The 40 Most Gorgeous Figure Skating Outfits in Olympic History

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Real talk: Michelle Kwan deserves a gold medal in fashion. Skater Jacket

The 40 Most Gorgeous Figure Skating Outfits in Olympic History

The athleticism of figure skating can't be denied, but let's face it: The intricate beaded, bedazzled, and embroidered costumes often steal the show. Take a look back at some of the best outfits to ever grace Olympic ice — including the totally over the top accouterment of the '80s.

German skater Maxi Herber looked chic in a knit sweater and plaid skirt as she made Olympic history in 1936. At just 15 years old, she became the youngest female figure skater to win gold. Herber held the title until 1998, when Tara Lipinski took the crown.

The six-time U.S. national champion competed in St. Moritz, Switzerland, wearing a belted skirt with sharp pleats. Without modern ice resurfacing, Merrill had to compete on ice chopped up from the hockey games the night before, and in pools of water created by a thaw.

According to the Atlantic, Fleming's mother chose this unusual color "after learning that monks in the Grenoble region of France made Chartreuse liqueur." She believed the hue would remind the audience of the herbal alcohol, and subconsciously encourage them to cheer her on.

The Austrian who went by "Trixi" won gold in Sapporo, Japan, thanks to her dominant performance in the compulsory skating section, a former part of international competition. She took the medal stand in a sequined costume that almost looked like a short blazer.

Long before the days of $5,000 costumes, the figure skating legend turned to her mother's friend to make her simple, but elegant, outfits for Montreal Olympics. The bill cost a mere $120.

While this white and turquoise look has withstood the test of time, the American wasn't immune to other trends of the era. She also wore a bejeweled "argyle cardigan" for another portion of the games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

The East German skater beat out Sumners by a mere tenth of a point to secure gold. Her sparkly outfit (tiara included) definitely lived up to the title of ice princess.

Does it get any more '80s than this? East Germany's Knut Schubert and Birgit Lorenz shined in matching turquoise outfits with pink, black, and white lines. Everything about their look was coordinated — right down to Schubert's matching green skates.

Nicknamed the "jumping flea" for her small size and powerful jump, Ito became the first woman to land seven triples in a free skate during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. The Japanese skater chose black and gold — a color scheme replicated in 1992 by Kristi Yamaguchi — for her performance, but only placed fifth.

The development of bodysuits for male figure skaters in the '70s soon saw crossover in the women's competition. Thomas chose a sequined jumpsuit for her short program in Calgary, on her way to becoming the first African-American athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.

A three-time U.S. champion, Trenary fell short of Thomas's bronze that year but dazzled in a bright pink dress. One of her go-to designers, Lauren MacDonald Sheehan, used dental floss to sew on beads, so that they didn't fall onto the ice and endanger the skater.

Although it looks relatively tame today, this was the look heard around the figure skating world. "We're here to skate in a dress, not a G-string," a rival coach reportedly remarked upon seeing the skirtless costume. The International Skating Union would later implement the "Katarina rule" that requiring skaters to wear skirts, but Witt would ultimately pave the way for the bold, glitzy costumes the sport is known for.

Even though this open-shoulder number looks rather elaborate, Yamaguchi insists that the first thought for all of her costumes was aerodynamics. "When you are trying two to three quads in a program, you want as little distraction as possible," the gold medal winner told the Boston Globe. "You don't want anything weighing you down, distracting you, or getting in the way."

Bonaly asked designer Christian Lacroix to outfit her for the 1992 Olympics in their native France. Spanish bullfighting inspired the couture outfit she wore during the freestyle program, the New York Times reported at the time.

Yamaguchi secured the gold in Albertville wearing (of course) gold. She later loaned the iconic costume to the U.S. Figure Skating Museum, along with her medal.

Nancy Kerrigan also relied on a designer for her costumes, tapping Vera Wang for both the 1992 and 1994 Olympics. In Lillehammer, Wang created a white spandex dress with sheer black sleeves based on a cocktail dress in her ready-to-wear collection for Barneys.

It wasn't so much the maroon dress that caught the attention of the judges that day, but Harding's skates. She would complain to the refs of a broken lace, earning a controversial do-over — not to mention her troubles off the ice . Margot Robbie would go on to reenact the incident in a perfect replica of the costume, right down to every rhinestone, in I, Tonya.

It was Kerrigan that would ultimately skate to the medal stand wearing a stunning Vera Wang creation. The designer heat-pressed a whopping 11,500 rhinestones onto the fabric, as using stitching or metal back would have made the outfit too heavy for jumps.

Vera Wang created another stunning dress for Michelle Kwan's trip to Nagano Japan. The two became so close that the designer would later create a custom wedding gown for the skater's 2013 nuptials.

It was the 15-year-old phenom that walked away with gold that year, wearing a flashy cobalt dress with a matching scrunchie. She's since appeared at multiple Olympics as a cultural commentator, alongside figure skater Johnny Weir.

Caroline is a writer and editor with almost a decade of experience. From 2015 to 2019, she held various editorial positions at Good Housekeeping, including as health editor, covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism and dreams of the day Northwestern will go back to the Rose Bowl.  

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The 40 Most Gorgeous Figure Skating Outfits in Olympic History

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