An Illustrated History of Figure Skating Clothes

01
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Sonja Henie's Short Skirts

1943: Olympic gold medal winning ice-skater Sonja Henie (1912-1969) performs a dance number on ice in the 20th Century Fox film 'Wintertime'. Hulton Archive / Stringer

From black ice skates and long dresses to elaborate costumes with thousands of jewels, figure skating clothes have gone through dramatic changes. Take a step by step historical journey through the history of figure skating clothes.

Ice skating attire until Sonja Henie's time was similar to street clothing. Henie introduced the idea of short and beautiful figure skating skirts and dresses. The Sonja Henie style of figure skating clothes also reflected the 1920's flapper style.

In the 1930s, new fabrics changed women's lives. Women figure skaters wore satin figure skating dresses with fur trim and wore nylon hose.

 

02
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1948: Barbara Ann Scott's Classic Skating Skirt

2/6/1948- Skater Barbara Ann Scott of Canada in the middle of a spin during one of the performances that helped her get into the Olympics, which were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

 During World War Two and the 1940s, there was a fabric shortage, so skating dress hemlines became shorter and shorter. A short classic skating skirt became the norm. Barbara Ann Scott, the 1948 Women's Olympic Figure Skating Champion, did a stag jump, her signature jump, that showed off that classic skating skirt.

03
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1956: Tenley Albright Loses the Collar

Tenley Albright - 1956 Olympic Figure Skating Champion
Tenley Albright - 1956 Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Getty Images

In the 1950s, skaters began to wear bright colors and flared skirts. 1956 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Tenley Albright wore a beautiful pink dress when she won her Olympic crown. She became known as the first American to win the title in a skating dress with no collar.

04
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1960: Carol Heiss' Fitted, Colorful Skating Dresses

Portrait of American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins, seated in an ice rink, 1960s. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, bright solid colors continued to be worn by figure skaters. Skating dresses were conservative in style. Figure skaters wore long sleeved dresses; low cut necklines were unheard of.

1960 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Carol Heiss wore dresses that went with the styles of the time.

05
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Peggy Fleming's Simple Green Drees

At the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, US Gold medalist Peggy Fleming (center), Gabrielle Seyfert and Hana Makova in center ice after medal ceremony, for ladies figure skating. Getty Images Bettmann / Contributor

Peggy Fleming won the 1968 Olympic figure skating title in a simple green dress made by her mother. In the late 1960s, the idea of a one piece skating dress with an attached skirt became popular. Some stretch material was used, but it was also common for skaters to skate in thick fabric that did not stretch. Darts and gussets were used so that skating outfits were form fitting. Female figure skaters wore their hair up and sometimes wore hairpieces.

06
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1976: Dorothy Hamill's Famous Wedge Haircut

American figure skater Dorothy Hamill, circa 1975. Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images

The figure skating dresses in the early 1970s were not that different than the skating dresses of the late 1960s, but lower necklines began to enter the skating scene.

Olympic figure skating champion, Dorothy Hamill introduced her famous "wedge haircut" to the world. Little girls all over the USA cut their hair so they could be like Dorothy.

When Hamill won the 1976 Olympic title, she wore a v-neck dress made of a lightweight fabric. In the 1970s, it was also common to see crystal embellishments around the neckline of skating dresses.

 

07
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Linda Fratianne's Glamorous Figure Skating Dresses

Figure skating champion Linda Fratianne, of the United States, in action. Getty Images / Bettmann / Contributor

Linda Fratianne was the first female skater to land two triple jumps in competition. She won the silver medal in figure skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics that took place in Lake Placid, New York.

Fratianne was also known for beautiful costumes. It is said that she was responsible for setting the fashion trend for female skaters and that she is reason figure skaters have competition skating dresses that include beads, sequins, and chiffon.

In the 1980s, lower necklines also were seen in figure skating fashion.

 

08
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1998: Tara Lipinski's Blue Stunner

Tara Lipinski (USA) skates in the Free Skate event of the Ladies Singles figure skating competition of the 1998 Winter Olympics on February 20, 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

In the 1990s, stretch materials such as lycra and dresses decorated with many crystals became the standard for figure skating fashion. Sleeves were no longer necessary and it became common to see figure skating clothes that were more revealing.

Tara Lipinski wore a stunning sleeveless blue dress when she won the 1998 Olympic figure skating title.

 

09
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2006: Shizuka Arakawa's Embellished Blue Kimono-Like Dress

Shizuka Arakawa of Japan performs during the women's Free Skating program of figure skating during Day 13 of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 23, 2006 at Palavela in Turin, Italy. Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In the 2000s, skating clothes continued to become more and more elaborate and creative.

Shizuka Arakawa wore an embellished blue colored dress in a Japanese kimono style when she won the 2006 Olympic Figure Skating title.

 

10
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Dance Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White Get Fancy

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States compete during the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance on day 9 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 16, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ice skating clothes are becoming more and more beautiful and daring, and ice dance clothes have also changed. It is common for ice dance competitors to wear more than one costume for each pattern dance, short dance, or free dance skated. World ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are known for wearing beautifully designed and elaborate clothes.

Ice dancers used to wear black at figure skating competitions. Women wore traditional skating dresses and men wore a one-piece suit that resembled a tux. Once in awhile, a dance team would wear colored attire.

Times have changed. Ice dancing dresses are long and the costumes worn by ice dancers are elaborate and original. The clothes worn by ice dance teams are much more interesting than the clothes worn in the other figure skating disciplines.

 

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Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "An Illustrated History of Figure Skating Clothes." ThoughtCo, Oct. 21, 2016, thoughtco.com/illustrated-history-of-figure-skating-clothes-1283059. Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. (2016, October 21). An Illustrated History of Figure Skating Clothes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/illustrated-history-of-figure-skating-clothes-1283059 Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "An Illustrated History of Figure Skating Clothes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/illustrated-history-of-figure-skating-clothes-1283059 (accessed November 24, 2017).