The Inside Edge: Olympics best-dressed listSochi skaters compete in style; Successful team event needs minor tweaks
The good and the bad
Now that the 2014 Olympics have come and gone, we've been trying to decide how to spend our mornings without the company of figure skating. And we've been thinking a lot about the good, the bad and the gorgeous parts of the enormous spectacle. One of the most memorable parts of the Games, for us, was the debut of the figure skating team event.
To be honest, we were a little skeptical going in, but we've always thought figure skaters should have more chances to win medals, as athletes in other sports do. As the team event unfolded, and particularly as we watched the teams receiving their medals, we found ourselves emphatically behind the new event. The public likes medals, and it's wonderful that eight members of the U.S. team came home with Olympic medals. This was definitely a "good" thing for our sport!
We think the event could use a little tweaking next time around. The scoring needs to be better explained to the public. The major problem with the event: There was no chance of movement after the short program round, which made the free skate portion a bit boring and pointless. We feel that the free skate program should be worth twice as much as the short, as it always has been in skating. The change would make the results more accurate and would also make the free skate portion more exciting.
Now that the team event is here, hopefully to stay, we were thinking about other figure skating events the Olympics should add. For us, the obvious choice is a jump event. If you've ever seen the annual jump competition at the Broadmoor Open, you know it's a fun and exciting event and it really involves the audience. It's raw and athletic, and the energy in the building is electric, like a hockey game. It would showcase our sport in a wonderful, athletic way and provide another opportunity for talented and hard-working athletes to win medals.
If we were designing it, we would go the snowboarding route. Athletes would wear a team uniform, with a number, just like in skiing or gymnastics. There should be a DJ playing background music to keep the audience stimulated. It would be in line with the more modern vibe of the Winter Games, which, in recent years, has featured more events like snowboarding, slopestyle and ski cross.
As for the details, there could be a lot of different ways to structure the event. Skaters could get, say, three jumping passes, with a combined total score winning. This would reward consistency and allow skaters to take risks in the third round -- we might see some quad flips or Lutzes. Or each skater could have 60 seconds to do as many jumps as possible. We might see some crazy four- or five-jump combinations that way.
It would be fun to talk about different ideas to make the event fair and as different as possible from short or free programs. Of course, a jump event would have to take place after the individual events, just like the apparatus finals in gymnastics.
One last thing: We were disappointed that the figure skaters didn't get their medals on the ice, immediately after they skated, which has been the tradition for a very long time at all skating events. We heard through the grapevine that the athletes really liked getting their medals at the plaza. We agree that this was a fun twist, but we miss the iconic Olympic moment of the champion getting a medal in costume, standing on top of the podium with emotions still raw and unprocessed. Perhaps they should award the same medals twice? In any case, we were disappointed it was so hard to watch the medal ceremonies, so we hope next time around they will be broadcast to the public in a more viewer-friendly format.
As for the "gorgeous" -- well, that would be the costumes, of course. We reached out to two designers and talked for hours about what people wore in Sochi. Michael Kuluva, a former skater, is the chief designer at the Tumbler & Tipsy label. Sam Donovan, a current contestant on Project Runway "Under the Gunn," has loved figure skating since he was 6 years old and watched the Nagano Olympics.
"I totally fell in love with Tara Lipinski and her free skate dress," he told us via Skype. "I loved that little blue dress like no other."
Donovan said that after he graduated from Parsons The New School for Design in 2013, he had the choice of working for a label or going on Project Runway.
"I had no idea fashion could be a career before I started watching Project Runway," he said. "I had been doing clothing design as long as I could remember, but when I saw Project Runway it was kind of a blond moment, like, 'Clothes do come from somewhere!' I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a dream to go on the show."
"Under the Gunn" is ongoing, so we don't know how Donovan did, and of course he's not allowed to give us a hint. After watching several episodes, he looks like one of the favorites to us.
As ever, we'll keep our worst-dressed list to ourselves and mostly just talk about the costumes we loved. To begin: the ladies. Donovan said that although Lipinski's Nagano dress remains his all-time favorite, Ashley Wagner's Jan Longmire short program dress came close.
"I loved that thing," Donovan said. "Ashley is fierce, and she should embrace that. The dress seemed rebellious and strong, and it had a mature sexiness to it. I loved that it had all of this black texture mixing, and the silver elements weren't sparkly and pretty -- they were strong; they looked like armor."
Donovan had a lot to say about Maé-Bérénice Méité's costumes, particularly the short program dress. Brad Griffies designed it, as well as the jeweled corset Méité wore over black pants for the free skate.
"I really liked her pink dress," Donovan said. "When she stepped on the ice, I sat up a bit. I loved Yu-Na Kim's short program dress; it's so pretty. That chartreuse is really hard to wear; it can make it look like you have jaundice, or it can be so elegant, and it was absolutely beautiful. For the longest time, I couldn't find out what the appeal of chartreuse was. I love it now. If you're watching the show, you might see it come up at some point, just sayin'."
Kuluva had praise for Gracie Gold's Griffies-designed dress, which we also admired.
"It went with her complexion so well, and it was really classic," he said. "It was just amazing."
It was fun to see lots of new costumes and a few old ones. We liked Wagner's new Samson and Delilah dress, also by Longmire, every bit as much as her original one. Yellow is such a great color for her and very on-trend: witness Maxim Trankov and Ondrej Hotarek's yellow pants.
We liked both of Carolina Kostner's dresses, particularly the avant-garde black free skate one, with the strong black velvet shape bordered by spiky crystal details over black illusion. Check out the wonderful sleeve details at the wrists.
We were a little sorry to see Mao Asada change her short program dress. We were just overjoyed by the floral ombré berry pink and purple dress she wore most of the season. But then, she skated like a goddess in the free skate, so we forgave her!
Donovan is bothered by the common use of chiffon for skirts.
"They get all bunched up," he said. "Chiffon doesn't have enough life to it. It's not going to be able to keep up with the kind of spins figure skaters have to do. I like gazar; it has some constructional integrity. It has this light, stiff quality.
"Tessa [Virtue]'s skirts bunch up and get between her legs all the time," he continued. "It's not graceful. It looks like an accident, like when you tuck your shirt into your underwear. Most fabrics, if you throw them on the ground, they'll have some shape. Chiffon's just going to bunch up into a ball and die. It's like water, so the hem isn't going to lift up into the air."
We seem to have moved on to dance. All four of us put Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov's Black Swan free dance costumes very high on the list. After trying lots of variations throughout the season, Ilinykh won her bronze medal in the exquisite black ballet dress with silver patterns, no gloves (yay) and a dramatic headpiece. Katsalapov's subfusc magician costume was equally dramatic.
"Her black swan tutu was so gorgeous," Kuluva said. "No one else in the Games had such elements -- it really made the program come to life."
Virtue and Moir changed costumes not only before the Olympics but during the Games. They turned up for the team event free dance in new red and black costumes and then brought out yet another look for the individual free dance.
We continued to love Meryl Davis and Charlie White's free dance costumes -- Meryl wore both her turquoise and lavender dresses in her two events -- but we were a little sad that she replaced her stunning pink satin My Fair Lady dress with a chiffon nightgown that was true to the movie but, perhaps, a little frumpy for flawless Meryl. Donovan got right to the point, though.
"Honestly, it doesn't matter what they're wearing," Donovan said. "Meryl's face and Charlie's hair is all anyone is going to look at."
The pairs continued to disappoint a little. We hope to see something more exciting next season. Although we loved Trankov's yellow pants and loose white shirt, as ever, we were not crazy about Volosozhar's switch to a matching yellow dress for the Games. The yellow pants didn't need a co-star.
Among the men, Daisuke Takahashi won the Drew Meekins Award for "Best Use of Purple" by a man. The tunic cut of both his costumes was very flattering for him, and the deep violet shirt he wore for the free skate, with the bright crystal detail peeping out at the shoulder, was a huge improvement over the white shirt he wore earlier.
Denis Ten's short program costume, black with three silver stone "buckles" and silver net patterns on one side and sleeve, was one of our favorites, as was his free skate costume. We were sad that Jeremy Abbott went back to his old black Exogenesis costume, ditching the Whistler painting-inspired shirt.
Kuluva spoke highly of Jason Brown's Prince costume.
"I think it was a great interpretation, and just enough for him," he said. "It was really elegant on top of modern and futuristic. He took it to another level."
Finally, we can't discuss Olympic fashion without talking about the breakout stars of the Games, commentators Johnny Weir and Lipinski.
"I honestly feel like I didn't get enough Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski at these Olympics," Donovan said. "It took me forever to figure out when they were doing their little spiel. Johnny has maybe inspired me to wear sequins in my every day. He just looks good in them! I think my favorite was the sequined blazer and the Louboutins."
"I think Tara did it very safe; she dressed the part," Kuluva said. "Johnny … was a little flamboyant, a little androgynous, but he looked great every day. His accessories always reflect him; they're bold and very glamorous."
Kuluva, who said he was going to meet up with Weir while he was in LA for the Oscars, passed on an interesting item about Weir's wardrobe.
"I know he was contracted not to wear fur on the broadcast," Kuluva said. "However, on an interview with Access Hollywood, he did wear fur. He said, 'But it's on my own time.'"
Kuluva told us that, after a six-year hiatus, he has been getting back on the ice and skating again. He said he designed the costumes for Holiday on Ice's 30th anniversary show, and he would very much like to design for more skaters.
"I would really like to work with Max Aaron; I like him a lot," he said. "There are some interesting geometrical shapes that could enhance his moves. I would love to work with the Stars on Ice cast this season. I'll probably work with Mirai [Nagasu] for her costume for Stars."
Donovan never figure skated, but he wishes he had.
"I took skating lessons when I was younger, but for hockey," he said. "That never really went anywhere. That was probably the deal breaker -- when they said I couldn't wear the dresses."
That's a wrap
To close, a few Olympic wins and fails:
Win: Michelle Kwan's resurgence back into figure skating as a commentator and journalist. We are so happy she's back in our lives.
Fail: The public still does not understand the scoring system. Better explanation is needed at the start of the broadcast.
Win: Twizzles. The most adorable word in figure skating now has the household name status that it has always deserved. #Twizzle
Fail: Controversy. It seems that figure skating can't ever avoid it.
And finally, Win: White's hair has reached the stardom it has always been destined for, as seen in countless articles and even on The Colbert Report. When we established the "Charlie White Award" for best hair six years ago, we anticipated this day.
Sarah and Drew
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