Synchronized swimming is a sport that is almost as well known for its pageantry as it is for its athleticism, due in no small part to the ornate costumes. Just as the athletes manage to make their moves look effortless, it can be easy to miss all of the planning and work that goes into producing their competitive swimsuits. Beyond what you see in the pool, there exists the world of design, sewing... and parents feverishly attaching sequins to spandex.
Few know this world better than Marie Porter, an author and retired spandex costumer. In her illustrious spandex costuming career, Porter designed and created imaginative, durable costumes for synchro swimmers both domestic and international - including many national and international level competitors.
“Synchro costumes are a completely different animal. While the cut and basic fabrics are similar, they’re not simply decorated off-the-rack swimsuits. So many aspects of what you see with competitive suits are very thought out, planned for a specific goal”, explains Porter.
Some of the design tricks and considerations used in synchro costuming include:
- As swimsuits become more loose when wet, synchro swimmers will typically order suits that are at least one size too small.
- Showing a lot of skin - or skin-colored mesh - in the back of the suit makes a swimmer appear to be higher out of the water. High cut leg openings work to achieve the same goal, while also making the legs appear longer.
- Small details and certain colors do not show up well from a distance, in certain pool lighting, or in the water. Design must strike a balance between being visible... and not appearing "clunky".
- Fabrics and embellishments must be tested for appearance and durability. Some look very different when wet, some "bleed" dye, some fade/wear out quickly in chlorinated conditions. While adhesives can be used to attach embellishments, some don't hold up well under water, or with temperature changes.
- Fun fact: Silicone caulking is sometimes used to decorate synchro swim costumes!
Porter has compiled all of her synchro costuming knowledge and techniques into a new sewing manual, “Spandex Simplified: Synchro Swimwear”. Written completely in layman terms and carefully explained, Porter presents readers with the skills and knowledge to design and make almost any design of competitive synchro swim suit they can imagine. “Spandex Simplified: Synchro Swimwear” teaches everything from the basics, to Porter's secrets of the trade.
" 'Performance' sports can get expensive quickly, and sewing the costumes at home is a great way to bring down some of that cost. I know - I was a figure skater when I was younger! It was the desire to save money and have more control over my costumes that led me to get started in spandex costume way back when I was only 11 years old. I'm so excited to be able to bring my experience and knowledge to the dedicated athletes - and parents - involved with synchro swimming"
“Spandex Simplified: Synchro Swimwear” releases on August 30, 2012
Marie Porter is available for interview, commentary, and guest blogging on the subject of performance sport costuming - design and creation. Her specialties included figure skating dresses, professional wrestling costumes, synchronized swimsuits, and dance/fitness performance costuming. For more information about Spandex Simplified: Synchro Swimwear, please visit www.spandexsimplified.com
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