Figure skating is a sport filled with beauty and artistry. But beyond their stunning performances, Olympic figure skaters also rely on what they wear to make a statement on the ice. Two designers from Southern California are helping dress some of the figure skaters competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Lisa McKinnon can still remember the day her figure skating outfits started drawing attention. She was 15 years old and competing on the ice for her native Sweden. Now, she is creating custom costumes for Olympians.
Each costume is handmade. The crystals are glued or sewn on by hand, and every seam of silk chiffon is carefully stitched together.
She told NBCLA that the final design is really a collaboration among the coach, the choreographer and the costume designer.
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"I listen to the music on repeat, and sometimes I even have footage of them skating and I just work with that on while I'm sketching," McKinnon said.
The skaters have input as well, and they can be superstitious. Sometimes they'll avoid wearing certain colors if an outfit was used during a losing competition.
Pairs skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier asked her to make something soft with an emotional impact. Their matching outfits are front and center in Beijing.
She says the fit must be a perfect 10 in order to perform.
Jan Longmire, another costume designer based in Huntington Beach, designs costumes for Olympians like the reigning national champion Mariah Bell.
Bell told Longmire she wanted something subdued yet artistic. Both designers work out of their homes, saying what they do is a labor of athletic love.
"It's an honor, first of all, to be designing and making costumes for Olympians," McKinnon said. "It's just a sense of completion like, 'We did it. There it is. Oh my goodness, they look beautiful.'"
But McKinnon has her own Olympic-sized goals. She hopes to someday design for the runway and the rink.