September 5, 2012

Figure Skating Outfits Part 2: Deciding On Colour For Your Figure Skating Costumes

Carrying on with our 4-part series in skating costume design, this post is the second part, following up on Part 1: The Design Process Demystified.

Today we’ll be hypothesising two figure skating costumes, to suit two very different styles/music. One will be a Latin outfit, the other something soft and romantic that one might expect to see on a skater who’s music is one of the great works of Chopin or Rachmaninov.
We’re going to be using colour swatches to demonstrate how colour can influence your feelings and convey a certain message to the viewer.

So let’s go, here are the colour options I would pick if I were designing a Latin / classic dress for myself:


These are just a few of the colours I'd consider when thinking about a Paso Doble dress for example. Black is a classic staple and for me represents sensuality and secrecy. Adding bright or sultry colours (such as the berry red) add glamour and give something for the eye to be drawn to immediately when the skater steps onto the ice. The last Latin dress I wore was made of black fabric which was entirely covered in glittery silver swirls, and although it was void of any colours other than black and silver, I kept it dramatic by playing with the shape of the dress, which featured an entire-back keyhole and high neckline. Make sure to check back next week for more ideas on shape!


Here we have a mixture of both pastel and deeper colours. Although pastel shades are the first thing my mind goes to when envisaging a classical music program, deeper shades can also look stunning and evoke romance and beauty. Above we have a barely-there shade, a seafoam blue-green, and a purple which I call heather (but that might be the wrong name entirely!). Clearly with the ice being white, a darker colour will show up more against the light background when watching a skater "out there", but that doesn't mean to say pastel shades (or even white) cannot be stunning and effective.
I have owned one white dress in my entire skating career, and embellished it with around 2000 Swarovski crystals in fuschia pink and light rose shades which were set a blaze under the arena lights! 

Preconceptions About Colour, And Breaking The Mould
So what are preconceptions in the sport of figure skating when it comes to our outfits? Well, as I wrote above, whenever I think of classical music, the first image that pops into my mind is one of pastel colours. This is a classic example of pre-conceived ideas we have with regard to how a skater should look and dress to suit a certain style. Another example, albeit not related to colour, is that waltz dresses should be long and full skirted only.  Take a moment to think about what pre-conceived ideas you have about skating outfits.

When it comes to breaking free of such preconceptions, your imagination is your only limit! Irina Slutskaya wowed (and shocked, naturally) the skating community when she competed in one-piece bodysuits rather than conventional dresses on the international skating stage. Whether you love or hate such designs, the point is she broke the mould.

You can do the same thing with colour too. When I've been watching dance competitions these past few years (which I have to admit is quite rarely, as I don't seem to have the time any more, and figure skating TV coverage is exceedingly poor here in the UK) I have noticed a shift in dance dresses from the classical styles we've come to expect to more daring combinations of design and colour. Flashy oranges are being used for waltzes, and I'm quite frankly loving it!

So why not think outside the box, and wear a sober black velvet number for your program to Massenet or Mozart? I adore black on skaters, there's something so simple about a black dress that says "watch the beauty of what this performer has to offer". It's simple, elegant, timeless, and lets a skaters personality shine through. Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in the ritz-glitz of costumes, that we forget to look at a skaters face, or interpret what they are trying to convey.

Think About Your Music & How It Makes You Feel
Now is a good time to sit and listen to your music. Close your eyes and pay attention to the visions which are forming in the darkness. Once you've gotten an idea for how your music makes you feel and the things which it causes your imagination to create, you can build on that and start applying logical reasoning. If you wore blue all last season, perhaps you'd like a change this year? If you know your main competitor is wearing red, perhaps you'd prefer to try green in order to stand out in people's mind, and be differentiated from other skaters. There are plenty kinds of logic which can be applied to this choice (and pretty much all the others) but ultimately as long as you feel fabulous in your outfit, you will look it (and the confidence will help you no end in your performance!).

Choose Your Colours
So you've thought about what the skating community expects with regard to your costume, and you've gone past that and probed your inner self for ideas on what your music evokes inside of you. You've already come so much further than most skaters ever do in the costume design process! Congratulations! Now for the part of narrowing down choices, and coming to a decision about your colours.

At this point, I suggest getting yourself to a fabric store and having a good ol' browse around. Some colour you may not even have thought of at first may pop out at you, and you may stumble across beautiful fabrics exhibiting effects or embellishment you didn't even know existed. This was the case when I went shopping for my black-and-silver-glitter-swirls Paso Doble dress materials. I was headed into the shop for smooth black velvet, and came away with a fine stretchy black covered in fabulous glitter particles, and black Lycra to line it with.

Remember that the most important thing is that the skater be happy in what he or she is wearing! If you feel like a million bucks, chances are you'll look it too!

Until next time friends, keep on skatin' on!
Don't forget to check back next Wednesday September 12th for more on costume design!

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  1. I love your blog. I was a figure skater for 7 years but quit due to injuries but hopefully I can start again! If not, I'd like to start sewing some costumes and your blog has been a big help with ideas!
    I was wondering though if you could write a bit about the different fabrics that are good for costumes.

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  2. Thanks so much @Lauren! I really hope you'll be able to take skating up again soon. I recently went back for a glide and it was GREAT! I encourage you to do so too, in a safe manner for your health (most important of all). I will absolutely write about fabric types for skating costumes, and thank you for the suggestion! Check back soon to read about it :)
    Happy skating,

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  3. Thanks! :). I really hope that I can too.
    Awesome, that'll be a big help too :D

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