I’d been looking for a leo upgrade for a while — my two cotton Capezio Bra-Teks (supportive! comfy! cheap!) were looking pretty washed out and threadbare after more than a year of weekly wear. I wanted something pretty, something not black or burgundy, something unique but not too high-maintenance. And something that actually fit. I’d tried on lots of bodysuits at local dance stores, but (as many of us have moaned and groaned on about) a lot of the designs just aren’t made with a regular adult’s body type in mind. Say I have the waistline of a Medium but the torso length of an Extra Small — do I squeeze into the tiny suit that’s just the right length but creates multiple bulges, or the one that skims over the tummy but droops in the butt and hangs off the shoulders? Let’s not even start with the flimsy “shelf lining” of some leotards — I don’t want my, uh, shelf lined, I want it locked and loaded and refusing to budge.
I looked online. The Yumiko and Eleve leotards all the professionals seem to be wearing were gorgeous, with fancy colour and pattern combinations. But they were pricey if you added front lining or sleeves, with shipping taking up to 8 weeks. And there was no certainty I’d be getting the perfect fit without trying it on beforehand — especially since their size guides come with the warning that “our leotards are designed for the dancer’s body — long and lean”. Then a blog post by Entrechat directed me to Lone Reed Designs, an Etsy shop run by former Houston Ballet dancer Jordan Reed.
I ooh-ed and aah-ed. Her designs are beautiful — lots of lace, gradient colours, fun prints. The one I fell in love with the most was the butterfly print leotard. I found out while browsing that I could customize many of her designs with my preferred colours and prints. Plus — she’ll ask for your measurements and height to ensure the right fit. Score! So I ordered the butterfly print with a hunter green bottom.
The Etsy shop said most items are ready to ship in 3-4 weeks, though I expected a longer wait. To my surprise, my leo arrived barely 3 weeks after ordering — not bad at all, for custom-made dancewear shipped from the U.S. to Canada. The leo itself is a stunner. The floral butterfly print is really pretty up close, with splashes of orange, magenta, blue and moss greens. The material is a shiny nylon spandex that feels substantial, not too thin. The shape makes me think of the Yumiko Sofiane — it’s a high, boat-neck style that’s flattering, with a lovely low back. Not only does it fit perfectly — it’s also supportive! Something about the high neck and front lining really holds that shelf in. I wore it to class without a bra (don’t laugh — it was my first time bra-less in ballet class since I was, oh, 11 years old) — OK, I had body tights under it, so that helped too. But trust me, that was a milestone.
My classmates loved the leo and wanted to know where I’d bought it. Mr. B said I should wear it with a tangerine skirt — that’s a traffic-stopping colour combo, even for me. Did the leo make me feel dancer-like? Definitely. Would I wear it often? Yes, to different studios — it’s pretty memorable, so I wouldn’t want to reach for it every single week. Would I order from Lone Reed Designs again? For sure — but I have to feel like I deserve it first. I could easily get carried away…