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Sensual Spandex

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"By the way, it's cool that it's red and all, but what pervert designed this suit? It's a bit revealing!"

For marketing reasons, sports in both Real Life and in fiction tend to feature quite an expanse of revealed flesh — or flesh not revealed, in artful ways. This trope is where Stripperific meets the sporting arena or other physical, practical activities (such as Starfleet uniforms or superspy suits), where audiences are equally likely to tune in for the form-fitting spandex Fanservice outfits and the actual sport or show itself.

This is a justified in situations where an outfit providing more coverage or concealment would be impractical in other ways. Sports such as gymnastics fall into the coverage without concealment category, as less form-fitting clothing would be restrictive, distracting, or get caught in the equipment while less coverage would expose the athletes to friction burns. In sports that prioritize the speed of the human body in motion, such as track and field, uniforms tend to provide minimal coverage and are cut to follow natural creases of the human body to avoid restriction and chafing. Conversely, sports that involve speeds high enough to make air resistance a factor such as speedskating tend to minimize the amount of exposed surface area to reduce drag.

Outside of sports, there may be some justification for tight outfits in a few cases, such as paratroopers (loose, baggy clothes would flap around) or a spy who has to wriggle through a tiny window to infiltrate a building. In some sci-fi and futuristic spy thriller shows, this rare justification is extended to all personnel to provide Fanservice.

One of the few fanservice tropes that is often applied equally to both sexes.

Compare Form-Fitting Wardrobe, Spy Catsuit, Leotard of Power, Walking Swimsuit Scene, Superheroes Wear Tights.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In AngelicLayer, Hikaru wears one, which is similar to a leotard.
  • Gunbuster seems to have these, though they're not that different from gym uniforms in other anime.
  • The artist of He Is My Master decided instead of the typical bloomers that are seen in 99% of anime, she would do spats — essentially skintight shorts (compression shorts). In one omake (author's comment at the end of a book) she points out that she did it because with the screentone in manga, she can essentially draw the girls bottomless and get away with it.
  • Most of the characters in Hikari No Densetsu, which is totally justified since this is a manga/anime about rhythmic gymnastics.
  • Mostly the females in Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. It's the clothing of choice in the future.
  • A part of the standard performance costumes in Kaleido Star.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Miu's fighting uniform is ridiculously skintight.
  • This is regularly played up for gymnast Makie in Negima! Magister Negi Magi.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Plugsuits. Justified by the Unusual User Interface the Evangelions use, and the standard-issue design isn't that heavy on the Fanservice by the standards of this trope. They're also literally vacuum sealed with a control on the wrist and we see them baggy before this is activated, making their tightness justified. The experimental variant that shows up in the second Rebuild OVA, on the other hand, appears to have gone on to inspire the outfits from Kill la Kill.
  • Kaoru from Puella Magi Kazumi Magica wears a short-legged, orange bodysuit as her magical girl outfit. It's so tight, it's possible to see a dip where her belly button is.
  • Melpha from Queen's Blade wears two layers of clothing. A dress and underneath it, a skintight unitard that may as well be a second skin. Despite fully covering her massive chest she still has cleavage.
  • All of Liu Li's military outfits from School Shock are like this, be it the Leotard of Power or the full body suit.
  • Voltes V: The Long-Haired Pretty Boy antagonist is clad in conspicuously tight leggings underneath his fur mantle.
  • Similar to the Numbers, pretty much every female in SoltyRei aside from the Elegant Lolita.
  • When a Witchblade doesn't render you near-naked, it's this instead.

    Comic Books 
  • Nearly every single superhero/heroine that isn't wearing full body armor or normal street clothes dresses in this. It's also somewhat of a case of a justified trope, especially those who are brawlers (hard to grab hold of, if not wearing a cape) or rely on flexibility and agility (there's a reason that gymnasts wear it). That's not to say that functionality is the only reason, though...
    • Of course the primary reason supers have worn skintight costume is that it is easy to draw.
  • Diabolik uses the trope (even if at least the original suit is described as made of silk), and the above justification that it's harder to grab hold of. In fact, Diabolik came up with that suit because it's harder to grab than the ninja-like outfit he was using when studying martial arts.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise Parody Fic Farce Contact, T'Pol's Future Spandex is an experiment by the Vulcan Science Directorate, who would know humans had achieved true sentience when they stopped talking to her chest.
  • Weaponized in Captain Proton and the Planet of Lesbians.
    "As you have undoubtedly noticed, the skintight garment worn by Seventh of Mine keeps her formidable breasts under tremendous pressure. When Proton and his crew are decorated before the United Earth Congress, her brain implants will trigger an instantaneous release of her catsuit, destroying everything in a ten mile radius!"
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku's costume is this compared to his canon counterpart's jumpsuit. This is both to conform to the image of Spider-Man and for practical reasons, like being more aerodynamic and letting his setules poke through the fabric.
  • Rocketship Voyager. In a Mythology Gag on Seven of Nine's outfit, the dermaplastic garment is literally sprayed onto the body. However in this case it's merely an emergency outfit until a proper uniform can be supplied, which consists of a Boring, but Practical coverall.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, following her abduction by Gallaxhar, Ginormica wears a black full-body suit with several silver lines imbedded on it, and reveals a space-like shine in some angles.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in Avengers: Endgame, when the Avengers time-travel to the events of the first film, and eavesdrop on Past Captain America. Tony comments that Steve's past costume did nothing for his ass, while Ant-Man disagrees.
    Scott: As far as I'm concerned, that's America's ass.
  • Ghost in the Shell (2017): The Major's distinctive form-fitting white optical camouflage suit puts her body on full display, though the actual costume was made out of latex in order to conceal the parts of Scarlett Johansson's anatomy the Major's cybernetic body is supposed to lack. The sensual aspect is provided by a network of subtle surface details and incised lines that imply and accentuate the cybernetic mechanisms and access panels that supposedly lie underneath.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gladiators. And on that note, American Gladiators. Especially the revival (Hello, Crush!).
  • Early morning workout shows. Back in the '90s, there were a whole slew of them on ESPN, and they featured girls (and sometimes a few guys) doing exercises while wearing spandex.
  • Occasionally, the Star Trek series combines this with Future Spandex. It's largely absent from the original series, but becomes pronounced in The Next Generation. Technically, only the uniform from the first two seasons of TNG is spandex, but the updated version still looks like spandex despite being a two-piece. Later series emphasize that it's more of a jumpsuit than spandex, with Enterprise making it look more like a military flight suit. Regular civilian clothing retains the one-piece look for most of the Next Generation era.
    • Perhaps most obvious in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Legacy". When the Enterprise crew meet their deceased crewmate's sister, she's wearing a utilitarian leather jacket, shirt, and pants. For some reason, when she starts working with the Enterprise crew, they put her in spandex.
    • Deanna Troi from The Next Generation is sometimes referred to as wearing a cheerleader outfit. A justification is given that she's the Councilor and not part of the direct command structure, so she didn't want her rank to intimidate her patients, and so she gives them some breathing room without the uniform. After a brief lecture from a visiting captain in the sixth season, she starts wearing a standard uniform and does so in every subsequent appearance.
    • In the case of Seven of Nine from Voyager, it's given a Hand Wave as somehow medical — a "dermaplastic garment" she wears because of her de-Borgification leaving her body more sensitive to other clothing. While she has suits with different color variations, she keeps wearing it for the remainder of the shows run.
    • T'Pol from Enterprise goes unexplained, as it is different from any other Vulcan officer uniform seen.

    Music Videos 

  • All of the skiiers in Sega's Sapporo wear full-body ski suits that cling to them completely.

  • Gymnastics Leotards are the prime example: The suits have to be form-fitting to avoid snagging on the equipment, but anything less than full coverage from shoulders to crotch would not stay in place. Women tend to wear full sleeves for the same reason, and both sexes benefit from protection from friction burns and built-in support in appropriate areas.
  • Track and Field, on the other hand, argues for minimalism, particularly in the sprint events: singlets and briefs cut to follow the natural lines of the human body to minimize weight and maximize cooling tend to be the rule.
  • Beach volleyball. To a lesser extent, volleyball in general.
  • Professional (American) football players wear tight-fitting trousers and usually tight jerseys as well. This is because a player can be legally tackled by someone grabbing their clothes. Though really only their rear-ends and parts of the leg are truly skintight. Most of the rest of the body is padded.
  • In the world of tennis, Wimbledon has limits on just how "unrestrictively" the ladies can dress.
  • Swimwear, of most sorts for women. And for men too, except men's trunks, but there are the jammers, and if you leave the U.S., "Speedo" briefs become popular. It's worth pointing out that in the U.S., "Speedo" has become a catch-all term for a particular style of briefs, which is not entirely accurate, since similar briefs are manufactured by Nike, truWest, Turbo, Tyr, Dolfin, Arena, Kiefer, and Adidas, to name a few. In Australia, however, where Speedo's headquarters are, the style is called a budgie smuggler because it looks like you're trying to smuggle a small bird in your briefs.
  • Full-body swimsuits. While they don't expose as much skin, they still do tend to be form-fitting — form-compressing, in some cases. The advent of high-tech drag resisting fabrics inspired the International Swimming Federation to set limits on the maximum amount of swimsuit coverage allowed to prevent swimming from turning into a technology battle like auto racing.
  • Figure Skating is an aversion, with minimum coverage requirements for men and women, which the competitors often finesse using strategically placed flesh-colored panels.
  • And of course the trope image — speed-skating outfits. Although technically not spandex (they're made of different material), they have the same effect. Somewhat unique in this trope as this applies to both male and female athletes. Further emphasized by the fact that speed skaters tend to have very well developed thighs and rear ends and, well, the sport demands they spend much of their time in the position illustrated above. Bonus points when a team orders unexpectedly sheer or light-colored outfits without first actually seeing what they do when put on a well-formed human body under fluorescent lights...
    • Another material variation that's crucial for speed-skaters is that the outer layers of the suit's inner-thighs are made of special fabric that minimizes friction to assist the athletes as much as possible.
  • Averted with fencing, in which the outfits are there to provide protection from the impact of the full weight of the other person flying down the strip at you concentrated into an area of less than a square centimeter.
  • Bikram yoga or any derivation thereof. When the room's 115 degrees and 100% humidity, you want as little clothing as possible and what there is should be skintight to wick it away from your skin.
  • Amateur wrestlers are required to wear a skintight bodysuit called a singlet to avoid giving an opponent a handful of fabric to grab onto to get leverage. Adding to this is the fact that wrestlers can get into some... awkward positions while competing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Shadowrun book Arsenal describes a product line by Zoé called "Second Skin," which "provides protection, comfort, and style for open-minded people." It's a custom-tailored, skin-tight armored bodysuit that comes in either opaque or transparent.

  • Mimi Marquez in RENT. Any rendition of the play. Particularly for the song "Out Tonight".
  • One Los Angeles production of Twelfth Night set in the modern day had an... unusual interpretation of Malvolio's "Cross-gartered yellow stockings." Yellow spandex. Fortunately he was a fairly good-looking fella, otherwise...
  • One word: Cats. Naturally, the female characters combine this with being Catgirls... sort of.
  • Some productions of Matilda have Mrs. Wormwood don 80s-style spandex gymwear for her "Loud" number.

    Video Games 
  • Taki from the Soul Series.
  • Chloe from Tales of Legendia.
  • The Dark Suit Riku from Kingdom Hearts dons once he pulls a Face–Heel Turn. Vanitas has one too.
  • Vanessa from P.N.03.
  • The female cleric from Dragon Quest III is sometimes depicted dressed in an orange spandex bodysuit.
  • A good number of the mooks in The Bouncer are wearing skin-tight spandex outfits, presumably because they're supposed to have Ninja training. Their leader Mugetsu also wears one. If you follow Koh's path when the heroes split up, he dons one of these outfits as well to disguise himself.
  • The Fate series has several. Here are some examples:
  • Zero Suit Samus, especially in the Super Smash Bros. games.
  • Overwatch: Some characters make very clear they are wearing these some a little less so and cover up with other accessories.
    • Tracer, D.Va and Widowmaker most certainly apply.
    • Mercy doesn't show that much thanks to her dress, as do Mei and Sombra. All three of them wear skintight spandex leggings that outline their assets, even if they aren't always as visible as D.Va, Tracer and Widowmaker. During her Overwatch days Ana had spandex under her cloak too.
  • Goal in Deponia. Other elyseans wear variations of it.
  • Michelle from Hard Edge wears a skin-tight bodysuit under her high-leg leotard. The male knife-wielding enemies are also wearing a green unitard.


    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, it is the stock 'beginner' super-suit at Superhero School Whateley Academy. The school provides a variety of basic colors, including white and gray and black. However, in her book on Power Perversion Potential, Carmilla points out that while spandex costumes are popular for both heroes and villains, they are also ideally suited kinky bedroom roleplay...
  • In both Electrobabe And Dynachick and its spiritual sequel series Daredolls Dilemmas has the heroines wearing either colorful, tight spandex leotards or unitards.

    Western Animation 
  • The episode "Dating, Acme Acres Style" of Tiny Toon Adventures. Buster has a very exaggerated reaction to Babs's spandex outfit. (Babs: "Rule #1, girls: never underestimate the power of spandex.")
  • Worn in Recess: School's Out by Miss Finster.
  • In season 2 of Wakfu, Evangelyne switches her original outfit for a black full-body suit. It actually covers her more, but is very hugging.
  • The Simpsons features Flanders showing off a new ski suit, saying "It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all!" While skiing, Homer keeps thinking about Flanders' butt in the ski suit, prompting Homer to remark "Stupid sexy Flanders!"
  • In season 4 of Code Lyoko all the main cast had their virtual appearances changed, and all of these changes involved Sensual Spandex
  • Claire's Detroit Deluxe outfit and Foxy's get-up in Motorcity.
  • The main protagonists in the spy-girl series Totally Spies! wear full-body shiny colored catsuits during missions.
  • Maria Hill (and most of S.H.I.E.L.D) in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes wears a very skin-tight shiny dark-blue catsuit.

    Real Life 
  • Played with by the recent vogue for compression wear to reinforce and stabilize muscles, which can either enforce or subvert this trope depending upon how the materials are patterned.
  • "Leggings as pants". The look certainly has its opponents.