappy back.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 6.700

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 2.2/3

As Elizabeth said, I also thought I’d seen this leotard before. I like the design and the strappy back, but I wonder if mesh would’ve been a better fabric for the belt.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 6.900

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 2.3/3

I love a strappy leo, but I could go for a touch more school spirit here. I do love the orange ombre sleeves. Maybe all orange rhinestones would’ve done it for me.  

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.800

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 2.1/3

This leo looks nice in the promotional videos, but I sweetheart necklines to me always look awkward in practice and ruin the look of the leo. I am a huge fan of the gemstone designs, though, but again, I think this would’ve looked better with a different neckline.

Michigan: 5.975

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 6.500

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.8/1, School Spirit 0.9/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 1.8/3

This is one of my least favorite stock designs, but it’s one of my favorite versions of the stock design. Michigan did a good job elevating it with a lot of rhinestone and colored add-ons. I like the use of the thing blue and yellow lines, making it look like fireworks almost. I still don’t really love the design overall, but Michigan did what it could to improve it.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 4.900

Design 1.0/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 1.5/3

I don’t like this… I’m not a fan of the design, and I don’t like the fact that the color of the rhinestones doesn’t match the too many lines. Plus, I feel like it’s quite similar to another leo Michigan debuted last year. If this leotard were a music band, it would be Nirvana, for better and for worse. 

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 7.000

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.8/1, Overall Appearance 2.3/3

This leo feels like someone saw a laser show in Michigan colors and put on a leo, and I think it’s incredible. Is there a lot going on? Oh yeah. But it’s cohesive since there’s no competing pattern. I’m split about the Hail on the sleeves; I think I would’ve gone for a “Victors” or “V” but I’m still loving it. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.500

Design 1.3/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 1.6/3

Ugh, not sure what makes me particularly dislike this one. I liked it a lot in the promo video, but in action it was simply too much. I think the horizontal lines ruin it for me, along with the black connecting the neckline to the sternum. I will applaud the use of school colors in a way that makes this leo pop both in person and on screen, though, which is always a design choice I adore.

Georgia: 5.900

View images of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 6.300

Design 1.7/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

Like last year’s lace leo, I feel like we’ve been waiting for this design to actually debut for a while now. I like it well enough, but the placement of the lines separating the solid fabric from the patterned is in weird places. Overall I like the look, but I feel like it could have been executed a bit better. Also, why is the Super G on the hip SO FREAKING BIG?!

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 5.800

Design 1.6/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

I’m not a fan, but I also don’t dislike it. Most importantly, I’m not horrified by the use of nude mesh as I normally am. For some reason, though, I get a very strong WMU vibe every time I look at it. 

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 6.200

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

This doesn’t scream Georgia to me, I could use a little red or a touch more school spirit. But I am HERE for the rhinestones, the faux desi, and the collar. I hope to see this one around for a while. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.300

Design 1.2/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 1.7/3

I am wholeheartedly not a fan of this. I hate hate hate nude mesh as a centerpiece of leos (even though I know this is white, it looks nude), and the center design just ruins the entire look for me. I do like the design of the bottom half a lot-–just not sure what I would’ve put on the top to bring the leo together.

Western Michigan: 5.850

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 5.600

Design 1.0/3, Fabric 0.9/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

I don’t like this stock design. However, I LOVE the pairing of matte white with gunmetal gray here. It really makes the colors pop. Again, I wish it was done with a different design, but the color combo makes up for it.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 6.200

Design 2.0/3, Fabric 0.3/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

I quite like this stock design, I find it empowering, and it works with most combinations of colors. I don’t like the shiny fabric, but the result is still satisfying.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 5.700

Design 1.2/3, Fabric 0.9/1, Sparkle 0.4/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 2.1/3

This feels very Wonder Woman-y to me, but I don’t hate it. I love the way the front looks, but there’s something about the back that just doesn’t tie completely together for me. I ADORE this fabric and the collar, though. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.900

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.4/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

Please put away the GK Elite leo design. This is one of the less egregious ones, though, and I think it’s flattering in almost every iteration. I do really like the use of a foil gray to complement the white rather than matte to bring together a more sophisticated look, but this still feels overdone.

North Carolina: 5.725

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 5.500

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 1.8/3

I love that Carolina is starting to use more of its signature shade of blue. Overall, I like this design, but there are a few things holding it back from being truly great to me: The ruching on the top half looks good off, but on most of the gymnasts, the boobs cause the fabric to stretch tight up top but be lose underneath, creating a bit of a weird look. I also wish there was more Carolina blue and a bit less of the darker shade.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 5.900

Design 1.9/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 1.8/3

I love blue in almost every shade, but for me there are too many shades in this leotard. As a result, the quintessential Carolina blue is lost. I really like the back (especially the light blue strap), but the loose front is a no-no for me.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 5.800

Design 1.4/3, Fabric 0.8/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 1.7/3

I absolutely love the collar on this. I agree with Elizabeth, though: I think I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more Carolina blue throughout, but I love that band in the back with the rhinestones along with the open back. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.700

Design 1.7/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.5/1, Overall Appearance 1.7/3

The Carolina blue on this leo is BEAUTIFUL, and I’m so glad it’s being incorporated into more designs, but I wish that it had been incorporated into a different part of the design instead of just the belt. This also could’ve used more sparkle, especially on the neckline. It feels very blocky.

Simpson: 5.725

View an image of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 6.500

Design 1.7/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.7/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 1.9/3

This leotard is very superhero. I don’t hate that about it, but I don’t love it either. I almost with the lovely red and white ombre on the top half and sleeves simply continued for the rest of the leotard. For a first leo, not bad but not great either. I do like Storm on the sleeve, though.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 4.500

Design 0.5/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 1.5/3

I really don’t like this… Yes, I do find the superhero design fun as well, but there are too many fabrics, patterns and colors in this leotard. The mesh parts are pretty, but they’re ruined by the bottom half of the design.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 6.000

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.7/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.6/1, Overall Appearance 1.8/3

I kind of love that Simpson unintentionally (intentionally?) went superhero for the program’s debut. What better way to describe what it takes to join an inaugural team. Love the Storm in sparkles along the sleeve, and I’d love to see that across the back on future leos. I’m digging the colors, and the ombre? Love, love, love the bold yellow and red. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.900

Design 1.7/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.8/1, Uniqueness 0.7/1, Overall Appearance 1.6/3

I liked this leo a lot more than I expected to, but it would’ve been greatly improved with more sparkle! However, I’m a little obsessed with the boldness of the colors here, especially the yellow belt. It’s a little overwhelmingly matte, and I think a foil black bottom would’ve really made the rest of the design pop.

Greenville: 5.125

View an image and a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 4.500

Design 1.0/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.6/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 1.5/3

See what I mean about this stock design. Not my favorite, but Greenville avoided making this full-on Halloween, which I think is a win in and of itself. Some of the other designs the Panthers’ teased this preseason are better, in my opinion, but for a team with a presumably low leotard budget, it’s good for its use.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 5.300

Design 1.0/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.6/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 2.0/3

This is the same stock design as the Michigan leotard above, and I still dislike it, but somehow having all the lines in the same colors makes it less busy and more pleasant looking. Plus, the choice of orange is clever and awards the leotard a matte look that I like. A good first leotard for Greenville!

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 5.500

Design 1.8/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.4/1, School Spirit 0.5/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 1.9/3

Here’s the thing, I’d be totally fine if they went full Halloween, but maybe for a theme meet. I love the collar to sternum to body of the leo connection, as well as the sparkles that adorn all of that design along the way. The way the design shoots off the center and down the arms; it’s simple, but it’s a great start. 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 5.200

Design 1.2/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.5/1, School Spirit 0.7/1, Uniqueness 0.4/1, Overall Appearance 1.9/3

I am a thin matte line hater. I think this could’ve been really pretty without the blocky black connection in the middle. It completely ruins the flow of the design for me. However, it incorporated the school colors well, which is a win in itself for teams with more unique color combinations. This is a really solid first leo, and I’m excited to see what they debut next!

Sacramento State: 3.925

View a video of this leotard here.

Illustrated headshot of Elizabeth GrimsleyElizabeth: 3.700

Design 0.5/3, Fabric 0.4/1, Sparkle 0.4/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 1.0/1, Overall Appearance 1.0/3

What to say about this leotard… While the sentiment is great, the execution is not. Sacramento State gets so few leotards, and this is what it chooses to spend its budget on? I think it would have been better as a T-shirt and saving the money for a better new design for 2023. Plus, the only words I want on a leo are the team’s mascot or school.

Illustrated headshot of Talitha IlacquaTalitha: 3.200

Design 0.3/3, Fabric 0.4/1, Sparkle 0.2/1, School Spirit 0.4/1, Uniqueness 0.9/1, Overall Appearance 1.0/3

Like Elizabeth, I endorse the sentiment, and there’s something empowering about the back. The front design, though, is rather unsophisticated.

Illustrated headshot of Allison FreemanAllison: 5.300

Design 1.5/3, Fabric 0.6/1, Sparkle 0.4/1, School Spirit 0.3/1, Uniqueness 1.0/1, Overall Appearance 1.5/3

Honestly, I’m totally into something that is as unexpected as this leo. My only change would be that instead of “I dissent” on the back, I’d have gone with something more school-spiritish. But I’m totally into the faux collar design. I love something that stands out like this. Maybe a splash of green somewhere? 

Emma Hammerstrom illustrated headshotEmma: 3.500

Design 0.5/3, Fabric 0.5/1, Sparkle 0.2/1, School Spirit 0.2/1, Uniqueness 1.0/1, Overall Appearance 1.0/3

Like the other editors, I love the sentiment. Having the phrase as the only design point on the back is incredibly powerful, and I appreciate it being incorporated into a leo! But the front feels very blah and could’ve been vastly improved with a more detailed design incorporating Sac State’s colors or some gold and white gemstones. 

Fan Poll

Vote for your favorite from Week 1 here.

READ THIS NEXT: Leotard Rankings: The Best of 2022


Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Talitha Ilacqua, Allison Freeman and Emma Hammerstrom

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