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how to pick a cheer uniform

Cheerleading uniforms are expensive, and they are an integral part of your squad’s identity, so you need to choose carefully. In the past 10 years cheerleading uniforms have evolved in styles, fabrics and trends - as well as requirements for cheerleading competitions. Your uniform can be:

  • Shell: Usually used for Schools, Pop Warner and College teams: the material is stiff and has a very preppy look which can either be more modern or vintage (with pleated skirts). If you're going for a long-sleeved style it will be more comfortable to have a separate body-liner underneath in order to make movement more easy as the tops can become heavy.

  • Lycra: Usually used by all-star teams with their flashy designs: they are great to move in and generally designs incorporate metallic fabrics. It is possible to go for a more conservative style too, by keeping the designs closer to shell but in lycra for easier movements.

  • Gemmed: This is an upgrade from lycra, where the uniforms are studded with bling (this is usually used by top all-star teams and very common at Worlds competitions).

  • Sublimated: With these type of uniforms the design is printed onto a blank sheet of fabric (usually lycra) and then sewed together to produce very innovative designs with plenty of colour. It is worth noting that sublimated uniforms done cheaply can look very tacky, so when opting for this style it's best to go with a better supplier.

  • Custom-size: Shell uniforms are usually made custom-sized so that the shell can perfectly fit each athlete because of the stiffer fabric. Even though this means everyone gets a perfect fit, it's also means there is no room for growth and harder to pass down to other members. Also if measurements are not perfect, you can come out with a rather odd-looking uniform!

  • Set size: These are uniforms that come in S, M, L, XL or other size types. Even though it can be a bit hit-and miss with different body-types it's often a preferred option especially when it comes to lycra uniforms.

  • Built-in: Some skirts will have spankies / hotpants attached inside the uniform which means the skirt cannot ride up or move around. Nowadays, teams also opt for skorts or even go for shorts designs.

  • Cropped: Cropped uniforms (short or long-sleeved) will show the midriff, which can be unsuitable for younger athletes and will not be allowed at certain competitions. Also consider the athleticism of your team and if this will suit all body types!

When you've decided on a style, ask your supplier to send you samples of the fabric and braid if at a possible to see if it looks right, and be careful with your measurements on made to measure items.

NEVER trust a photograph: as the colour might look right on camera and be completely the wrong shade in real life. This really happened to one of our coaches, so make sure you don't cut corners!

Make sure that if you are measuring the length of a skirt as being from your belly button, the supplier is too. And whenever the supplier says it’ll be ready by, add two weeks onto that at the very least. If you want your uniform by a competition, remember everyone else does too, and you might not get yours on time. Things to watch out for when ordering your uniform:

  • Many companies make their shell skirts high waisted. If you want yours low - waisted ensure you make this absolutely clear in the brief

  • Get the same person (preferably someone with dressmaking experience) to take the squad's measurements. It might seem easier for everyone to do their own but this is notoriously difficult to do accurately so its worth double checking yourself rather then ordering them then discovering people have mistaken their busts fir their under-bust! Some make their tops and skirts REALLY SHORT!! Make sure to add an extra inch to the top length and sleeves measurements unless you want to have unwanted body curves poking out!

  • Unifrom-makers outside the US may not always accurate in replicating your design so always ask for a sample to be made. Get someone who's really good at "spot the difference" to compare their prototype and your design, and send back some very clear instructions for amends.

  • If you can, get your uniform made with lightweight spandex or lycra as this will be much more comfortable to move in but stay clear of shiny fabrics to avoid the ice-skater look.

Get the maker to use soft elastics so that the skirt will cling to your body shape naturally, and not constrict your body creating bulges. Measuring uniforms: Make sure you know how to take the right measurements or you can end up with uniforms fit for the little ones. The most common mistake is to confuse the hip measurement with the abdomen. The hips are measured at the WIDEST part of your lower body. The measurement between the waist and the hips is the belt measurement or abdomen.

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