Another round of Winter Olympics means another chance to marvel at the phenomenon of figure skating fashion. The sport has long been known as the most stylish and fashion-forward of any in the Olympic games, with costumes taking the place of uniforms and offering the opportunity for total freedom of expression.
Well, almost. Costumes may be full of rhinestones, crystals, sequins, cutouts and colorful, stretch fabrics — and one might ponder if the entirety of New York Fashion Week’s fall ’22 collections take inspiration from their unique mix of glitz. But there’s more to their construction than meets the eye — and a hefty set of regulations on what skaters can and cannot wear (plus a few gender-focused rules that inhibit most opportunities for truly unisex looks).
For example, skaters in the women’s competition must be 50 percent covered. The dress code is an evolution of the “Katarina Rule,” named after German figure skater Katarina Witt, whose feather-as-skirt costume at the 1988 Winter Olympics ruffled officials the wrong way. Men’s skaters, meanwhile, must wear real, substantial trousers and avoid leggings for the sake of anatomical modesty. The rules tend to keep skaters in more traditionally gendered costumes, though there are exceptions, including the black unitard that Mae Berenice Meite of France wore at the 2018 Olympics (paired with a medley of Beyoncé songs) and of course the many unique looks of Johnny Weir. Curiously, there is not much of a difference between men’s and women’s figure skates, though men’s skaters tend to wearing them in black while women’s skaters opt for white or nude.
While the actual women’s individual competition has soured from the ongoing investigation of the failed drug test of Russian Olympic Committee skater Kamila Valieva, the fashion race is still on, and it continues to be seen as an side sport of sorts for figure skating.
Medals may not be given out this year, but that doesn’t mean fashion winners can’t be crowned. Below, a look at some of the best figure skating fashion at this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, from standout ladies looks to the most creative duos in pairs skating and ice dancing, plus a reinterpreting of the men’s “suit” on ice. We’ll be updating this story as new looks come in.
Karen Chen, United States
The U.S. skater went for dark drama for her short program look, with a black bodysuit that extended to gloves with black sequins at the wrist. Down the front of the bodice, a spray of silvery blue crystals created an asymmetrical deep V neckline. But the best part of the look? Chen’s mother designed it.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Canada
If Versace did figure skating, this is probably what it would look like. The Canadian ice dancing duo are known for being loud and proud about their outré outfits, and they did not disappoint at their Feb. 12 program. Along with sprays of multicolored crystal embellishments, the costumes venture into court jester territory with a Lycra-leafed shoulder detailing — which actually works.
Alexandra Trusova, Russian Olympic Committee
One of Russia’s powerhouse skaters, Trusova also leaned into the full sleeve look with a red and black ombre dress, which included bright red gloves (the better to articulate movements) and a pattern of crystal embroidery on the bodice of the outfit. Bonus points for Trusova matching the look to her fiery hair color.
Madeline Schizas, Canada
The Canadian skater is only 4’11” but her presence is larger than life on the ice. For her short program Tuesday night, Schizas wore a burgundy strapless dress with an ombre effect skirt and velvet upper. The bodice was decorated with a vintage-inspired crystal work that looks like it belongs on a Manolo Blahnik pump.
Eva-Lotta Kiibus, Estonia
Finally, a skater this year who is not afraid to use the kind of color palette taking over regular fashion. The Estonian skater’s dress looked like a sequined Mondrian, with nude mesh sleeves for warmth (and that 50 percent coverage rule, since she also had an open back).
Nicole Schott, Germany
Schott’s black cutout gown with red piping looks like it came straight off the Proenza Schouler fall ’22 runway, with its orbital-like cutouts and shaping.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, U.S.
Just the music choice alone — Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” 2013 album — is enough to win the American pair huge style points. But Chock and Bates further committed to the theme with coordinated astronaut and alien outfits (his the former, hers the latter). Chock’s tone-on-tone gray bodysuit and skirt matched with an otherworldly gray lip color and avant-garde hair style is out of this world.