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Behind the scenes of figure skating - Nov. 5

Costume designer Carrie Jones

A sampling of original designs by Carrie Jones.
A sampling of original designs by Carrie Jones. (Figure Skating Dress, Inc. )

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By Linda Przygodski
(11/05/2007) - Designer Carrie Jones has many passions.

Jones and her husband Michael are pass holders and self-certified Walt Disney World freaks, devoted parents to their daughter Sullivan, and last but not least, Jones designs and creates custom-made costumes for figure skaters.

The 34-year-old Charleston, S.C., resident prides herself and her business on being able to conceptualize and manufacture costumes for skaters at all levels.

With or without the bling.

What do you love the most about figure skating?

Michelle Kwan and Paul Wylie but, beyond them, it's the music I relate to most. Music in skating is a lot like music in film. It solidifies tension and release. How skaters interpret, present and connect with an audience through music they hear everyday is so generous. They can make it look fresh and full of meaning when it is really quite rote to them by that point. To see an athlete who is prepared to a level that the performance is no longer about their skills or even execution of the jumps, it is about drawing everyone in for that moment and taking them on that ride... it's just amazing. It's a sport that changes constantly and builds upon itself and yet good, quality skating, never changes.

How did you get into this business?

I had taken a long break from skating. I had skated in elementary school then went on to do a lot of musical theater in high school. I went to college at a small university in western New York: Fredonia State. We didn't have a football team, only a hockey team. I was very young compared to my classmates. I didn't turn 21 until the end of my senior year, so I skated all the time. I'm very tall for a skater -- 5'8" -- so eventually, I started to make my own dresses, and not long after that I had people paying me to do their dresses. I got a bit emotionally beat up in college. My idea of success at the time was just being focused and knowing exactly what you wanted to do. To heck with these flaky kids who had no idea who they wanted to be, I had a mission. Until I was politely asked to change majors in my junior year when the music faculty and I discovered I don't really sing well. Devastating.

Fredonia was an art school, art majors are very talented and I thought a bit intimidating, okay just weird. I just didn't see myself fitting in. (Although, I really did want to be weird) Plus, I couldn't draw worth a lick (still can't) so I stayed the course and graduated with a degree in elementary education and a minor in music. However, I had this new passion, I spent all my free time sewing for people.

I loved teaching, I loved the kids, I loved the parents. Unfortunately, I was no good at having a boss. So, finally, I arrived at a true understanding of my gift and my passion. I was 26. I was a skating child of the 1990's, designers like Vera Wang, Jeff Billings (Stars on Ice) and Lauren Shean were all over my radar. I knew all the skaters and could usually pick out by the design and construction of a dress, which designer worked with them.

As a skater myself, I really admired larger skating design companies and even dance design companies that manufactured a quality product. I knew that if I was going to have my own line, "first rate" was not only the way I wanted to go, it was the only way to compete.

Tell me a little bit about your business?

Our company, Figureskatingdress.com, specializes in customized competition dresses for teams and individuals that are easy to order online. We offer a huge selection of styles that can be made in any of the colors and fabrics we offer. We offer many options other companies don't; including metallic graphics, two-and-three-toned dyed skirts and our exclusive "fit check system." You can order a dress plain, with just graphics, with limited amounts of stones or with all the bling as they say. With all of these options and a web site that allows the customer to add on their options we offer price points to fit any budget. This month we have begun a pilot dress rental program. These dresses will be fully trimmed and stoned, but they rent for a fraction of the cost of buying the dress new.

Are costumes for the ice all your design?

In all areas of the arts it is easy to be inspired and influenced. It's no different in design. When I was first starting to design, I quickly figured out that the designs that people responded to the most, had the most "me" in them.

I believe innovation is the key to longevity and real satisfaction in any endeavor. I gave up on trying to find fabric designs I felt could be seen well from the ice long ago, and instead, I made my own. If a potential client comes to me with a vision of what they want, I am always careful to listen, but the best match is someone who has picked you based on a connection they have with your work.

I must give full credit and all honor to God, for bringing me my assistant Linda Wilson. She has a fantastic eye for detail, an open ear for my rambling, and my baby daughter adores her. I can't image trying to replace her.

Do you have a favorite costume you have designed?

I know this may disappoint my clients, but I made my own wedding gown and I'd say that was my favorite. Maybe, if I get to make my daughter's someday, I'll have a new favorite.

What skaters have you designed for?

I don't like to brag too much about who I've had the pleasure of working with. I have been very blessed. In my opinion, anyone who laces up and works hard has earned the opportunity to shine and feel confident out there.