Figure Skating Costumes Through the Years

Written By: Riedell | September 10, 2018

The sport of figure skating has been around for a long time. Throughout the years, figure skating costumes have changed drastically since the first winter Olympics in 1924. During that first Olympics, women figure skaters wore wool skirts and sweaters, dressing more for the weather rather than for the glory, and men used to be required to wear suits on the ice. Both men’s and women’s costumes have since adapted to the cultural and societal changes throughout the years, becoming the more flashy, rhinestone covered costumes we are accustomed to today.

Ice skates themselves have evolved along with the sport; something Riedell knows well. Having been around since 1945, we’ve been evolving our figure skating designs and technology to meet the demands of modern skaters. Here are some of the changes we’ve seen through the years.

History of Figure Skating Costumes

Early Costumes

In the early days of figure skating, the ice was dominated by wool skirts and warm sweaters, as mentioned above. Costumes were more practical than fashionable during this time. Figure skaters dressed for the colder temperatures with women wearing long skirts and men wearing suits.

As the years went on, women’s skirts started getting shorter, thanks to Norwegian-born American Sonja Henie, who wore a short-hemmed dress during her 1930s circuit. Her impact on the figure skating world was immediate. Women started wearing shorter skirts towards the end of the 1930s. During this time, new materials were also being used for costumes, such as satin, making them more elegant.

During World War II, the fabric shortages also caused women to wear shorted hemmed dresses. Women also started wearing shorts underneath their skirts during this time. As for the men, they were still wearing long pants and sweaters. They would accessorize with scarves and hats, which are not widely used today as any piece of your costume that falls off results in a deduction of points.

50s, 60s, and 70s

During this time, women figure skaters began wearing flared skirts that billowed when they leapt through the air. Long sleeves and high necklines were still dominating the scene during the late 50s and early 60s. Although to make garments more form-fitting, darts and gussets were incorporated into costumes.

The 70s disco culture brought bright colors, embellished, and shorter necklines. During this time you could see skaters donning rhinestone covered necklines, with favored fabrics such as chiffon and lamé.

80s, 90s, and 00s

By the 1980s, rhinestones were huge and you rarely saw a costume without them. Spandex, or lycra, jumped in popularity during this time period, as well. These fabrics were particularly favored by skaters because they were form-fitting but flexible allowing them to be more comfortable while performing jumps and spins.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that sleeveless costumes were allowed, and in 2006, the requirement to wear a skirt was lifted and women could now wear just a leotard. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fancier the costume, the better. Finding a way to stand out was the key. Skaters chose their costumes to reflect their music and routines.


Figure skating costumes have stayed relatively the same in the past few decades. They are created to fit the unique style of the skater-inspired by their routine and music. Embellishments, sequins, and mesh are still popular. Throughout the years, costumes have drastically changed, and in the figure skating world today, having a standout costume can sometimes be the key to a top-notch performance.

How to Choose a Figure Skating Costume

When it comes to choosing a figure skating costume, you have to consider many factors. There are so many different styles and brands on the market from custom ice skating dresses with embellishments to simple practice dresses. When deciding on a costume you want to consider two main proponents – proper fit and purpose.

Figure skating costumes for competition are usually designed and color coordinated for the skater’s specific theme and music choice. Typically, these costumes are much more elaborate than a practice dress, and you want to keep them in pristine condition so it looks the best it can on competition day. Having a stand-out costume can make a difference in how your performance is received. Also, remember that different skating disciplines will call for a different style of costume.

Having a proper fitting costume is also very important. You want to choose the right type of fabric. A fabric that is comfortable and stretchy enough to move with you on the ice is crucial. A fabric with a four-way stretch is a good option, such as velvet or lycra. Your costume should be snug, but not too tight, just like a one-piece swimsuit. Your skirt style is all dependant on your preference and purpose for the design of the skirt.

As far as men’s figure skating costumes go, they should follow the same guidelines as women. Although, men are required to wear full-length trousers and not allowed to wear tights. They should choose a costume that fits the needs for the occasion it will be worn.

Compliment Your Costume With Custom Figure Skates

Figure skating costumes are completely custom to the figure skater’s style, routine, and music. Don’t compromise on the quality of your performance with the wrong skates. Find the perfect custom-fitted figure skates at Riedell. Just like you would tailor your costume to your unique needs, you can tailor your skates to provide the ultimate comfort and support you desire. Contact us today about finding your perfect skates!