A dancer wearing a unitard, a shrug and pointe shoes.

A unitard is a skintight, one-piece garment with long legs and sometimes long sleeves, usually stopping at the wrists and ankles.[1] It differs from a leotard which does not have long legs.[2] The leotard is also usually considered a more feminine clothing item, while the unitard is not.[1][3] The garment can be thought of as a combination of a leotard and leggings, and was historically called a "one-piece long legged leotard".[4] The term unitard is mostly used in relation to sports, while it is usually referred to as a catsuit in other contexts.

Usage in sports

Figure skater Diāna Ņikitina wearing a sleeveless unitard.

Unitards are worn by acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, equestrian vaulters, athletes, circus performers, as well as others who require overall body coverage without impeding flexibility. It is closely related to the wrestling singlet, which is basically a unitard with shorter legs.

In 1985, Anne White's decision to wear a white unitard for the first two sets of a match in the Women's Singles Championship at Wimbledon was widely reported.[5][6] Unitards remain an unusual sight in some sports such as tennis, although Serena Williams wore one during a 2013 Wimbledon practice,[7] and during the 2018 French Open (after which the garment type was banned there).[8][note 1]

In the 90s, wearing unitards in figure skating was "illegal in competition and discouraged in practice". And although modern rules allow them, they remain a rare sight in competitions, where dresses are seen as more appropriate by conservative judges.[9]

The North Carolina State college men's basketball team wore a unitard designed by Nike shortly in 1989 under coach Jim Valvano "to address the issue of jerseys coming untucked", but they were retired after only two games.[10]

Colourful unitards are the trademark of fitness coach Mr Motivator.[11][12]

Usage elsewhere

Superheroes in comics, ads, TV shows and films are frequently depicted wearing costumes that resemble unitards, although they are rarely called that explicitly.[13] The members of the rock band Queen were known for wearing unitards during their concerts in the late 1970s.[14] Some of the uniforms worn by female characters in the Star Trek franchise have been called unitards, and criticized for promoting sexiness.[15]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ It is called a "catsuit" in the article, but should more appropriately have been called a "unitard".


  1. ^ a b Bellerose, Samantha (24 August 2019). "Leotard vs. Unitard: What's The Difference & Why Do Dancers Need Both?". danceparent101.com. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  2. ^ Votaw, Ann (24 August 2017). "3 Things Most Millennials Will Never Know About the Leotard". Observer. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  3. ^ Lennon, Jake (12 July 2022). "Unitards vs. Leotards: The key differences + full guide". Newtypeofclass.com. NTOC. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  4. ^ Strassel, Annemarie (2012). "Designing Women: Feminist Methodologies in American Fashion". Women's Studies Quarterly. 41 (1/2): 52–53. ISSN 0732-1562. JSTOR 23611770.
  5. ^ Elliott, Josh (2000-07-31). "Anne White With an unintentional fashion statement, she left her mark on tennis". SI Vault. Time Inc. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  6. ^ "White in White". The End of the Century. ESPN. 2000-12-23. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  7. ^ Chase, Chris (18 June 2013). "Serena Williams practiced at Wimbledon in a multicolored unitard". USA Today. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  8. ^ Nittle, Nadra (28 August 2018). "The Serena Williams catsuit ban shows that tennis can't get past its elitist roots". Vox. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  9. ^ Fetters, Ashley (17 February 2018). "Why Don't More Female Figure Skaters Wear Pants?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  10. ^ Lukas, Paul (25 March 2016). "Uni Watch's Friday Flashback: When NC State wore infamous unitards". ABC News. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  11. ^ Fox-Leonard, Boudicca (11 March 2019). "Mr Motivator: 'I'm back! But what's happened to the world of fitness since I left?'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  12. ^ Myers, Hayley (11 January 2020). "Mr Motivator: 'The unitard was my idea'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  13. ^ Chabon, Michael (3 March 2008). "Secret Skin". The New Yorker. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Freddie Mercury's clothes - The style icon". Mother Mercury. 31 December 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  15. ^ Kuku, Diepiriye (21 May 2010). "Starfleet Unitards for Women". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 28 August 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2023.