Figure skating fans may thrill to the jumps and spins, but it's the pageantry that keeps us watching. Sometimes a skater wears the costume; sometimes it's the other way around. Here's a snapshot of memorable (and a few forgettable) style moments in skating history.
-- Andrew Harmon
Sequins? Out of the question. In the post-World War II era, Dick Button clinched two Olympic gold medals and landed the first triple jump in competition while dressed to the nines. A white mess jacket inspired by military formalwear was his trademark. Traditional tailoring had its downside, however. "We didn't have stretch material," Button says, "so if you didn't have double-sewn pants, you could find yourself skating in the altogether, shall we say."
Alternately smoldering and shocking, Katarina Witt's costumes were reliable conversation pieces during her reign in the 1980s. She nabbed a second Olympic gold wearing an exquisite gypsy costume, but confounded audiences in a "West Side Story"-themed performance in which she donned a black dress that appeared to have bat wings. A showgirl get-up with strategically placed feathers prompted skating officials to implement the "Katarina Rule," requiring female skaters to wear skirts or pants "covering the hips and posterior."
Is he a figure skater or a luge champion? With Scott Hamilton it was hard to tell. The 1984 Olympic gold medalist rebelled against his sport's rhinestone zeitgeist, opting instead for athletic racing suits in patriotic colors. Exhibition skating is a different story, however. A founder of the Stars on Ice tour, Hamilton is no stranger to leather pants or a tuxedo with tassels traversing the sleeves.
With nine national titles, the most decorated skater in U.S. history had a not-so-secret weapon: Vera Wang. A former competitive skater, Wang also designed for Nancy Kerrigan's almost-golden moment at the 1994 Olympics. Kwan wore several designs by Wang over the years, including this dress at the 2004 national championships. Several competitors flocked to the runway in response, including Italy's Carolina Kostner, who has worn costumes designed by Roberto Cavalli.
Subtlety is not in Johnny Weir's vocabulary. After a performance meltdown at the 2003 nationals, Weir ditched traditional garb and began sketching designs for phantasmagoric costumes that have pushed the flamboyance factor in men's skating. Critics cry foul, but Weir delights in the attention. "To be accepted worldwide, American skaters need to understand that excess is necessary. And I take credit for that."
Skating fans thrill to Cohen's ballet sensibilities, her flexibility of a yoga instructor, her striking porcelain features. If only she could stay on her feet. But it doesn't hurt to have Badgley Mischka in your corner. In 2004, Cohen skated one of her finest performances to date in a "Swan Lake"-inspired costume created by the American design duo.