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

AFP/Getty Images
April 23, 2014 | NPR · Divers have found no air pockets where passengers might have taken refuge. They have, however, retrieved more bodies. The number of confirmed deaths has topped 150. An equal number remain missing.
 

The Preiser Project/Flickr
April 23, 2014 | NPR · A look at the critters that live on money finds about 3,000 types of bacteria. Most are harmless. But researchers found traces of DNA from anthrax and drug-resistant pathogens, too.
 

NPR
April 23, 2014 | NPR · Washington, Ill., lost half of its assessed property value to a tornado in November, but residents who lost everything are eager to reclaim their hometown.
 

Arts & Life

Laura B. Weiss
April 23, 2014 | NPR · The Australian state known for its marsupial “devil” has a local food scene that might be described as heavenly. If you can’t try it person, get a taste with these Tasmania-inspired recipes.
 

Fox
April 23, 2014 | NPR · Fox has started releasing images from an upcoming episode of The Simpsons that renders the family in Lego pieces. And as always, all rights are carefully reserved.
 

Getty Images
April 23, 2014 | NPR · Also: a previously unpublished story by Shirley Jackson; tips to tell whether you are in a Charles Dickens novel.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
April 23, 2014 | NPR · The new video from London-based duo Cloud Boat, for their new single “Carmine,” unfolds in an eerie laundromat, where customers channel the hauntingly beautiful voice of singer Tom Clarke.
 

Mountain Stage
April 22, 2014 | NPR · The decorated Americana musician returns to Mountain Stage to play songs from his upcoming album, Single Mothers.
 

April 22, 2014 | NPR · Caetano Veloso has been making music for over 40 years, and he’s among the best known singers in his native Brazil. Veloso’s new album, Abracaco, is one of the most engaging in his epic career.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab