Olivia Trautman Oklahoma

Coaches Find a Way for Their Gymnasts to Compete in Style Despite Budget Differences and Rising Prices

New leotards are an exciting part of competition season. Unlike athletes in other sports, gymnasts don’t wear the same uniform every time they compete. While most leotards aren’t one and done, most teams don’t wear the same design more than once or twice in a season. Getting a new leotard is something that’s exciting for gymnasts and fans alike. Gymnastics fans get to analyze new leotards and identify the trends that come and go over the years. 

And those trends are constantly changing, just like choreography, hairstyles or even skills performed in routines. In the 2000s we saw a lot of leotards with a more athletic style. They then started to transition into designs with asymmetric elements. Now we have leotards with a lot of sparkles, different types of fabric and color effects like ombre or tie dye. 

And while every team gets to debut new leotards, it’s clear to seasoned gymnastics fans that some teams have more resources to do so in a given season than others—and there are a lot of reasons for that. Differences in budgets and design choices make for different strategies when it comes to planning out and executing a new leotard. So, how do different teams strategically create a nice leotard that’s also realistic financially? 

Designing a leotard is obviously an exciting part of the new-leotard process. It can be tricky to come up with a unique design, but inspiration for a new leotard can come from anywhere. Oklahoma head coach KJ Kindler said that she took inspiration from a runway show and that the design she was inspired by “had a lot of cool stonework.” She decided to design a leotard with a similar look.

Courtney Blackson Boise State

However, sometimes schools don’t have the freedom to design a leotard in whatever way it wants. A school’s budget can restrict a coach’s freedom when it comes to the execution of their ideas. Every school has a different budget for its leotards. Some of the bigger schools have enough money to get six new designs every year, and some only allow enough money for about one each season if that. Boise State falls on the latter end of that spectrum.

“Previously, it was zero,” said Boise State head coach Tina Bird when asked about the leotard budget. “We had to rely on donations.” Within the past few years, though, Boise State got its first leotard budget, which allows for the team to spend around $500 each season to get one new leotard and eliminates the reliance on donations.

When a team has a big budget, it has the freedom to be more creative with how it designs the leotards. It’s a lot easier to keep up with the trends when there’s more money to spend. A bigger budget also makes it easier to be a trendsetter. For example, Florida competed in a short-sleeved design in 2021, but since the trend didn’t catch on, it didn’t wear it again. However, there’s one trend that is undoubtedly catching fire throughout the world of gymnastics: sparkles.

If you’ve ever designed a leotard for fun, you know when you add more sparkles, you’re spending more money, meaning this particular trend is proving to be an expensive one. “Everyone uses 40 times more sparkle than they used to,” said Bird.

It’s also becoming more popular to use different types of fabric that tend to be more expensive. Teams like to use designs that will stand out, and sometimes that involves mixing things up not only when it comes to the design, but the elements used to make the leotard as well.

“The more intricate the design, the more expensive it is,” said Cornell head coach Melanie Hall. “A trend I think is a little sheer, maybe in the arms or the midsection.”

So, are leotards becoming more expensive? They’re bound to be when they have hundreds of crystals on them. And it seems unlikely that budgets are increasing along with those prices. But there are ways to get around this particular problem.


Since Boise State was relying on donations for so many years, it was hard to follow all of the trends, so it stuck to what it knew best, which sometimes meant forging its own path. When you’re on a budget, you learn that a leotard doesn’t have to blind people with its sparkle to be pretty.

There are also other ways to create nice leotards for less. Cornell spends around $200 on a given leotard. “So many different fabrics have designs on the fabric as opposed to layering different fabrics,” said Hall. “So you could find a fun leo that’s literally just a pattern and not put any jewels on it and probably spend under $100.”

Gymnastics fans will continue to discuss new leotard trends for years to come. Maybe in the coming years, simpler leotards that don’t cost quite as much will become popular once again. Or maybe the prices will continue to increase. But whatever happens, coaches around the NCAA have proven they know how to make sure their gymnasts compete in style.

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Article by Emily Lockard

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