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When I started serious blogging about figure skating costumes, I was at the 2019 U.S. Adult Nationals in Salt Lake City. I noticed a lot of competition dresses have the same problem: the women’s ice skating leotard did not fit well.

It was easy to see that more often than not, the women’s leotard pattern was made from an extra-large child’s pattern.  Children have straight bodies.  Women have curves like the 3Bs: breasts, belly and bum. 

Today’s post is a perfect example of how the leotard fits very poorly, especially in the armpits and bust.  But it’s a lovely dress with a lot of rhinestones so it is worth saving!

woman's ice skating leotard, bust support, mesh sleeves, Melissa Pepling

Meet Melissa.  

She agreed to model this dress she purchased for only $110.  It was super cheap because it did not fit the person for whom it was made.  It’s a beautiful costume, but parts of the leotard don’t fit Melissa very well either.

Lucky for Melissa, she has a friend who knows how to sew and is willing to do the alterations to help this costume fit better. 

 

In this post, I walk you (and Melissa’s sewing friend) through the bust, sleeve and armpit alterations that need to be done so Melissa looks and feels better in her costume.

 

She and I had a great time filming today’s video!  I hope you enjoy reading and watching about the sewing details.

Remember: I try to include more details in the written blog than in the video.  Why? Because I can’t think of everything while I’m filming with one take and trying not to choke myself with a scarf or a microphone! 🙂

 

 

What’s wrong with this woman’s ice skating leotard?

  1. There are no princess seams or bust darts to make the leotard hug the breast curves.  Therefore, there is no bust support and the area is looks saggy instead of tailored.
    • I repeat, many women’s ice skating leotards are made using children’s patterns that don’t allow for curves.  As a dressmaker and a woman, this greatly annoys me. 
    • Check out my interview an ice dancer who makes her own properly fitting skate dress with princess seams.
  2. The shoulders need to be taken in so there is more support through the vertical length of the leotard. 
    • Melissa is average female height, maybe even a little taller.  Yet the length of the bodice is cut for someone 2”-3” or 5-7 cm taller.  That’s a big difference.
  3. The sleeves were made using a street pattern.  They are not cut properly to work on a woman’s ice skating leotard.
    • When Melissa raises her arm, the entire leotard wants to pull up.  This also contributes to how badly the armpit and bust area fit.
  4.  Melissa doesn’t like that the skirt curls up where it is stitched to the body suit.
    • The skirt was attached at a bad angle for Melissa’s body.  My personal opinion is that few women look good when the slightly-rounded V skirt attachment that is so common in women’s leotard pattern.  As a general rule, it makes most women’s belly curves look more rounder and larger. 
  • Cindy Rhea, Sew Like A Pro member, first figure skating dress, woman's ice skating leotard

 

Unfortunately, these four problems are common in women’s ice skating leotards.

 

In my sewing school, I teach my students how to make a proper women’s leotard pattern with princess seams to accommodate for womanly curves. 

Yes, these extra seams and measurements mean a woman’s ice skating leotard is more complicated to make and fit. 

Is it worth the extra effort?

You bet! 

Cindy had never made a costume before enrolling in my Sew Like A Pro™ courses, but now she makes beautifully fitted dresses that improve with every dress.

 

 

 

How do you fix the four problems on Melissa’s costume?

(Do the steps in this order.)

Alteration #1 – sleeves and armpit:   

 

SEW LIKE A PRO™ DRESSMAKER’S TIP #1:  This is an addendum to the video.

option 1: If your shoulder seam does not need to be tighter, rip open both armpit seams where the mesh attaches to the leotard, nearly all the way around. 

option 2: If your shoulder area needs to be tightened as I mentioned on Melissa’s dress, remove the entire sleeve and set it back in after you complete alteration #3.

woman's ice skating leotard, sweetheart neckline, mesh sleeves, Melissa Pepling

 

Take in the sleeves all the way down the arm.  Cut out gussets (football-shaped pieces of fabric that match the sleeves).  How wide the gussets are is determined by how much fabric you need to raise your arm without pulling the leotard up. Baste the gussets into the armpits where the seams are open.

Why do these ares not fit well? 

The sleeves on Melissa’s skate leotard are not made from a proper woman’s leotard pattern, but a street pattern. Therefore, they don’t hug Melissa’s armpits like they are supposed.  The poor cut prevents her from being able to raise her arm without pulling the entire leotard out of place.

The mesh sleeves you see in this photo below is how they should fit.  This is what I teach all my Sew Like A Pro™ members to make.

 

 


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woman's ice skating leotard, mesh_sleeve_sewing_alterations, Melissa Pepling

 

Alteration #2. Take in larger seams at the shoulders.

Why? The vertical length of the leotard is too long for Melissa.  The leotard too long also prevents the woman’s ice skating leotard from being supportive.

 

 

woman's ice skating leotard, mesh sleeve alterations, princess seam, gussetAlteration #3: Add gussets to the sleeves.

While the armpit seams are open to put in gussets (or completely removed, depending on your required alterations), peel off rhinestones at the front of the armpit so that a bust dart can be set in.  Baste the dart all the way from the armpit to the tip of the bust. Try the leotard on again. Fit the newly altered sleeves in the armpit area to determine a new stitch line that merges the new gusset with the existing shoulder area.

Why does this woman’s ice skating leotard need a bust dart? 

This leotard is too large and loose to offer bust any bust support.  Plus, it looks sloppy.  Instead of taking in the fabric at the side seams, a bust dart will help the leotard to accommodate Melissa’s breast curves. 

In my sewing school, I teach my Sew Like A Pro™ members to make women’s leotard pattern with full princess seams, not just a bust dart.  With Melissa’s dress, a bust dart is better than nothing and will suffice given that the dress is already finished.

 

 

SWEETHEART NECKLINE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT TOO HIGH

Melissa's rhinestoned sweetheart neckline is beautiful.  However, to better flatter her body it should be cut lower so it sits on her natural bust curve.

For how little this costume cost, it is possibly not a wise investment to spend the time or money making this intensive alteration. Then again, since she paid so little for it, why not put the time and money into making it as fabulous as possible?  Especially since the sleeves will be mostly removed to set in the gusset.

 

woman's ice skating leotard, sweetheart necklines, Melissa Pepling, Andrea Nero-Jones

 

In any case, the neckline position is a very important detail to consider when designing your own ice skating leotard.

 

 

SEW LIKE A PRO™ MEGA DRESSMAKER’S TIP #2: :  For those of you who love to have a dress as perfect as possible, this is how you make the neckline correction as I mentioned in the video:

      1. Determine where the new neckline should be.
      2. Peel off all the rhinestones 1” or 25 mm above and below that line.
      3. Rip the stitching that connects the mesh to the lycra leotard.
      4. Do the sleeve and bust alterations mentioned above.  Hold off on making the shoulders tighter because step G may take care of it.
      5. Try the dress on you, your client or on the dress form.
      6. Cut leotard along the new, lower sweetheart neckline.
      7. Using a basting stitch, reattach the mesh along the same place it was stitched the first time to the new, lower leotard neckline.  Doing this makes the mesh tighter because it will be lower than the original version.  (You may or may not need to tighten the shoulder more after this step.)
      8. Once again, try the woman’s ice skating leotard on yourself, your client or on the dress form.
      9. If everything looks good, permanent stitch everything and reapply all rhinestones.

 

Once again, this is a lengthy alteration. If you are making a dress or having a dress custom-made with a sweetheart neckline, adjust the neckline height during the leotard fittings. I explain how to do this in my blog on how to make a sweetheart neckline leotard fit better.

 


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CHOOSE A SKIRT DESIGN THAT COMPLIMENTS YOUR FIGURE

The last thing Melissa said she did not like about the fit of her costume is that the skirt curls up where it is stitched to the leotard.

Why does this happen?

There are several common reasons, but on Melissa, the primary reasons are that

1. Because this is not a curvy woman’s ice skating leotard (but an over-sized child’s pattern, the dress and skirt are too tight on Melissa’s tummy and hips.

2. The cut of the skirt is not very flattering on Melissa’s figure so the skirt wants to curl around her tummy curve.

Solution: This isn’t an easy fix, but it makes a world of difference. Melissa’s friend needs to pull up the skirt so it attaches higher to the skate leotard, then reshape the cut of the skirt to fit Melissa’s figure better.

woman's ice skating leotard, skating skirt, Melissa Pepling, Jaclyn CartwrightTruthfully, I would probably leave this alone. On skating costumes, the skirt is often set in-between two leotard pieces, not stitched on top of a whole leotard.  If Melissa’s skirt is set into the leotard (and I don’t know because I did not look at that item closely), it will be almost impossible to adjust the skirt.

One thing Melissa can do is camouflage the curling that happens where the skirt is stitched by continuing the rhinestones on the leotard all the way into the skirt.

Check out this blog featuring Jaclyn’s black crisscross skating dress with rhinestones that really compliment the dress and hide the skirt attachment.


 

Have you had a Ballroom, Country or figure skating costume that needed major surgery in the bust or sleeve area?  What did you do to fix the problems? 

Leave a comment below after you watch the video.

 

As always, please share this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends!

 

 


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THANKS FOR WATCHING.

 

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