Dressing for practice sessions is mostly a question of practicality, although some skaters also take this opportunity to show off their personal sense of style. I have personally always gone with the comfort aspect of dressing for practice, with an emphasis on safety for muscles in the cold environment.
Some ice rinks (usually the older ones) are known to be especially cold, although the newer models can be quite moderate, and even hot! Yes, promise! So this is obviously going to be a key factor in choosing your training clothing. Most skaters buy pieces now and again and build up a training wardrobe, this is a good way to measure what works for you as opposed to going out and buying a ton of gear only to realise that it is not keeping you warm enough, or even vice-versa.
The cold environment in which the largest portion of us train can be dangerous for muscles, and guarding against pulls and rips is key in keeping fit and competition ready. This means keeping muscles (especially legs) well covered at all times, and not stopping for long periods of time to then push off again into a gust of cold wind (this however is a whole other blog post subject - I'll get to it eventually!).
Many female skaters now opt for trousers instead of skirts simply for the cold aspect of our environment. This doesn't however mean wearing your favourite Nike sloppy-joes, as there are many great trouser styles now available to skaters and dancers (don't neglect your local dance shop, or the previously mentioned online-store www.dancedirect.com). Girls opt for leggings 9 times out of 10 and you can buy these inexpensively if you are on a budget. That said, in my experience if you put the money in you get quality out. I am still wearing a pair of leggings I bought in 2001!
Tops wise anything goes really, as long as you are comfortable and confident in what you are wearing. All sports brands offer a wide selection of tops made from special materials which 'wick away' sweat from the skin to keep you dry, and this is a particularly useful option when your training environment isn't an athletics track, but indeed a giant freezer where the least water against yourskin feels like ice! Is it essential to remember the importance of a sports bra for female skaters, you can get them in a variety of qualities, and again this does depend on price. Please don't neglect this part of your body, skating is a strenuous sport (especially if jumps are involved) and you can do yourself long term tissue damage if you do not properly support your assets! You wouldn't run a marathon in frilly underwear, so why skate with it? Think long-term benefits here ladies!
Jackets, sweat-shirts, jumpers and wrap-arounds are obviously vitally important, and the trick is to layer well to be able to find the temperature at which you are comfortable for your training session. If you wear multiple thin layers you can peel them off one at a time and avoid that just-took-my-wooly-jumper-off-and-now-am-freezing-in-my-sleeveless-sports-top moment!
Your coach will probably want you wearing something form fitting, and for good reason. Not only will this help him or her see your lines better and your axis in the air during jumping, but it also makes for safer practice. Accidents happen with bell-bottomed leggings, fact! If you are working on choreography and your arms are encased in an albeit very comfortable but hugely baggy sweatie, your coach won't see much of your interpretation of Beethovens' 5th! Be practical.
All skaters need gloves, and whether you go for an expensive brand name or the regular 'magic-glove' type from your local thrift store is entirely up to you. In my experience, gloves -no matter what the quality- get terribly damaged fairly quickly in a skating environment. From wiping blades, noses (yes, noses drip where there are no tissues available... that's life!) and clinging onto rugged barriers. Holes happen, so don't wear cashmere!
Hats and scarves are optional and depend entirely on the skaters comfort. I never skate without a hat, but it comes off eventually! Hats are not convenient for practising spins, but can be a huge comfort while tracing moves in the field for hours on end. Adapt to your environment, and the golden rule again is... be comfortable!
Try not to wear any excessive jewellry, as this can get in the way and in some cases cause you injury. Large earrings are a definite no-no. These can get caught on your hair, the ice, or your clothing and in some cases cause extensive injury. Rings if small are fine and shouldn't cause you any harm upon falling. Necklaces (chains, etc) should be kept inside your garments to avoid hurting yourself during spinning or jumping.
Many female skaters still enjoy practising in dresses, and that's fine too. It really depends on each persons personal style and preference. Skaters don't usually wear their competition regalia for practice session for fear or damaging it during falls, or losing the rhinestones which are costly to replace. A good option if you do want to wear a skirt is to buy a classical dance practice dress, or a leotard and wrap-around skirt combo.
Have any questions, want to know more, don't agree? Please leave me a comment!