Jules Léotard

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Jules Léotard
Jules Léotard2.jpg
Born Jules Léotard
1 March 1838
Toulouse, France
Died 17 August 1870 (aged 32)
Toulouse, France
Known for Trapeze

Jules Léotard (French: [leɔtaʁ]; 1 March 1838 – 17 August 1870) was a French acrobatic performer and aerialist who developed the art of trapeze. He also popularised the one-piece gym wear that now bears his name and inspired the 1867 song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" sung by George Leybourne.

Early life[edit]

Léotard was born in Toulouse, France, the son of a gymnastics instructor who ran a swimming pool in Toulouse. Léotard would practice his routines over the pool.[1] He went on to study Law.


After he passed his law exams, he seemed destined to join the legal profession. But at 18 he began to experiment with trapeze bars, ropes and rings suspended over a swimming pool. Léotard later joined the Cirque Napoleon.

The costume he invented was a one-piece knitted garment streamlined to suit the safety and agility concerns of trapeze performance. It also showed off his physique, impressed the ladies and inspired the song sung by George Leybourne.


According to notes from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jules Léotard died at the young age of 32 from an infectious disease (possibly smallpox).[2]



  • Michael Diamond, Victorian Sensation, (Anthem Press, 2003) ISBN 1-84331-150-X. Pp. 262–264.

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