In Men’s Figure Skating, the Glitzy Costumes Are Built to Win

Looks aside, a crucial part in the design process is using the right materials. “The most important thing is it being stretchy,” says Zhou. Flexible fabrics are key for a skater to seamlessly perform their spins, jumps, and drops. Each athlete has their own preferences for what to skate in. “My costumes are a mix of lycra, velvet, and mesh,” says Brown. Frazier, on the other hand, prefers a strong material. “I don’t like it to be too thin,” he says. “And I like either having a curved or asymmetrical hem.” For pants, “the golden rule is they have to be stretchy,” says Zhou. But while the stretchy, body-con look has been mocked in films such as Blades of Glory, the tight pants on men have a very specific purpose. “They need to be cut and tailored, and to fit so well that you can see every extension—even if my knee is slightly bent,” says Frazier. “It can affect your score [if not].”

Even with all these technical details, though, figure skating costumes also need to be innately dazzling. “We want to make sure it’s eye-catching, photographs well, and pleasing to the eye for the audience and the judges,” says Brown. Embellishments and rhinestones are often used to achieve this, but even those can have its technical downsides. “Stoning adds a lot of weight, so you definitely don’t go overboard with it,” Zhou says. Wang says that, more and more, men are embracing more glitz and glamour on the ice. She attributes the risk-taking in the fashion world, more broadly, for the ripple effect into the sports world. “Men’s fashion has taken enormous risks in the last 10 years,” she says. “The freedom and the lack of boundaries now is very exciting.”

A costume sketch for Nathan Chen by Vera WangPhoto: Courtesy of Vera Wang

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