• Fri, Feb 7 - 12:34 pm ET

The Good, The Bad, And The WTF Ways Olympic Skaters Use Panty Hose In Their Costumes

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Given that we’re in full Winter Olympics mode, it would make sense that I’m obsessing about figure skating outfits more often than usual. Carrie took us through the best and worst skating outfits of all time, and I can’t get enough enough of those sparkly ensembles. I’ve been especially taken with weird thing I can’t put my finger on–it’s the flesh colored (not matching the flesh of the person wearing it, however) spandex that’s used ubiquitously in these costumes.

I first started thinking about what I’ve been calling “panty hose material” (Liz tells me it’s called “power flex”) when I was a kid obsessed with figure skating. Certainly, this flesh colored material serves a purpose, since figure skaters and ice dancers are hardcore athletes first and pretty pretty princesses second. I can see why it’s used to keep necklines in place and body parts from spilling out, but are you telling me this is the best way to do it?

Female skaters frequently tend to pull their stockings over their skates, creating a sort of bulky, putty-looking approximation of a limb. Ostensibly it’s to make legs look longer, but I’m not sure it achieves the desired effect.

Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

I can kind of see the leg lengthening work that’s happening here on So Youn Park‘s right leg, but I’m not convinced.

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1Narumi Takahashi‘s shoelaces are practically tumorous.

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

I can’t imagine Barbie Long‘s latex-looking tights are particularly comfortable.

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1

I can’t tell if Stefania Breton has rhinestone embellishment going on or just ice shavings. Also, wow.

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1

And finally, Julia Lavrentieva‘s sheer black stirrup stockings seem to totally defeat the purpose.

But the power flex gets a lot more use than leg extending-skate covers. Skaters tend to use them as an illusion skin panel, either to keep deep v-necks in place, to raise necklines, or to fake an open back. The results are mixed, with the best case scenarios looking like this:

2014 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships

I wouldn’t want to risk body tape either, even though Natasha Purich‘s skin panel is buckling.

Figure Skating Pairs Free Program - Day 4

This is fine until you get to Nicole Monica Della‘s neck and it’s a completely different color.

Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

I completely understand that Kanako Murakami would want something more modest than a deep v-neck for sports purposes, but they couldn’t have just made it the same color as the dress?

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

DeeDee Leng really could have just had a higher neck line to begin with instead of that travesty.

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Day Four

This is just awful. And wait, are those fishnets on Alena Leonova‘s legs?

ISU GP 2013 Skate Canada International

My understanding here is that we’re supposed to believe that Natalia Popova is simply wearing an asymmetrical top and happens to have rhinestones on her wrists, but the color is all wrong.

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  • Guest

    I thought they all wore fishnets

    • shandler

      No. Hardly any skaters wear fishnets.

  • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

    I guess if you consider most people aren’t getting a close up shot like that, the effect would be less noticeable. From the stands, or the TV while they are moving it wouldn’t be so jarring. I do agree that the flesh colored nylon over skates looks weird.

    • anna

      You were the tights over skates to keep your feet more steady. It’s practicality vs looks, I was an small time skater until my late teens. It helps from slipping around, any small movement in your feet due to tights slipping in a turn or spin can cause you to wipe out.

    • Trish Chasity

      I can understand that completely and I am not even a figure skater

  • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

    Have you seen the documentary “First Position?” It’s about young ballet dancers and it’s amazing. In it, one of the dancers, (Michaela Prince) is black and her mom has to color in the “flesh” tones of all her super expensive ballet costumes with a brown marker. I wonder how hard it is for skaters of color with darker skin tones to get “power flex” that actually matches their skin tones.

    • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

      JK it’s Michaela DePrince.

    • shandler

      You can either buy from whatever colors the stores carry, which in many cases would be one or maybe two colors if you’re lucky, and hope they match…which MIGHT happen if you’re medium white, or you can buy whatever is close and try to dye it yourself, and good luck with that because it first has to be nylon so you CAN dye it and then you have to go scientific in order to find and then recreate the right mix of colors to get the skin tone you want, which is going to change on different parts of the same body (arms and necks are rarely the same color) and at different times of the year. Poke abuse as you please, good results are neither easy nor cheap.

  • Crayzcheshire

    I love looking at all their ridiculous in-action faces

  • Fiona

    Pantyhose are meant for legs and that’s the only place they look good on a figure skater’s outfit. The nylons should cover the feet *inside* the skates as opposed to covering the outside of the skate boot, which is just weird and not visually aesthetic. As well, hard core figure skaters are bound to have foot odor issues with the perspiration and tight-fitting skates, which might be mitigated to a slight extent if the feet are covered in hose rather than completely bare.

    • shandler

      Skaters don’t usually wear pantyhose. They wear tights, which are much heavier weight and come in a very limited range of colors so if you’re either lighter or darker than whatever the manufacturers think is average you’re pretty much screwed. Very few skaters look outside the usual rink offerings to ballet catalogs which have a few more colors.

  • Tamara

    The over the boot tights are worn for various reasons, not just for the leg extension look. They’re a great way of covering up ugly beaten up boots which judges hate (its not always easy to use leather paint to patch them up without looking like a 5yr old with a marker). The microfiber & lycra tights are actually fairly comfortable & warm.

  • Rosario

    Woman’s skate dresses are so skimpy that wearing pantyhose gave me some security from going onto the ice with no bra, a see through dress with a thin attached pantie. Plus the pantyhose kept my legs warm and they look better then bare legs.

  • Sam

    Are the pantyhose that the figure skaters wear footless or are they the regular pantyhose that cover the feet as well?

  • anonskater

    I agree that up close, the “flesh” coloured tights and material looks odd. However, as a figure skater, I can tell you that first and foremost, we skate for the judges and the audience, not for the close-up camera shots. To the naked eye from the stands, the full boot tights do lengthen the legs (even though you feel like you’re looking down at hooves for feet) and the mesh usually appears to match the skin. In addition to not having to polish & cover scuffs on skates as one commenter mentioned, you will also notice (see the pictures in this article with bare boots) that skaters tape their skates to keep laces, eyelets, etc in place and to avoid disaster if one breaks during competition. Many skaters use quite a bit of tape, so the full boot tights cover it up and add another level of security.

  • Fiebie

    The red dress worn by Alexandra Paul is a copy of a dress worn by Rita Ora.