By: Robyn Clarke
To celebrate U.S. Figure Skating’s centennial anniversary, we asked fans to share their favorite skating memories. This month, we wanted to know: “What’s your favorite costume of all time?” We interviewed two common responses to get their takes on the costumes fans loved. Plus, check out the photo gallery on the U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone to see more fan-favorite costumes.
We've got to know. What is your all-time favorite costume? #USFigureSkating100— U.S. Figure Skating (@USFigureSkating) March 1, 2021
One of the most iconic images from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, is Meryl Davis gliding across the ice in her lavender costume. She won gold in that outfit, reaching the pinnacle of her sport and making history for the U.S. in ice dance.
Just as she had done with all her costumes, Davis designed the piece with Luanne Williams and Stephanie Miller. She met the pair early in her career when they visited the rink where she and her partner, Charlie White, trained.
“They visited the Detroit Skating Club once a week to offer their services and work with local skaters on putting costumes together,” she said. “It was just sort of a natural fit when I was young.”
Over the years, they developed a routine. In mid-summer, Davis, White, their moms and the costume designers would meet to begin discussing initial ideas for the upcoming season. Davis would bring in magazine clippings of photos she was inspired by, and Williams and Miller would go to work finding fabrics that matched her idea. They’d lay out the material in a way that allowed Davis to envision what she would look like wearing it and then spend the next several months bringing the concept to life.
For Davis, having her and White’s moms involved in creating the costume made the designing process all the more meaningful.
“It was just really cool to be able to approach every competitive season with their support and [to work on the costume] together, because our moms were such a big part of our competitive careers,” she explained.
When it came time to put together a costume for the 2014 Games, Davis wanted to wear a piece that symbolized her skating journey. The costume’s lavender color came from her long-held affinity for the color purple, and the skirt’s style was a nod to her early skating days.
“[The] skirt sort of draped in front. That was the way that I wore my skirts when I was really little,” she said. “As we were putting that costume together, you know, I remember looking back at our costumes over those 17 years, [Charlie and I had] already been competing together.
“There was something about embracing that style of skirt that I wore when we first started skating together. It felt very serendipitous. It felt special to have a slight nod [to the past] that maybe no one else would notice.”
The costume now hangs in her childhood bedroom, but when she looks at it, she doesn’t remember the moment someone put a medal around her neck. She thinks of the people who helped her get there.
“As I reflect on my career...it's the quiet moments at home with Charlie and working on costumes with my mom [that mean the most],” she said. “And so when I look at the costume, I remember everything that went into preparing for Sochi...and just the journey to get to where we wanted to go.”
After all, what matters most isn’t reaching the mountain’s summit— it’s the journey to the top.
Johnny Weir’s costume selection is all about the music.
Everything about his clothing depends on the song accompanying his performance. What the audience hears sets the tone— his costume merely reinforces the message.
“The music gives me the idea of color and excitement,” he said. “[It] certainly dictates color patterns and how much or how little sparkle you use.”
In fact, Weir can remember only one time in his career when the costume dictated the music. Once, while in Los Angeles, he came across what he describes as a “voluminous” mullet skirt. It was only a few dollars, so he bought it, figuring he would decide how to use it later. When he saw Kimberly Nicole perform Radiohead’s “Creep” on the Voice, he knew he’d found the perfect use for the skirt.
His costume for the “Creep” performance sums up his style on the ice: Bold. Flashy. Unforgettable. Weir’s never cared about trends— it’s all about giving the costume its own stage.
“My aesthetic and my style was always to let my costumes tell their own story and enhance what I was trying to do,” he said.
Costumes, he believed, were a vessel of connection between the skater and the audience. Although someone may not be able to recognize the difference between a triple Axel or a triple loop, they can be drawn in by an extravagant costume.
“The costume in many ways can speak for you, when you're focused on your quads and making sure that you get the levels on all of your elements… [It’s] something that everyone can understand, and it can show off who you are as a person and the kind of athlete you are,” he explained.
Weir still remembers his first costume. His parents wanted something simple, but designer Stephanie Handler made sure to please everyone. She hemmed rhinestones on the inside of the material, so Weir would know they were there.
It was the beginning of a relationship that has lasted for decades.
“I can have a conversation with her, and she creates it and just sends it to me without fittings, because we've been together for that long,” he said. “It really is a team effort.
“When you’re out on the ice you may be alone, but there are all of these people that have helped you get there. Stephanie is one of them.”
He might be on his own, but Handler’s costume penned a vital piece of the storyline he’s working to portray.
Learn more about the Centennial Celebration here.