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.

This v-neck situation isn’t unique to the female competitors. There seems to be a grand tradition of male ice dancers/figure skaters who wear deep v-necks with flesh colored connective spandex keeping it all in place.

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

While it looks like Max Aaron is wearing a camisole under his unitard, it’s a relatively tame one. Things progressively get worse:

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1

Eric Radford

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Adam Rippon

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1

Things really start to get hazy when the flesh panels get embellished, like Evgeny Plyushchenko‘s get up.

Figure Skating - Winter Olympics Day -1

Yakov Godorozha

Olympics Day 4 - Figure Skating

Min Zhang shows the worst case scenario–things get all bunchy and weird, as if a thick, discolored layer of skin is coming off.

As far as women’s costumes go, the only successful way to use these skin panels is to do some sort of embellishment and keep it very, very sheer. That way, it doesn’t look like a horrifying second skin.

2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

I’m not wild about Ashley Cain‘s white choker/wrist guards, but at the very least mesh serves and aesthetic purpose.

Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

Courtney Hicks‘ outfit has an actual purpose for her mesh skin panel.

2014 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships

Alexandra Paul wins for best outfit in this post. In real life, I’d object to the long sleeves awkwardly ending, but at far as ice skating outfits go, this one is pretty great.

Photos: Getty Images