SAITAMA, JAPAN — More than a dress, figure skating costumes are an opportunity to communicate a larger concept with viewers and judges — strategically designed to complement a routine’s music and emphasize its theme. At Friday night’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships — held at the Saitama Super Arena — this meant spandex, rhinestone-laden interpretations of famous stage works such as “Carmen,” “Chicago” and “Romeo & Juliet.”
Skating enlists an extreme athleticism that sees athletes hurtling themselves three, and now increasingly four, rotations into the air and spinning so rapidly that their body encounters multiple G-forces. The sport is unique, however, in that visual presentation plays an equally important role in an athlete’s success, placing costumes in a vital position.
Skating’s athletic romance and expressive fashions have helped create a significant fanbase for the sport in countries including Russia, South Korea and Japan — where figure skaters are becoming household names and are beginning to appear in high-profile campaigns for major beauty and fashion brands.
“I think what differentiates skating from other sports is that it’s also not only about athleticism. There is an artistic component, which complicates things enormously,” said designer Vera Wang, formerly a nationally ranked skater, who also