Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and her teammates debut their custom-made leotards – which were bedazzled with 3,500 Swarovski crystals each and constructed by team of 75 people
- Team USA’s star gymnasts hit the mat to train at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo today in their leotards by sponsor GK Elite
- Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, and Grace McCallum all wore matching black and rose gold decorated with 3,515 hand-applied Swarovski crystals
- MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey wore lavender ice leotards bedecked in 3,468 Swarovski crystals
- In a Pennsylvania factory, 75 people directly involved in the hands-on production of every leotard, with each one custom-made to perfectly fit each gymnast
- Olympic competition leotards are estimated to be worth $700 to $1,200 each, with an entire Olympian’s wardrobe valued at around $12,000 per gymnast
- The leotards all have ‘fearless,’ ‘dynasty,’ and ‘patriotism’ themes, with replicas available online for $89.99
- Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here
Team USA’s star gymnasts have offered a first look at the glitzy — and very pricey — leotards that they’re wearing for the Olympics as they hit the mat to train at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo today.
The elite athletes donned two different leotards by GK Elite, the official apparel sponsor of the USA Gymnastics national team, with each one custom-made for the woman wearing it and decked out in about 3,500 Swarovski crystals.
Those crystals were all hand-applied, with 75 people directly involved in the hands-on production of every leotard.
While GK Elite has kept the official price tag of the uniforms under wraps, they are estimated to be worth $700 to $1,200 each — and are part of a larger Olympics wardrobe valued at around $12,000 per gymnast.
Team USA’s star gymnasts have offered a first look at the glitzy — and very pricey — leotards that they’re wearing for the Olympics
Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, Simone Biles, Mykayla Skinner, and Jade Carey (left to right) hit the mat to train at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo today
The elite athletes donned two different leotards by GK Elite, the official apparel sponsor of the USA Gymnastics national team, with each one custom-made for the woman wearing it and decked out in about 3,500 Swarovski crystals
Five members of the team and one alternate showed up for podium training today, with the second alternate — Kara Eaker — currently in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, and Grace McCallum all wore matching black and rose gold leotards, which the brand said have a ‘dynasty’ theme and are ‘a celebration of all that has led the USA to being a powerhouse gymnastics team and country paying homage to athletes and designs of the past, while preparing for the future.’
GK Elite says that the leotard was inspired by the Tokyo 2020 torch, with a front design that mimics the flame.
Each one is decorated with 3,515 hand-applied Brilliance and Blush Swarovski crystals, and finished off with a crystalized USA on the right hip, an embroidered GK logo on the left hip, and a USA flag sewn on the right sleeve.
Meanwhile, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey spent today’s practice in lavender ice leotards with a ‘fearless’ theme, which GK says recognizes ‘the hard work, determination, and true fearlessness that Team USA’s top athletes exude.’
Featuring mesh cutouts, a plunging neckline, and faux straps, the shiny purple leotard is bedecked in 3,468 Swarovski crystals, including a crystalized USA on right hip. It also has the GK logo and a USA flag sewn in.
Though replicas of Team USA’s leotards will all be available to buy online — and these two are already available for purchase, with the black/rose gold and lavender ones priced at $89.99 each — the pro gymnasts’ versions are far from mass-produced.
In fact, they are all custom-made for the gymnasts wearing them, designed to perfectly fit their different bodies.
Each one is designed, cut, and assembled in the United States, with the individual Swarovski crystals all hand-applied using a tweezer and heat.
The materials are special, too, with GK revealing that they used recycled polyester and spandex fabric, much like how this year’s Tokyo Olympic medals were made from recycled electronics.
MyKayla Skinner (pictured) spent today’s practice in a lavender ice leotard with a ‘fearless’ theme — and 3,468 Swarovski crystals
Jade Carey also wore the lavender leotard. Each one is designed, cut, and assembled in the United States, with the individual Swarovski crystals all hand-applied using a tweezer and heat
Skinner models the official lavender leotard (pictured). At a factory in Pennsylvania, 75 people directly involved in the hands-on production of every leotard
All in all, 450 people in a factory in Reading, Pennsylvania were involved in the process, with 75 different people touching each leotard during its production.
Additional leotards will be revealed over the course of the Games, with each one featuring special details.
One will have 76 individual applique stars, which the brand says is a nod to America’s birth in 1776.
And the final leotards will feature a whopping 7,600 ruby and brilliance Swarovski crystals — also a nod to 1776.
‘GK Elite has a rich heritage as the leading apparel for competitive gymnasts and we are proud to have our brand represented on the sport’s greatest stage by Team USA,’ Girisha Chandraraj, President and CEO of Elite Sportswear, said in a press release.
‘We are thrilled to continue our partnership with USA Gymnastics as we collaborate to encourage and inspire gymnasts across the world to feel and perform their best. We are proud to represent Team USA in Tokyo and look forward to cheering on the women’s and men’s teams as they go for gold.’
Leotards have come a long way since their utilitarian beginnings. In 1984, Mary Lou Retton’s stars and stripes look was considered flashy
GK Elite has designed Team USA’s Olympic leotards since 2000.
By then, leotards worn by Olympians had already evolved quite a bit from their humble, utilitarian beginnings.
‘When I started in the 1970s, my leo was polyester with a zipper down the front,’ Michelle Dusserre Farrell, who was the youngest member of the 1984 United States gymnastics team, told the New York Times.
‘It wasn’t until the early 1980s, when they were made with Lycra, that the leos finally stopped bagging.’
The designs got flashier, too, with Mary Lou Retton donning an iconic stars and stripes look in 1984 and a few sparkling crystals making their way onto uniforms in the 1990s.
Swarovski crystals became such a staple of Olympic leotards that the jewelry company even adapted how they make the crystals to suit the athletes, engineering lighter designs and adopting new $50,000 machines to apply the stones to the fabric in complex designs.
By the 2016 Olympics in Rio, stars like Aly Raisman (pictured) were dazzling in crystals
In 2016, Biles’s leotard screamed Team USA with its red, white, and blue design
GK Elite chief design officer and EVP of corporate relations Kelly McKeown revealed that it takes two years, and a lot of research, to create the leotards
‘Obviously, sparkles are not an element in the scoring,’ said Samantha Peszek, a member of the 2008 Olympic team. ‘But it’s part of the “look good, feel good, do good” aspect. It’s a very important part of the sport. It may sound trivial, but what you wear really matters. For some girls, it’s why they got into the sport.’
These days, there is quite a lot of planning that goes into each and every leotard worn at the Olympics.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan in 2016, GK Elite chief design officer and EVP of corporate relations Kelly McKeown revealed that it takes two years, and a lot of research, to create them.
‘It’s something you don’t want to rush. If you want to use a new technique, if you want to experiment, then you have to wear-test it, you have to wash-test it, you have to make sure that it’s not going to fail on the competition floor,’ she said.
She also explained how an individual Olympic gymnast’s wardrobe can come with a price tag up to $12,000 — with USA Gymnastics footing the bill.
The 2016 Olympic team included Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas (left to right)
An individual Olympic gymnast’s wardrobe can come with a price tag up to $12,000 — with USA Gymnastics footing the bill
The gymnasts each have 12 practice leotards priced at around $60 to $200 each, as well as eight competition leotards that vary from $700 to $1,200 each
This includes 12 practice leotards priced at around $60 to $200 each, as well as eight competition leotards that vary from $700 to $1,200 each. The variations in price depend on just how many crystals go into each of the designs.
McKeown also explained how each leotard was custom-made to fit the athlete wearing it.
‘For example, Simone Biles is incredibly muscular, but she’s a mighty little package, so she has big shoulder and very little hips, so literally every part of her leotard is custom,’ she said.
Finally, the athletes also have special underwear specifically made to stay hidden under a leotard.
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