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How to Make a Leotard Out of a Tank Top

This leotard is the first complex sewing project I've ever done, so it's definitely good for beginners.

Here's my daughter wearing the completed leotard. You'd never guess that it started out as a tanktop!

Here's my daughter wearing the completed leotard. You'd never guess that it started out as a tanktop!

Save Money on Kids' Dance Clothes by Sewing a DIY Leotard

My oldest daughter, Phoebe, began dance classes recently, and I had the hardest time finding her dance clothes and shoes. She has small feet, so I knew I would have to order her shoes online, but she's a little chunk, so I wasn't expecting to have such a hard time finding a simple pink or black leotard. She currently wears between 18 months and 2t, depending on the brand. Even so, I checked multiple stores, and I couldn't even find a 2t leotard! I ended up having to find one online (which was a challenge all in itself).

So, I figured, how hard could it be to make one? I was walking around Wal-Mart and stumbled upon a rack of tank tops for $1.68! I grabbed a few, went home, put the kids down for a nap, and got to work!

Disclaimer: This is the first thing that I have ever sewed, minus pillows. And I'm not going to lie to you: This project took me about five hours total to complete, but I was more or less figuring things out as I went along—which, in my opinion, is the best way to learn! So if you're a beginner, you've come to the right place.

Step 1: Fix the Straps

As you can see in the photo above, I began with a simple black tank top, size 4-5. As I said before, Phoebe wears clothes between 18 months and a 2t. I just threw the tank over her clothes in the store and made sure that it could close between her legs.

Cut or Seam-Rip the Straps

I figured that the easiest way to start would be fixing up the straps. If you want to be all fancy, use a seam ripper. Otherwise, just cut the strap at the base on the back of the tank.

Cross the Straps and Sew Them Back On

All done? Great! Now you get to sew them back on! To be honest, I didn't actually measure the straps; I just crossed them and sewed them back down. But, much to my dismay, they were way too long, so I had to cut them again and sew them down again.

If you have a measuring tape, you can use that or just throw the top back on your child and eyeball it. Guess which one I did.

Step 2: Create the Bottom

Now that your straps are strapped down, it's time to move to the booty.


You can either measure your kid with your measuring tape or just use an appropriately sized leotard as a template. I didn't want to goof up on my $1.68 tank top with my wonky measuring abilities, so I used the latter method.

Trim the Back and Sides

Cut the back of the leotard first and work your way up the sides. I didn't trim the sides the first time and had to rip out my seams and start over.

Once you finish trimming the sides, fold the leotard side-to-side and trim the . . . I feel uncomfortable saying this, but trim the crotch. Grow up.

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Pin the side seams.

Pin the side seams.

Pin the bottom seams.

Pin the bottom seams.

Step 3: Pin and Sew

Now it's time to break out the sewing machine! Turn your leotard inside out, pin the edges for a neat line, and sew your seams.

I sewed down the sides and then across the bottom.

Step 4: Add Elastic to the Leg Holes

Adding elastic to the leg holes is the next step. This part is a little tricky just because you are sewing in a circle and not a straight line.

Measure and Glue the Elastic Into a Circle (Optional)

Using your template leotard or measuring tape, cut the appropriate length of elastic for the hole. I decided to make my life a little easier by hot gluing the elastic into a circle before I began to sew. Be careful, though! Too much glue can cause your sewing needle to get stuck!

Sew the Elastic Into the Leg Hole

The easiest way to sew the leg hole is to almost force the fabric into a straight line by rotating it. Refer to the video below if you need help.

Step 5 (Optional): Embellish With Ribbons and a Skirt

Once you finish the leg holes, you're all done! I decided to embellish my leotard with a little fuzzy ball ribbon and a skirt, but it's cute enough by itself! See my other articles to learn more!

P.s. Ignore my daughter's face. She had just finished her dance camp class and was hungry, tired, and didn't want to leave.

The finished leotard on a cranky ballerina.

The finished leotard on a cranky ballerina.


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 29, 2018:

Absolutely adorable! I love it. Thanks for sharing!