By Adam Welsch
January 6th is a day that will live in infamy in the world of women’s figure skating. On this day in 1994, US figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, was attacked during a practice session at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. The ex-husband and bodyguard of Kerrigan’s rival, Tonya Harding, hired a third person to carry out the attack, which resulted in a baton blow and bruise to the thigh, and forced Kerrigan to withdraw from the competition. Despite admitting that she helped cover up the attack, Harding joined Kerrigan the following month to skate for the United States at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Kerrigan won the silver medal, while Harding finished eighth. The seventeenth anniversary of this notorious event seems an appropriate time for this blog to discuss the kinds of intimate apparel worn by female figure skaters.
Before discussing what’s worn underneath, it’s helpful to get a sense of the outfits generally worn by female figure skaters. During practice sessions, where comfort and warmth are more important than fashion, skaters generally wear sweaters and sweatshirts on top, and either athletic leggings, yoga pants, or skating tights on the bottom. They may also wear dresses and skaters’ tights closer to competitions to ensure that the types of outfits worn during the events work with their routines. Finally, most skaters wear gloves during practice.
During competitions, skaters wear form-fitting dresses that often have attached briefs. The dresses have very short skirts, so the attached briefs always become visible. Many observers often ask whether the short lengths of the skirts are necessary. Most skaters answer “yes,” since longer skirts would inhibit jumps and leg extensions, and would become distractions to their required in-program concentration. Skating tights are generally worn under the attached briefs, though some skaters find that to be uncomfortable and prefer to wear them over the briefs. These special tights may be footless, footed, or capable of covering and protecting the boot portions of the skates. These tights are thicker and warmer than conventional, everyday tights, and are generally made with cotton gussets (like conventional pantyhose.)
So, what do these women wear under this attire? Interestingly, there’s neither unanimity of opinion about the types of underwear that should be worn, nor agreement about whether conventional underwear should be worn at all. During practice, where comfort matters and appearance does not, the decision of whether or not to wear panties is usually dictated by the choice of outerwear worn over the legs. If skaters’ tights are worn, their cotton gussets allow the skaters to choose whether or not to “go commando.” Many skaters do so reasoning that, since the tights must be washed after each use anyway, little would be gained by wearing panties. When yoga pants or athletic leggings are worn, panties designed to prevent ride-up are usually chosen. Boy-short silhouettes or styles with silicone-finished edges are often the best selections here. During competition, concerns of appearance usually outweigh all others; many skaters choose not to wear panties of any silhouette underneath their tights and attached briefs for fear of creating VPLs or actual panty show-through. If they choose to wear panties, they often wear thongs and always select flesh-colored styles.
What about bras? As with panties, the types of bras worn, and the decision of whether to wear them or not, is left up to each skater. During practice, most women wear sports bras. They not only provide support, but added warmth for long hours of practice as well. During competition, some wear them and some do not. Skating outfits are quite form-fitting, so many smaller-busted skaters receive sufficient support from the costumes themselves and find bras unnecessary. Those women with larger busts do wear bras. As with everyday outfits, the styles of the skating costumes dictate the styles of the bras worn. Many outfits are backless, and so specially-strapped bra silhouettes have to be used. As with panties, skaters cannot afford to have any parts of their bras reveal themselves during competition. Some skaters who require added support wear custom-made outfits that incorporate built-in breast-support features. Others prefer to sew bra cups into the costumes themselves.
Though the choices of skaters’ outfits and their intimate apparel involve a series of interconnected and personal considerations, the final figure-skating ensembles are usually quite beautiful and add to the broad appeal of the sport for much of the general public.
Here’s Nancy Kerrigan skating in her long program during the 1994 Winter Olympics sporting a nice example of the overall, final look:CC Image courtesy cliff1066™ on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago// CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy zipckr on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/zipckr// CC BY 2.0