Fashion from the Vault

posted by Jenny Dalzell on Friday, Jan 17, 2014
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Patterns for an eight-piece leotard in Dance Magazine March 1954.

On days when putting on a leotard and tights seems too inhibiting, or even slightly torturous, take a moment to think about how far innovations in textiles and dancewear fashion have come. Yes, this may sound a lot like a grandparent recalling barefoot treks to school in the snow. But consider this paragraph from Dance Magazine's March 1954 issue, which provided instructions to make your own leotard:

 

Before taking your measurements, as shown in illustration A, put on the underclothes you will be wearing with the leotard, including pants, girdle, dance belt, and a well-fitting bra. Use pads if necessary to attain an effective bust line.

 

measurements
Illustration A.

 

While the article doesn't specify which fabric to use, it's safe to say the author wasn't thinking of a soft cotton microfiber or Spandex—which wasn't even invented for another five years. In all likelihood, the fabric felt closer to a thick nylon parachute—which was then layered on top of other undergarments. The instructions also don't explicitly tell you how to translate all of your measurements to the patterns (picture at top). I could see my poorly-crafted leotard looking a lot like Charlie Brown's ghost costume.

 

So let's give thanks to the leotard designers and manufacturers that have carried us through the dark ages of dancewear to today, full of light, pliable and colorful styles we can easily purchase. And that we can keep those girdles locked securely in the vault.