Ice Style

ICE STYLE.....Illusion or NO Illusion?


Illusion or No Illusion?

Backless? Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia and their Short Program costumes to "Love Theme from The Godfather"

Illusion vs. No Illusion. That is the Figure Skating Costume Question. First, let's get some "fabric schooling" out of the way for the folks that may not be on the "up-and-up" on fabrics and what illusion is. Illusion is a mesh/netting-like fabrication very popular in figure skating costumes (as well as with Wedding Gowns, Beauty Pageants, competitive Ballroom Dancing...). It can come in stretch (usually the most popular) and non-stretch. The content is usually nylon, elastene, Spandex, polyester and/or maybe some silk in the finer, more expensive versions. It is most often used in nude-or skin-like colors. It is great for mimicking skin when you want coverage but the effect of being bare. Of course, it also comes in other different colors (black being the next most popular color).

 Illusion back of a wedding/evening gown
Illusion back of a Marchesa wedding gown design

The reason it's used--especially in the Figure Skating world is threefold: the fact that it can replicate the look of nude skin but still being "covered"; it can re-create certain style elements such as a "Strapless", One Shoulder or "backless" look and still make the wearer able to do strenuous sport activities; and because of certain "Costume Guide-rules" within the various elements of Figure Skating (Ice Dance, Ladies, Pairs) which require only a "certain amount of skin" to be showing.

Speaking of Rules, here they are:

Rule 500 Definition of Skate Blade and Clothing: At ISU Championships, the Olympic Winter Games and International Competitions, the clothing of the Competitors must be modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competition – not garish or theatrical in design. Clothing may, however, reflect the character of the music chosen.
a) The clothing must not give the effect of excessive nudity for athletic sport. Men must wear trousers; no tights are permitted. Accessories and props are not permitted. The decoration on costumes must be non-detachable.
b) Clothing not meeting the foregoing requirements must be penalized by a deduction of 1.0 point (see Rule 353, paragraph 1.m) ii)).

Now, recently, especially while doing my "Costume Recaps" of this season's ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, I've noticed a lot of "backless" looks from the skaters (the female, of course) as well as lots of illusion.

Here are some Photo Examples:

No Illusion Semi-Backless--Alena Leonova of Russia: This is her apple green sequined Bollywood-inspired costume to her Short Program to "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)" by the Pussy Cat Dolls 

Illusion Princess: Above is Gracie Gold of the USA and her red glittering costume to "Hernando's Hideaway" as well as her "strapless" blue sequined costume for her Free Program Costume to Life is Beautiful soundtrack by Nicola Piovan. Both were designed by Brad Griffies and both featured nude illusion that is perfectly dyed to match her skin color.
Too Dark Illusion--Caroline Zhang of the USA and her Short Program Costume to "The Rushing Wings of Dawn" by Tim Janis. Here's another example of a Ladies Skater and her 2012-2013 Grand Prix Series Costume and the use of illusion. Here I think the coloring was too dark for Caroline's skin tone. But, maybe because there are crystals on it, the effect was NOT to make it look as if she was actually strapless or backless and therefore the too-dark illusion was somewhat intentional. What do you guys think?

Now, one particular skater--a Pairs skater--might be bucking the "illusion" unspoken figure skating costume rule: Tatiana Volosozhar of Russia:

Above is Tatiana in her Short Program to "Love Theme From The Godfather" costume for this season--a halter front and plunging back fishtail-hemmed dress with pearl necklace detail. At first glance, I thought "Wait a minute! Is there no illusion back there?" And then, quickly, I thought, "how in the name of the Costume Gods, is she being held up?"

Let's take a closer look:

From these close-ups, it looks as if there's a very strong nude elastic strap holding the front in place. It does not seem as if there is any of that nude-colored stretch-mesh illusion. I thought this was very unusual. Since, most of these figure skaters use illusion.

In this photo above, you can see that elastic across-the-back strap and possibly...only possibly, a hint of maybe...a line of an illusion fabrication---but...I think it's probably just a tan strap line--a remnant from her last Holiday in Ibiza probably.

Another example of the No Illusion is...

Canada's Tessa Virtue of the Gold Medal-winning Ice Dance team of Virtue and Moir--For their "Carmen" by Rodion Shchedrin Free Dance, she wears a plunging front, open back black costume. The front does have illusion fabrication (and a very good one!), while the back...

...Is Bare! (Mon Dieu) If you look closely at the the upper back left side, there is a nude colored elastic strap (being covered by her ponytail) holding the back up, as it were. But the shocking thing is, that yes, there is NO ILLUSION back there. Could this be the Figure Skating Costume Trend?

Could Figure Skating Costumes go the route of Dancing With The Stars?

Emmy Award-winning Costume Designer Randall Christensen creates these fabulous KRAZEE and Ballroom Dancing Perfect costumes for the ABC hit show "Dancing With The Stars" where miraculously there is little illusion used and lots of open backs, open sides and just about open-everything else, held together by double-stick tape, some heavy elastic straps and a Costume Prayer (And I'm sure there is much more inside those costumes that make them stay where they should!)

So, I put these question up to you guys--the Figure Skating Costume Fans? Illusion or No Illusion? What do you think? Let me know!!

7 Responses to "ICE STYLE.....Illusion or NO Illusion?"

Paulina Hernández said...

I think that as long as the elastic don't mark the skin in an ugly way it's ok the no illusion, because there are a lot of fails with the illusion fabric in figure skating world. For me, Tessa Virtue's costumes are the best in the illusion fabric use, the Olympic FD's costume is gorgeous!! Sorry for my english, saludos from México! :D

Anonymous said...

I think Tessa Virtue also has the best illusion fabric. At first glance at her wearing her 2010 Olympic Mahler dress, I though it didn't have any illusion fabric but it actually did.

Anonymous said...

I like the blinged smiley face on the heel of Leonova's skating boot.

Elizabeth Roberts said...

I am a big fan of nude spaghetti straps but not as much nude mesh illusion fabric, esp. a lot of it. I do like Gracie Gold's Hernando's Hideaway costume though.

1cbjack said...

I like illusion if the skin color match is good, I think it gives the skater a sense of security. too much, however is distracting!

okalala1 said...

What its called this illusion fabric??

Kimberly M said...

Having spent years working on skating costume design and construction and now on bridal and evening gown
design and construction, I can say that illusion has it's place in both. I have always found that making sure you chose the right fabric and colour shade for the job, was of the utmost importance. The mills that are manufacturing these products now, are producing such a wide variety of colours, fabric weights and styles, that there is very little reason for the naked eye to be able to see those insets of illusion, if they are sewn right.