Bold, colourful, extravagant, perfectly complementing the exceptional routines of the Bulgarian rhythmic gymnasts – such are the leotards with which the Bulgarian girls proudly go out on the floor and climb the winners’ podium. We welcome each of their brilliant performances with bated breath, but we rarely ask ourselves who stands behind the fabulously designed costumes of the girls from Bulgaria’s national team.
Varna-based Bulgarian designer Nevena Bratanova has been involved in creating the clothes for Bulgaria’s national rhythmic gymnastics team for several years now.
In 2016, the gymnasts from the girls’ and women’s national team started the season with Nevena's leotards, and later she started making the leotards for the groups.
"We try to use high-quality materials, we also include new materials such as spikes, chains, etc.” the designer explains in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. “We are trying to escape from the standard gymnastic leotard, we are looking for something different. The most difficult part for us is to specify the models, because we have to take into account many things so that we get the best possible vision of things and the leotard as a final result. "
The design and colours depend, first of all, on the music and style of the individual gymnast, the colors of the apparatus as well as the desire of the coaches. Sometimes the girls are inspired by models of famous designers, and then Nevena Bratanova prepares sketches to specify just how things will look in the finale. Because there are fashion trends also in the field of leotards. "Now they are sleeveless or with one sleeve, without collars, even without skirts, which years ago would have seemed quite absurd," Nevena explains.
In 2017, in a survey on the rhythmic gymnastics Facebook page entitled The Knotted Ribbon for "The most beautiful leotard", Nevena Bratanova's individual costumes took all the first places.
"Divine, amazing, magical beauty, exquisite, a masterpiece" - these are just a few of the comments about the leotard which was shown for the first time at the tournament in Moscow RG Grand Prix in February, 2021, causing a real sensation. The unique combination of elements of Bulgarian folk embroidery also impressed the Russian commentators: “An unusual combination of an athletic leotard with a Bulgarian folk costume, a very interesting approach. It is nice when the gymnasts in some of the combinations include a national theme”, sports commentators noted.
For the World Cup in Sofia (March 2021), the designer was looking for different, bold, unconventional and even extravagant solutions. The big surprise are the leotards for the new routine of the women's group created under the influence of a model by Jean-Paul Gauthier.
"For the ensemble, we wanted to experiment with new, hitherto unused materials for the leotards. We chose chiffon and varnish which changes colour due to the refraction of light and is something completely new. The fact that the chiffon has no elasticity created a lot of problems for us, but the leotards turned out to be very delicate and enchanting as a base, and the varnish is a reference to a metal armour,” Nevena Bratanova says, revealing the secret of the enchanting new leotards.
"When the gymnasts go out on the floor, we don't think about our work at all, we just keep our fingers crossed that they can perform their routines flawlessly. We are happy and proud that we are given this opportunity to take care of the visual look of our national team and to have our designs seen at the biggest sporting events," Bulgarian designer Nevena Bratanova says.
English version: Rositsa Petkova
Photos: courtesy of Bulgarian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation and Nevena Bratanova