Ice Style

Figure Skating Costume Question: White Skates vs. Beige Skates?

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The Great (Figure Skating) Debate: White, Beige or Skin Tone Tights Over The Boots?
La Perfect Michelle: Michelle Kwan skating in...White Skates
Just in time for the final Grand Prix of Figure Skating Competition, which is occurring as I type in Beijing China, I began an email discussion with one of my Figure Skating "gals", the beautiful Courtney Prince, who skated professionally for a while but now owns the Jewelry Design company, Doloris Petunia. She emailed me asking "White Skates or Beige Skates?" She wanted my Fashion Designer (and Figure Skating fan) opinion. Her argument was that wearing beige skates made the skater look, well, a bit less professional. So naturally, I said "I need to post a BLOG about this" and see what other people think. And I also decided to take it another step further and add: "Well, what about beige tights over the skating boots?". Why would Figure Skaters decide one versus the other.
Is wearing beige skates more of a statement of "I'm not traditional"? And finally, covering the entire leg--and boot--in skin-tone tights, would that be more to elongate the figure, especially for some skaters who well, might not be so height-inclined? White Skates seem to be the de-rigueur and more traditional choice for Ladies Figure Skaters throughout the years. This changed in the late 80's when more and more professional figure skaters began to buck the "White Skate" rule and go for the beige ones. And then toward the late 90's, and early 2000's, we began to see the all-over skin-tone/beige tights over the skates look as well.
I went back in time and looked at iconic--and very fabulous Ladies Figure Skaters and what they wore: White Skating Boot Queens:
In 1968 , Peggy Fleming won the Olympic Gold, wearing White Skates. She looked elegant and very "Mad Men" Figure Skater!!
Dorothy Hamill became the 1976 Olympic Champion...in White Skates. I see a pattern here: If you go to the Olympics, and want to win the Gold, ,maybe White Skates is your secret "boot" ticket. On Hamill, they were the perfect accessory since her costume had white-ish sequin trim on the neckline and sleeve of her red costume. Looking at these two icons of Figure Skating and thinking about costumes in 2010/2011, wearing White Boots might seem a bit "Retro", n'est pas?
In the 1992 Albertville Olympics, France's Surya Bonaly, caused a major ESCANDALO, when she refused to wear tights(!). My Figure Skating "Research Assistant" tells me that Danskin only makes tights in "never seen the sun" ballerina cream or "toast"(tan-a-rama!), so I can see why Bonaly just never wore tights when she competed (she just couldn't find a pair to match her skin tone). She still opted for the traditional White Skates--to go with her non-traditional glitzy over-the-top costumes.
Two years later, at the 1994 Winter Olympics, there was Miss Tonya Harding and her infamous broken boot lace incident. Yep, she wore White Skates and they coordinated well with her costume. They were the "Stars" of this Olympic boot lace incident, as well as the fact that her skates had GOLD blades. This was considered a bit on the tacky side and trust me kiddies, it was a topic of discussion amongst many a figure skating competition-watching party!
Beige Queens:
In the same year, Olympic Gold-medal Winner Oksana Baiul, who represented the Ukraine defeated USA's Nancy Kerrigan in (Oh No She Didn't!): Beige Skating Boots (I know, shut the front door!). I remember then thinking "Boy them beige skates are odd!". If I am not mistaken, I think she was the only figure skater to compete in the Olympics wearing BEIGE SKATES! (I'm sure I could be wrong and my dear readers will be sure to tell me so!)
In the early 2000's, we began to see the beige-tights-over-skates trend more. Exhibit A: Sarah Hughes, 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist. Hughes wore the beige tights over the skates look with her sequined lilac costume.
Exhibit B: In 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino (of which I actually went to!), Sasha Cohen skated in skin-tone tights over her boots, as well. Sasha, of course is known for her LONG lines and UNBELIEVABLE leg extensions. So in her case, it does make sense to cover the entire leg in skin-tone, in order to exaggerate even more the length of her lines. So what is the trend now, in 2010/2011?
What's The Trend Now: The 2010 Grand Prix Ladies
Italy's Carolina Kostner--and Roberto Cavalli-costumed muse--wore White Ice Skates in her winning Grand Prix performance. I loved the costume and had no problem with them. Kostner is a tall skater (compared to the others) and therefore doesn't need an elongation to her already lengthy legs. They also go just right with her asymmetrical costume. I just have a problem with her too-dark tights! (Are those "toast" by Danskin???)
Japan's Akiko Suzuki, on the other hand, wears the beige-tights-over-ice-skates, for her Grand Prix series look. Akiko is only 5 feet 2 inches and so it is understandable that she doesn't want to add anything to break the length of her leg-lines. For some reason, though, it looks very "bulky" down by the ankle. It would almost be better with just the white boots...
The stunning Barbie Doll-like Kiira Korpi from Finland, opts for the White Skates. Korpi looks like a figure skater from the 1960's, and from head to toe, she exudes a Retro vibe. So it makes perfect sense for her to go for the White Skates as opposed to the all-beige-leg look.
And finally, there's Rachael Flatt, from the USA, who chooses beige tights over the skates, as opposed to the White Skates. So, it seems that the great debate over "Which one is better?" or "Which is more Professional Looking?" will continue. I think, it all depends on the skater, the costume, and also the height of the skater. Shorter competitors should probably opt for the beige tight/skate look, while if you want to be more on the "Peggy Fleming/Dorothy Hamill" end--and be more "traditional"--then go for the White Skates.
Although for me there is one deal breaker and that is the Olympics. I am siding with a White Skate only policy. To me it is almost like not wearing a White Tennis Outfit to Wimbledon! For the Gran-daddy of all Sports and for photos that will appear for an eternity, classic white is always the answer! What do you think?

11 Responses to "Figure Skating Costume Question: White Skates vs. Beige Skates?"

Jimmy Nguyen said...

Easy answer. . . White skates -- all the way. None of this beige skate or tights-over-skates look. Follow the lead of the always-elegant Michelle Kwan, and wear white skates!

Anonymous said...

White skates FTW!

Never understood the tights over skates look. Are you trying to fool people into thinking you're not wearing boots? That the blades just sprouted out of your feet?

Lilian said...

I can't stand the tights pulled over the skate look. I agree with above. It does not make the leg look longer. The boot breaks the line and looks bumpy. (Thanks for the great photos.)

Lauren said...

I love the beige tights over the boot...but I hate beige skates. IMO, either wear white skates or beige tights. :) But that's just me!

Anonymous said...

Hate the tights over boots look. I agree with those who said it should be white skates all the way.

One trend I can recall that you didn't mention: Canadian singles competitor Lisa Sargent (older sister of coach and former paira champion Kristi Wirtz), when she was competing, wore footless tights. They pulled down over the tops of her skates, but didn't cover all of them. Not sure how widespread this trend was. Good for those who liked bare feet with their skates, I guess. I always wore tights with mine, though.

I think Jamie Sale was commenting on this question on Twitter -- I think she said they HAVE to wear white skates for Stars on Ice.

Molly said...

Skaters will tell you that the reason they like the tights over the skate look is that you don't have to keep your skates in pristine shape! No skate tape, no boot covers, no polishing and shining before a competition! Just pop on those over-the-boot tights, and you are always good to go!
But it's ugly, and I always have preferred the traditional look of those beautiful white skates!

Suzanne said...

I commented on Facebook but wanted to add that the Capezio at one time made a whole line of tights for Dance Theater of Harlem that came in many hues. They became available to the public shortly after. For an African American skater it makes more sense to use those tights over the skates, unless you can get skates in that color, which I doubt.
I am still a fan of using the same color skates as legs.
Is Oksana bare legged as well in that photo? Imagine falling? Ouch!!!!

Anonymous said...

White skates. Period.

a) tights over the boot make the skater look like they have a weird second pair of knees down there and yea- why give the illusion of blades coming out of your soles? But they are practical- elite skater's skates look horrible up close- beaten up, taped up... All as a result of the many-many hundreds of hours of practice. And it's not like they can buy a new pair for every event.

b) the beige boot hardly looks beige on the ice. The colour is kind of brownish/greenish, like something you'd expect to come out of you after some bad curry. Ick.

c) but! There are worse things out there- like the legging/beige tights version, where the boot is covered up to the ankle. It should prolong the leg, I suppose it does- but it messes with proportion of the actual boot making it look more like a tennis shoe or a slipper or something. Ahh, and the absolute worst thing I've seen- beiege fishnet tights over the boot- Elene Gedi. wore those last season. Left me quite speechless.

P.S. Cavalli's contract with Caro ended after the Oly season- her dresses are now made by Iceberg, thought you'd like to know ;).

Kalonji Rivers said...

I for one,used to despise those over-the-boot tights with a burning passion. Until one night,I was watching a YouTube video segment of Dancing On Ice UK-the 2008 season. The skater who is not actually a skater,which is a celebrity that caught my attention was none other than Suzanne Shaw. It happened during the Props week episode when I witnessed Suzanne suffering an ankle injury,and I realized that the over-the-boot tights were just a mere pair of leggings. All this time I was mistaking the over-the-boot tights for pantyhose because of the look and the color. It was all just mind games to me. As a skater,women would usually wear white socks underneath the skates as they would slip the tights over the skate boot. One thing you must know is that the tights have clips,eye hooks,or Velcro at the bottom.

Anonymous said...

White skates with beige tights, definitely!!! Actually, if I was a judge in figure skating, I would deduct points to those with beige skates or tights over the boots.

SKATER79 said...

I am a former Junior National Competitior and sooo many of these comments are being made by people that do not skate..... I as a skater and a coach have NEVER woen white socks with skates nor do I allow my students to wear SOCKS with their skates because it does not allow the leather boot to form to the foot properly.I skate barefoot as most professionals that I know do. I allow my students to wear over the boot tights as long as they are new and appropriately colored and fit right. What I don't understand is why no one on here is commenting on the white skates with WHITE soles!!!! What is your opinion on that? I.E. Akiko Suzuki and many other international skaters.......