Style & Beauty

Stunning Photos Show The Evolution Of Women's Figure Skating Costumes

Sparkles reign supreme today, but they weren't always the norm.
02/20/2018 05:45am ET
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American skater Peggy Fleming in 1968.

Women’s figure skating is, hands down, one of the most visually stunning events to watch at the Olympics. Not only do the athletes put on an impressive display of grace and skill, they also dazzle us with their glittering costumes.

Glitter and crystals, however, weren’t always the norm in the world of figure skating. In fact, at the 1924 games in Chamonix, France, women wore full skirts with sweaters and hats that didn’t look much different from their everyday clothes (which makes sense, considering Olympic skating rinks used to be outdoors). In 1936, though, Norwegian skater Sonja Henie changed the game when she competed in a skirt with a comparatively short hemline. From then on, hemlines continued to go shorter.

In terms of decoration, most skating outfits were quite plain during the World War II era, as fabric shortages led skaters to favor simple silhouettes with less fabric and little embellishment, according to Insider. Through the ’50s and ’60s, women’s costumes were still quite basic and generally featured high necklines with flared skirts. By the ’70s, lower necklines were making their way onto the ice and embellishments also started gaining popularity.

Then the ’80s rolled around, and spandex, sparkles, chiffon, sequins and beads reigned supreme. One outfit, a feathered blue number worn by East Germany’s Katarina Witt at the 1988 Olympic games (pictured below), was deemed too scandalous by the International Skating Union. As a result, the ISU changed dress code rules and introduced “The Katarina Rule,” which stated that women’s hips, midriffs and buttocks had to be covered with a skirt, as noted by The Atlantic. That same year, American skater Debi Thomas made waves by wearing a full unitard for competition, which led to a ban on costumes without skirts.

In the 1990s, another trend that emerged was designer costumes. Skaters like Nancy Kerrigan and France’s Surya Bonaly skated in costumes designed by Vera Wang and Christian Lacroix, respectively.

The no-skirt ban was lifted in 2003, per The Boston Globe, and full leotards became acceptable; most recently, Mae Berenice Meite of France competed in Pyeongchang wearing a bedazzled unitard, while Russia’s Irina Slutskaya wore a sparkly one-piece at the 2006 Olympics.

These days, embellishments are still popular as ever and short skirts are still No. 1. Skaters also favor illusion mesh and backless designs that mirror dresses we see on runways and red carpets.

Keep scrolling to see the stunning evolution of women’s figure skating costumes through the years.

Herma Planck-Szabo, Ethel Muckelt and Beatrix Loughran, 1924
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Planck-Szabo of Austria, Muckelt of Great Britain and Loughran of the United States at the 1924 winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, Jan. 30, 1924.
Sonja Henie, 1924
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The Norwegian skater on the ice at Chamonix during the Winter Olympics in 1924 when she was just 11.
Sonja Henie, 1936
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During her figure skating routine at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Jeanette Altwegg, 1952
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Altwegg, from Great Britain, after winning a gold medal in the Women's Figure Skating Competition in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway.
Carol Heiss, 1956
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American skater Heiss at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
Tenley Albright, 1956
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Albright of the United States displaying her grace and technique during her free skating program at the 1956 Winter Olympics.
Peggy Fleming, 1968
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Fleming, of the U.S., practicing on an outside rink in February 1968 in Grenoble, France, during the Winter Olympics. She won the gold medal.
Janet Lynn, 1968
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Lynn, representing the U.S. at 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.
Janet Lynn, Beatrix Schuba and Karin Magnussen, 1972
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The three medal winners — Lynn of the U.S., Schuba of Austria, Magnussen of Canada — in ladies singles figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Feb. 7, 1972.
Dorothy Hamill, 1976
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The American skater during the Winter Olympics skating competition in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. Hamill won the gold medal for the U.S. in the ladies singles figure skating event.
Linda Fratianne, 1980
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The American skater performing during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
Anett Pötzsch, 1980
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Pötzsch, of East Germany, performing at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
Dagmar Lurz, 1980
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The West German skater performing at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
Kira Ivanova, 1984
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Ivanova, of the Soviet Union, at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
Rosalynn Sumners, 1984
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The American athlete competing in the Winter Olympics at the Zetra Ice Stadium in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, February 1984. Sumners won the silver medal in the event.
Katarina Witt, 1984
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The skater from East Germany skating during the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on Feb. 18, 1984.
Tiffany Chin, 1984
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Chin, of the U.S., performing at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
Sandra Dubravcic, 1984
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Dubravcic, representing Yugoslavia, skating her long program during the Winter Olympics on Feb. 18, 1984, in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
Katarina Witt, 1988
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Performing in the ladies singles figure skating event at the 1988 Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 1988, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Elizabeth Manley. 1988
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The Canadian athlete competing in a figure skating competition in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Debi Thomas, 1988
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The American athlete skating her short program at the 1988 Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 1988, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Thomas was the bronze medalist in the event.
Kristi Yamaguchi, 1992
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The American skater competing in the ladies singles figure skating event at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games held in Albertville, France, on Feb. 21, 1992.
Midori Ito, 1992
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Ito, of Japan, performing at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France.
Surya Bonaly, 1992
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The French skater performing her free program during the Winter Olympics Feb. 21, 1992, in Albertville. Bonaly finished in fifth place.
Nancy Kerrigan, 1994
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Kerrigan, of the U.S., performing at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, where she won the silver medal.
Tonya Harding, 1994
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The American skater competing in the free skate portion of the ladies singles event at the 1994 Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 1994, at the Hamar Olympic Hall in Lillehammer, Norway.
Oksana Baiul, 1994
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The Ukrainian athlete competing in the free skate portion of the ladies singles event at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 25, 1994, at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre in Lillehammer, Norway.
Chen Lu, 1994
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Lu, of China, in the free skate portion of the ladies singles figure skating competition at the 1994 Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 1994, in Lillehammer, Norway.
Tara Lipinski, 1998
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The American athlete skating in the free skate during the ladies singles figure skating event of the 1998 Winter Olympics on Feb. 20, 1998, in Nagano, Japan.
Chen Lu, 1998
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Skating her free program in the ladies singles event of the figure skating competition in the 1998 Winter Olympics held on Feb. 20, 1998, in Nagano, Japan.
Michelle Kwan, 1998
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The American skater performing her routine during the free skate at White Ring Arena during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Kwan won the silver medal.
Irina Slutskaya, 2002
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The Russian skater performing in the women's free program of the figure skating event at the Olympic Ice Center, Feb. 21, 2002, during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Sarah Hughes, 2002
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The American skater competing in the ladies free program during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Michelle Kwan, 2002
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Performing during the free program of the ladies singles figure skating event at the Olympic Ice Center, Feb. 21, 2002, during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Shizuka Arakawa, 2006
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Arakawa, of Japan, performing during the free skating program of the ladies singles event during the 2006 Winter Olympics on Feb. 23, 2006, at Palavela in Turin, Italy.
Sasha Cohen, 2006
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The American skater performing during the women's free skating program at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 23, 2006, at Palavela in Turin, Italy.
Irina Slutskaya, 2006
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Performing during the short program of the ladies singles figure skating event on Feb. 21, 2006, at at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Carolina Kostner, 2006
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Kostner, of Italy, performing during the free skating program of the ladies singles event during the 2006 Winter Olympics on Feb. 23, 2006, at Palavela in Turin, Italy.
Mao Asada, 2010
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The Japanese skater competing during the 2010 Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on Feb. 25, 2010, in Vancouver, Canada.
Yuna Kim, 2010
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South Korea's Yuna Kim performs in the Ladies' Free skating program at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, during the 2010 Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 2010.
Joannie Rochette, 2010
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Canada's Joannie Rochette in the ladies figure skating event at the 2010 Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on Feb. 23, 2010, in Vancouver, Canada.
Adelina Sotnikova, 2014
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The Russian skater during the ladies singles figure skating short program at the Sochi Winter Olympics, 2014.
Carolina Kostner, 2014
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Performing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Yuna Kim, 2014
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The South Korean skater competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Natalia Popova, 2014
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The Ukrainian skater performing during the 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Mae Berenice Meite, 2014
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Meite, of France, competing at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 8, 2014.
Ashley Wagner, 2014
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The American skater competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Gracie Gold, 2014
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The American skater performing her free skating program during the ladies singles event at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Kaetlyn Osmond, 2014
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Osmond, from Canada, competing in figure skating team event during the 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Carolina Kostner, 2018
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Competing in the figure skating team event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 12, 2018, in Gangneung, South Korea.
Mae Berenice Meite, 2018
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Competing in the figure skating team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 11, 2018.
Kaetlyn Osmond, 2018
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Performing during the ladies short program as part of the figure skating team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Alina Zagitova, 2018
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The Russian skater competing in the figure skating team event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 12, 2018.
Mirai Nagasu, 2018
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Nagasu of the United States reacts after her routine in the figure skating team event during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Dabin Choi, 2018
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The South Korean skater competing in the figure skating team event during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Evgenia Medvedeva, 2018
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The Russian athlete competing in the figure skating team event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb. 11, 2018.
Men's Olympic Figure Skating Costumes Through The Years