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H1: How Figure Skating Fashion Changed Over Time

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( 24, 2019)--Figure skating began to be recognized as a sport after they started to make skates out of iron, and not bone. Historic records suggest that it first happened in Holland in 12-14th century AD. Initially, figure skating was a skill contest which required the participants to ‘draw’ various figures on the ice, while maintaining a beautiful pose. The organizers had a special person (whose job was very similar to that of a paper editor) watch the contestants’ every move and carefully note down the order in which they were performed.

Figure skating costumes got popular nearly overnight, becoming an inseparable attribute of any on-ice competition. Initially, it was only the rich who could afford such kind of entertainment, and since the garments they donned were primarily designed to keep their wearers warm, wealthy ladies were mostly wearing bulky fur coats and fancy headdresses while skating. That didn’t mean, though, that lush skirts and luxurious embroidery were altogether abandoned.

Figure skating is one of the most aesthetically appealing Olympic sports. And it’s not only the graciousness, athleticism and artistic skills of the performers that we love it for. What we also look forward to seeing is the costumes of the figure skaters, each of which is a genuine work of art and physical manifestation of it's designer’s (some of whom are world-famous couturiers) creativity and skills.

H2: 1. Evolution of Figure Skating Outfits in the 20th Century 


  • The 1920s. During the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, women were wearing skirts, sweaters, and hats - just like they did in their everyday life. One of the main reasons for that was that the competitions were held at outdoor ice rinks. 


However, after official competitions began to be held in the late 19th century, figure skating skirts became lighter and more loose-fitting, providing their wearers with more freedom of movement. In the 1920s, above-the-ankle dresses became socially acceptable, so it was quite OK for women to skate in woolen (and still unbearably heavy) skirts that reached just below their knees. Also, fur coats and coats were replaced with warm sweaters.


Changes in figure skating fashion also affected male ice-skaters: their pants became wider and shorter. By the way, cropped-up trousers are back in fashion and we can see lots of people wearing them these days.


  • The 1930s. It was the Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie who brought about a genuine revolution in figure skating fashion. She was the first female athlete to compete in a short skirt during the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. 


After that, everyone saw that there was nothing wrong with wearing clothes exposing the knees, and that figure skaters had a right to enjoy more elegant and lightweight satin dresses in combination with nylon stockings. Also, thanks to Sonja Henie, white skates became really trendy.


  • The 1950s. Due to the lack of fabric for clothes after WWII, costumes were often made by hand. However, as time went by, more and more possibilities began to emerge. In the 1950s, light dresses and flared skirts came into vogue and became an instant hit with all fashion-conscious women. 


Long black or dark blue trousers and sweaters were very popular among men. Male skaters who wanted to stand out from the crowd did so with the help of various accessories, such as belts, scarves, and hats. However, some of them were still not allowed to enter an ice rink without a coat.


  • The 1960s. By that time, increasingly challenging figure skating techniques required athletes to wear clothes affording greater freedom of movement. The solution came in the form of synthetic fabrics (elastic tuxedos were beginning to be made for figure skaters), spandex, chiffon, and lamé (metallic embroidery thread).


One of the most memorable costumes of the time was that of the American figure skater Peggy Fleming. Made by her mother for the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble (France), it had the same color as the locally produced Chartreuse Liqueur, an alcoholic beverage made by the local monks. 


She hoped that that would help Peggy gain the support of French audiences and ultimately win the first place. It seemed to have done the trick: Flemming did beat her two closest rivals (Gabriele Seyfert from the GDR and Hana Mašková from Czechoslovakia), becoming an Olympic gold medalist and setting a new trend in figure skating fashion.


The two other trends at the time included wearing dresses with long sleeves and deep cleavage. With the advent of lycra, designers began to increasingly use transparent mesh fabric which created an illusion of some parts of the body being exposed. 


  • The 1980s. The 1980s were marked by the prevalence of the most outrageously designed and colored costumes. It was believed that such outfits could earn their wearers winning points during competitions. Some of the most popular fabrics and decorative materials included taffeta, chiffon, rhinestones, beads, and even feathers. 


Dress code for skaters was only introduced in 1988 after a scandal involving East German athlete Katharina Witt who was accused of wearing an ‘indecent’ outfit at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. From then on, female figure skating performers were prohibited from wearing costumes exposing their hips, buttocks, and midriff. The ban was in place for 15 years and got lifted in 2003.


  • The 1990s. Rebellious costumes proved to be too boring and gradually gave way to luxury ones. After being embellished with rock crystal inlay, embroidery, and handmade lace, figure skating outfits became works of art. At the same time, they ceased to be overly pretentious because they were created by famous designers. 


H2: 2. Figure Skating Fashion in the 21st Century

Forget about homemade costumes - they are now created by real professionals.

In the near future, the bar is expected to be set so high that designers will have to look for completely new ways to stand out from the crowd. “If at least one strap breaks or bead embroidery spread with one wrong move, the Olympics for the athlete will end. That's how serious it is. This is a real nightmare! ”- confessed Vera Wang to the People. 

Nathan Chen, a 2018 Winter Olympics bronze medalist, performed in a completely black suit with designed by Vera Wangin.


An outfit for Italian figure skater Carolina Costner was created by Roberto Cavalli. The bright red dress with elegant ruffles and rhinestones also had deep front and rear slits.


According to the current rules, a figure skater’s outfit should cover 50 percent of the body and not be too provocative. Otherwise, athletes risk having their points deducted, and even their brilliant performance won’t save them from that.


Formal restrictions are kept to a minimum: the International Figure Skating Union describes the proper costume as being “modest, decent and suitable for sports, not fashion competition” and “without the effect of excessive nudity.” 


As regards men, their pants should not look like a pantyhose, and their sleeves should not be too short.