And, of course, there will be sequins, feathers, nude Lycra, draped velvet. And rhinestones. Thousands of them.
In recent years, the more-is-more mantra has been particularly acute in the men's competition. While top female skaters such as Yu-Na Kim and Rachael Flatt have struck a pretty and traditional tone with their costumes, theatrical garb that "tells a story" is en vogue among the guys, with designs that have no antecedent in modern fashion. Tailored masculinity, once the hallmark of the sport, is rare, if not downright passé.
Skaters used to be threatened with point deductions for outlandish costumes. Not so under the sport's current scoring system, implemented after a judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. "I think a lot of male skaters see [embellished costumes] as part of the whole package, that it will enhance their marks," says Evan Lysacek, a two-time U.S. champion. "Maybe it's helping. If you don't skate very fast, and you have a shiny outfit, it looks like you're going faster. With a simple costume, you can't hide behind much."
But simple is what Lysacek prefers -- which makes him something of an outsider. On a recent afternoon at an El Segundo rink, he wore a Y-3 cashmere sweater as he skated through a group of young girls, who practiced layback spins and made no attempt to get out of his way. A veteran of the sport, Lysacek often wears Y-3 during practice. He has the tall, lanky proportions of a runway model, a Cartier watch collection and an affinity for the minimalist restraint of Raf Simons. At the World Figure Skating Championships, which begin today at Staples Center, you'll see him attempt a quadruple toe loop wearing a shawl collar tuxedo with a rose tucked in the breast pocket.
"In my own clothing, I like simple, but something that has texture. Something that's architectural and design-oriented," the 23-year-old says. "That's what I've looked for in my costumes as well."
Three years ago, at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Lysacek skated to "Carmen," one of the sport's well-worn soundtracks. Instead of wearing a matador's "suit of lights," he opted for a black Gianfranco Ferré shirt with intricate pleating that approximated origami. He wore Alexander McQueen last season and fashioned a Christian Dior scarf into a belt the year before that.
"You have to dress up and have respect for the judges," he says. "You can't just skate in sweats and a cap. But who said anything about spandex and sequins?"
Actually, it was Johnny Weir, one of skating's most reliably outré competitors.
The case for excess
Lysacek's chief American rival for the last half-decade, Weir failed to qualify for this year's world championships. But his imprint on the sport's style is inescapable -- even if he's not the first skater to wear a velvet onesie.
Weir's influences, he says, are Russian skating greats such as Evgeni Plushenko, who never shied from a sparkly cravat. "To be accepted worldwide, American skaters need to understand that excess is necessary," Weir says. "And yes, I take credit for that."
His designer tastes are legendary -- Weir has modeled for Heatherette runway shows and dares you to try prying the Balenciaga work bag from his hands. But on the ice, the costumes he co-designs have a certain sartorial madness, much to his delight. At the Turin Games, he wore a shimmery swan costume, replete with a single red glove that he referred to lovingly in press conferences as "Camille." Since then, he's sported enough mesh, lace and rhinestones to exhaust the inventory of a crafts store.
"I'm a firm believer that if you're a figure skater, you should wear a figure skating costume," he says. "You can't just wear all black and skate to Beethoven. There needs to be a story, and you're the storyteller."
Given their rivalry, you'd expect a clucked tongue from Lysacek when talking about Weir, but he's surprisingly laudatory. "Johnny is his own person, and you have to admire that," Lysacek says. "He's like, 'This is my style. This is the way I skate. This is my Louis Vuitton, and this is my fur. Deal with it.' "
Jeremy Abbott, the reigning U.S. men's champion and a rising star on the international scene, also has given in to glamour this season. He had asked Denver-based costume designer Joey Santos for a "fairly simple" long-program look. But what he got was something Weir might appreciate. Standing atop the podium in January, Abbott wore a violet Lycra top with black stretch lace that snaked across his torso, entangling his right arm. "I tend to like toned-down looks," says Abbott, who trains in Colorado Springs, Colo. "So this is definitely the most puff and sparkle I've ever had."
Men's figure skating style hasn't always been creative fodder for snarky screenwriters (think "Blades of Glory"). A century ago, competitors skated as if on their way to a black-tie gala. Forget rhinestones: If you wanted to express yourself, you did so with a superb flying sit spin, not a garish get-up.