It’s really hard to watch the Olympics and not wonder why ALL the athletes aren’t wearing bedazzled lycra ball gowns and Elvis suits while competing for winter sports glory at an international level. Modesty and shame obviously aren’t the issue; just look at the superhero outfits into which many of the other athletes (speed skating, downhill skiing, luge, bobsled, etc.) stuff their muscles. Yet figure skating is the only fully bedazzled sport without a care for “team spirit,” mercifully spared the pajama-ness of patriotism. Scott Hamilton tried to bring figure skating into space age with team colors (his costume is pictured in the slideshow above) during the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Mercifully, he failed.

The entire Olympics could be a fashion show. Just imagine Bode Miller bombing Whistler in Evan Lysacek’s jumper with the rhinstone shoulder boa. Sportswear companies would take a back seat to designers (Fashion Week did overlap with the Olympics this year!). Think of the beefcake boys of bobsled in Johnny Weir’s “Fallen Angel” outfit. You get the picture.

Until such a day arrives, we’ll have to be satisfied with figure skating and be grateful for the combined glamour and athleticism of early figure skaters likeSonja Henie and Cecilia Colledge who set the standard.

If you can’t get enough of these costumes during the Olympics, you’re incredibly lucky because Colorado Springs is home to the amazing World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame just behind the Broadmoor convention center at 20 First Street. Not only does the museum have an excellent collection of costumes and memorabilia from over a century of world figure skating events, they have a comprehensive collection of historical figure skates, medals, videos, ephemera and stunning original art, including an Andy Warhol portrait of Dorothy Hamil.

A million thanks to Karen Cover, Museum Archivist, for all her help with this.

Enjoy this very brief and enormously incomplete history of figure skating costumes set to the tune of “The Skating Trot” by the National Promenade Band, which you can download free from the Free Music Archive right here:

(We love comments, suggestions and email forwarders! thebigsomething@krcc.org)

 

5 Responses to Bedazzled: A Brief History of Figure Skating Costumes

  1. joyce cheney says:

    Sonia Henie’s tutu!

  2. Mary H says:

    I do beadwork as a hobby, and this stuff is fantastic. The time it takes a designer to do all this bling is incredible. Some is hot fix glue, but most is needle & thread. It must take a huge amount of time. Good story this year about how Belbin & Agosto’s new Original Dance costumes were shipped from New York at the very last minute – stuck in a snowstorm, and had to be hauled by Amtrak to get there in the nick of time. And did anyone else goggle at the “quick change” costume from all black to exposing the bling bodice? I’m no fashionista, but all this drama gives me a tickle.
    I know I’m really hooked when I remember all but one of the skaters whose costumes are in the slideshow, either from contemporary (at the time) or historical footage, all via the olympics.

  3. Liz Arnold says:

    I’d vote for bedazzled any day after watching the recent ice dancing and seeing women wearing men’s shirts backwards, the Daisy Duke look, and of course the absolutely HIDEOUS “aboriginal” costumes! It’s hard to concentrate on the performance when the costumes are so outlandish! Beads and sequins (when done well) make for a stunning accent to a skater’s performance.
    Thanks for the fun slide show!

  4. Nancy Atherton says:

    Thanks for standing up for the much-maligned costumes of figure skating! A few make me wince and look away (don’t get me started on the “Aboriginals”), but most are exquisitely made and integral to the skater’s interpretation of a particular piece of music. The best help the skater to create a magic that exists in no other sport. Remember the blue velvet costume Michelle Kwan wore for her “Lyra Angelica” program? Magic, pure, breathtaking magic.

  5. Sarah M says:

    Great choice of soundtrack!

News

November 23, 2014 | NPR · The two sides have been trying to hammer out a historic accord curbing Iran’s nuclear programs, but with less than 24 hours before a self-imposed deadline, there is still no news of a deal.
 

Facebook
November 23, 2014 | NPR · Female Marines are being humiliated and generally degraded by their peers on Facebook. The groups’ pages are frequently shut down, but return within days due to a dedicated following.
 

iStockphoto
November 23, 2014 | NPR · In this installment of our semi-regular Word Watch series, we look at a popular term for the practice of never being on time.
 

Arts & Life

HBO
November 23, 2014 | NPR · Nash says it took her a long time to see her comedic side as a gift, but she finally embraced it. Now her role as Nurse DiDi in the HBO comedy series has opened the door to more serious opportunities.
 

Courtesy of Tony Little
November 23, 2014 | NPR · The muscle man with the ponytail was once on track to become Mr. America. But a car accident shattered Tony Little’s hopes of competing. Just when he hit rock bottom, he got a life-changing idea.
 

DreamWorks Animation
November 23, 2014 | NPR · Tom McGrath, an executive producer of Penguins of Madagascar who also co-directed the first three films in the franchise, says he came to voice the part of the penguin Skipper kind of by accident.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
November 24, 2014 | NPR · The Super Furry Animals frontman’s new multimedia project explores the improbable and fantastic history of his 18th-century ancestor, John Evans. Oh, and there are unicorns.
 

Courtesy of the artist
November 23, 2014 | NPR · Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward cover pop standards with the timeless impeccability for which they’re known. Once again, Ward hovers mostly in the background, leaving Deschanel to steal the playful show.
 

Courtesy of the artist
November 23, 2014 | NPR · Folk heroes Richard and Linda Thompson split up, creatively and romantically, in the early 1980s. Now their son Teddy has brought them together — along with other family members — for a new album.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab