23 February, 2010

Fashion evolution of figire skating dress

The fashion concept of the figure skating dress and boots as we know them now originated in 1920's and should be credited to the legendary "Queen of Ice" Sonja Henie who won numerous Olympic and World titles before becoming a movie star and producer.
Sonja Henie's contribution to the world of ice skating fashion is the introduction of the short embellished dress which is as much part of the competition as the skaters' skills. Before that the skater's attire consisted of regular street clothes. The idea of women wearing white ice skating boots was also originated by her when both genders wore black boots. Sonja ice skating look reflected 20's flapper dress with shorter hemlines, slightly mannish bodice and cloche hat.
1930's marked return of female forms with softer silhouettes, glamour and biased cuts. New fabrics with chemical blends were developed resulting in more choices and nylon hosiery which revolutionized women's lives. Softer hair and overall ladylike appearance was the fashion calling card of the decade. Here a glamorous satin figure skating dress with fur trim worn in 1934 by accomplished Dorothy Snell Curtis.
1940's reflected the rationing necessity and the hemlines became higher in reflection of the fabric shortage which came to the end in late 194040's. In Europe, The Dior's New Look suit was frowned upon because it was long and wasted fabrics. In US and Canada simple and classic was the New Look and still have followers today. This look is reflected in a short classic dress worn in 1948 by Olympic champion Barbara Ann Scott doing her signature jump.
Fashion in 1950's was marked by newfound prosperity, teenage rebellion and individuality trends with    an elegant and sophisticated view. It was a fashion driven decade that was all about strong colors, designer name brands, big belts, patterns, Chanel suits and colorful flared skirts. Some of these influences can be traced in these iconic costumes:  
Tenley Albright who was first American woman to win the Olympic gold medal wearing a collarless jeweled tone pink dress.
Copyright © 2000 CNN/Sports Illustrated
Gold and silver medal winner Carol Heiss made a history of being the fist woman to land a double axel in a competition and appearing on colver of Sports Illustrated in 1955. For her cover look she choose a strong color combination of a short red flared skirt, a wide black belt and elegant white shirt.
Copyright © 2000 CNN/Sports Illustrated
1960's fashion was expanded by fusion of natural fibers and synthetics creating better performance in wear. Predominant look was the androgynous looking woman in a straight shift dress. The decade belonged to CourrĂ©ges sensibilities and the Quant's Chelsea Look mini skirt. The overall shapes were simple, neat, clean cut with little girly collars.
Here is 1961 Sports Illustrated cover girl Laurence Owen U.S. 1960's Olympic representative wearing a striking simple red dress.
Copyright © 2000 CNN/Sports Illustrated
Olympic gold medal and World Champion winner Peggy Fleming gracing 1966 cover of Sports Illustrated wearing baby pink dress with little girly collar and cuffs with matching head band. Her subsequent 1968 cover featured a fashionably simple, streamline cut and decade signature pea green dress with white collar and cuffs.
Copyright © 2000 CNN/Sports Illustrated
Micro, mini or maxi skirt length were acceptable in 1970's fashion world and lighter weight clothes started being more popular with introduction of central heating in enclosed space and easier travel. The fashion included many fashion movements ranging from hippie to disco. Hippie movement fashion influence extended into ethnic silhouettes, flared and bell bottom jeans. Preppies wore color coordinated separates. Dark punk and rock inspired fashions were alongside skin tight glitzy Disco spandex. The 70's laid a way to new fabrication development, hot-fix Swarovki crystals and other embellishments.
Along with the mainstream fashion the ice skating dresses became more lightweight with better performance fabrics, covered less skin and showed crystal based embellishments.  
"America's Sweetheart" trend setter and Olympics gold medal winner Dorothy Hamill gave the world her famous "wedge" hair style along with a deep v-neck crystal embellished dress with fluid and lightweight fabric. 
1980's fashion trends reflected social and economic changes. The overall lifestyle was more opulent and the clothes was about glitz and glamour. Women were more accepted in the corporate world and started wearing "power outfits" alongside soft and romantic silhouettes. All of these reflected in a newly found dress confidence on ice.
Debi Thomas, first African American woman who won Olympic medal for figure skating on the cover of  1988 Time Magazine, wearing a glamorous fringe detail dress.
Repeat Olympic winner Katarina Witt performing in opulent over the top royal blue embellished with feathers dress. She also took a skating dress out of its comfort level and made it more provocative.
1990's decade continued with more fashion developments which found their way in the ice skating world. The mood was moving to more sober views on life and some luxury became more acceptable. 
Christi Yamaguchi Olympic champion wore this Chinese inspired design brocade dress during 1992 Olympics and on the cover of Sports Illustrated
Copyright © 2000 CNN/Sports Illustrated
Two time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan brought "less is more mentality"and fashion trend to ice in her embellishments free classic dress designed by Vera Wang (Vera Wang on Nancy Kerrigan's Skating Costumes video) and inspired by her signature wedding gowns. Little known fact that Vera Wang used to ice skate and designed costumes for some top ice skaters.
Oksana Baiul, 16 years old 1994 Gold Olympic medal and world championships winner and Barbara Walters "One of the 10 Most Fascinated Personalities of 1994" skated in the tune of "Swan Lake" and the new technology and man made fabrications textile trend. Oksana still vows fashion world on the cover of The Daily. 
The trend of lycra and other superior man made regenerated fibers and crystal trims is continued in Tara Lipinski's dress that she wore in 1998 Olympics where she earned her Gold medal.
As the time progressed the ice skating dresses became more revealing and designed. Here is another Vera Wang creation won by the most decorated figure skater Michelle Kwan. The dress is embellished with gold sequins and leaf motif and continued royal trend. 
Photo by Leah Adams
The first decade of 21st century brought the idea of individuality, comfortable femininity and sex appeal. Beginning of 2000's was ruled by pretty ladylike elegant dresses and decorations as on Sarah Hughes' dress worn during her Olympic medal winning performance in 2002.
In 2006' Olympics the gold was won by Shizuka Arakawa, first Japanese woman to win this title. Her tastefully embellished blue color blocked, pattern mix and match kimono style inspiration was right in the style of asian deconstruction trend. 
Current Olympic's ice skating dresses conceptualized as part of the overall performance and almost as important in judging as the triple axle. Some skaters get thumbs up and some being made fun of (see Figure skater's fashion: the good and the questionable). Overall, the dresses are definitely becoming more beautiful, daring and sometimes with some occasional wardrobe malfunctions. As in case of Ekaterina Rubleva of Russia who's top came off during European Championship in 2009.
Can't wait and see what the ladies will wear...

If you like this post you might like: Figure skater's fashion: the good and the questionable


Mattie said...

Vera Wang's designs for both Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan's dresses are beautiful. I had no idea she designed ice skating dresses!

Sabina Les said...

Yes, she in Figure Skating Hall of Fame for her designs.