Although Russian Ilia Kulik won the 1998 Olympic gold medal, wearing a white vest over top of a giraffe-like geometric print while skating to Rhapsody in Blue was not one of his best costume decisions. (Ruediger Fessel/Getty Images)
How many times have we all heard the expression, 'the clothes make the man?' The same can be said for figure skating costumes.
How many times have we all heard the expression, "the clothes make the man?" The same can be said for figure skating costumes.
When I am watching skating, I am always looking for what I call the three 'C's to the lineup: concept, choreography and costume. As the music starts, I want it to all fall into place.
There are times when a skater arrives to compete, and I find the costume's lack of connection to the music to be positively distracting. There are other times when the symbiotic relationship between a skater's music and costume can be positively dazzling.
For better or worse, here are 10 examples of creative and confusing costumes:
1. Ilia Kulik (RUS) 1998 Olympic champion
Kulik won his Olympic title in 1998 at the tender age of 20. The charismatic Russian always got full marks for the way he skated. He was a great jumper and had wonderful style. As he stepped on the ice for his free program in Nagano, Japan to Rhapsody in Blue, I know I wasn't the only one trying to make sense of an outfit with a white vest over top of a giraffe-like geometric print. It wasn't even blue!
2. Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin (RUS) 2009 world champions
The 2010 season's short dance theme was Folk Dance. Domnina and Shabalin settled on an Australian Aboriginal theme. Along the way, they were able to anger Aboriginal elders with their loose interpretation of an Aboriginal costume, which they said they sourced from the Internet. What could possibly go wrong?
3. Jana Kokhlova & Sergei Novitski (RUS) 2009 European champions
I have to say that Kokhlova and Novitski's ice dance career offered a multitude of choices when it came to interesting costumes. What I like about this team is that they were always willing to commit to a theme. The issue for me with their 2010 season Firebird costumes is that they didn't know when to stop. Mind you, given a glue gun, sequins and a few feathers and I probably would have gone to town myself. It really is true that sometimes "less is more."
4. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER) 4-time world champions
The German pairs legends amazing technicians with a list of accomplishments as long as my arm. Many of their outfits, however, have been what I would call hit or miss. Over the years their costumes have generated lots of chatter, including the Pink Panther and Lost in Space, to name a couple. In 2010, when they skated to Send in the Clowns, they were in full clown regalia and makeup tear stains on their faces. Send in the Clowns is not really about clowns. Enough said.
5. Isabelle Duchesnay & Paul Duchesnay (FRA) 1991 world champions
I remember watching this free dance known as "Reflections" on television. The idea was that the Duchesnays would be mirror images of each other. I thought it was an interesting idea and that the androgynous costuming was unique. It worked for them in particular because they were not far off in height and had the same dark colouring. This program was not as well received as they would have liked, and dropped them from first to second overall at the European championships. They competed later that season with a different free dance and won the world championships.
6. Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean (GBR) 1984 Olympic champions
The 1984 season was a banner year for Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who captured the national, European, world and Olympic titles. Hardcore skating fan or not, I haven't met even the most casual observer who hasn't heard of Torvill and Dean, and with good reason. Their programs stand up to this day. This Original Set Pattern dance creativity is patently clear. Their theme was the Paso Doble and from the minute they left the boards they were in character: Dean as the matador and Torvill as his cape.
7. Kevin Van Der Perren (BEL) 2-time European bronze medallist
When I heard the strains of Night on Bald Mountain and saw Belgian champion Van Der Perren in his skeleton costume, I thought I had missed something. The story behind the music is apparently about a Russian legend which talks about a reunion of witches on the June 23rd eve of St John. I still can't quite make the leap to the skeleton, although on the positive side, it is beautifully tailored and quite sparkly. Kurt Browning has called Van Der Perren's skating outfits, "where sequins go to die."
8. Sinead Kerr & John Kerr (GBR) 2-time European bronze medallists
The first time that the Folk Dance theme was introduced for the short dance was during the 2007-08 season. The Kerr's program was one of my favourites. They are Scottish-born and elected to use Scottish music and I think we can all agree that the costumes, in addition to the choreography, was fantastic.
9. Alexei Urmanov (RUS) 1994 Olympic champion
There is no getting away from the fact that Urmanov is another in a very long line of amazing Russian male figure skaters. From time to time though a skater will show up in an outfit, as Urmanov did at the 1995 Europeans, and I can't help but be reminded of something else. This was one of those times. I imagine that Urmanov's enormous sleeves are supposed to conjure up the Swan from his version of Swan Lake. The Dilophosaurus from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park is where my mind is taken instead. In both cases the appearance of the sleeves for Urmanov and the collar for Dilophosaurus are a bit of a surprise to say the least. I am not quite sure what to make of it, either.
10. Miki Ando (JPN) 2-time world champion
If you were to meet Ando in an elevator, you would be struck by her shy smile and gentle way. In terms of her skating that vulnerability is what draws me to her. Her costumes are elaborate and are designed to reflect her chosen music. In the case of her Cleopatra free program during the 2010 season, this was clearly the case.
PJ KwongPJ is a self-proclaimed Word Broker who goes by the motto: I read them. I write them. I speak them. A degree from the University of Toronto studying Modern Languages has been put to good use as a bilingual PA announcer for, among other things, the last 5 Olympic Games, the FIFA U-20 2007 Men's World Cup and numerous international figure skating events since 1993.
Working as a figure skating coach for the last 25+ years led to commentating opportunities from CTV/TSN, ABC, Tokyo Broadcasting, CBC, Fuji TV, Seoul Broadcasting and CCTV among others. CBC has been home to Pj's skating voice, writing and commentary opinions since 2007. She would tell you that although working in skating is where her passion lies; she is the voice of lots of commercial projects, a blogger on her own site, a public speaker and with "Taking The Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating" a published author. You want opinions? She's got them. Follow her on Twitter to see.
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