02/11/2018 11:39 EST | Updated 02/11/2018 23:57 EST

Good Or Bad Figure Skating Costumes Can Make All The Difference At The Olympics

Costing thousands of dollars, figure skating costumes can also make or break a performance

Ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver once wore her grandmother's pearls as part of her costume in competition.

The necklace was a cherished keepsake, but had an old, worn clasp. Midway through the program, Weaver felt the weight of the pearls falling down her chest, the clasp having broken.

She continued her program with partner Andrew Poje, desperately clutching the pearls in one hand. She eventually stuffed them down the neck of her dress.

"And there they remained for the rest of the program," Weaver laughed. "I wasn't sure whether I should throw them into the audience. The only thing I could think of was to stick them down my dress.

"You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes."

Maddie Meyer via Getty Images
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Moir says that they try to save new costumes for big occasions like the Olympics.

Red-carpet couture on skates

Figure skating is a unique hybrid between athleticism and artistry, and a skater's costume — rather than uniform, jersey, or kit — is an integral part of the package.

The skating competition at the Pyeongchang Olympics is a tapestry of Swarovski crystals, feathers, lace, and avant-garde cutouts, part red-carpet couture, part "What Not To Wear."

When Scott Moir talks about seeing ice dance partner Tessa Virtue in her costume for the first time, he sounds like a groom laying eyes on his bride walking up the aisle.

"There's something special about reserving your costume for that moment, so at an Olympic Games or another big event, we like to have fresh costumes. We want to set a new moment, we don't want people to see the same old thing they've been seeing all year," said Moir.

"And we have this moment when we're in different dressing rooms, and we come out in the hallway and see each other for the first time, when I see T, and she just looks awesome, there's nothing like that. We try to reserve that special moment so we can feel that."

AFP/Getty Images
American skater Johnny Weir's memorable swan costume from the 2006 Olympics.

Josiane Lamond is the owner and chief designer of Elite Xpression, a Montreal costume company that outfits Canadian Olympians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, among others.

Dresses average between $3,000 and $5,000, but can run significantly higher, depending largely on the amount of crystals and the time it takes to produce. Lamond's company did Yuna Kim's costume for her James Bond short program at the Vancouver Olympics. Half a dozen seamstresses worked some 80 hours over two weeks to produce to bejewelled dress.

"This is the dress that took the most time, of all the history of my company, for sure, because it was all hand-beaded," Lamond said.

Costume inspiration can come from anywhere

The design is a collaboration between skater, choreographer, coach and designer, and the inspiration can come from anywhere. Pairs skater Meagan Duhamel was inspired by a bathing suit she saw on Pinterest. Daleman's costume from last season's short program — black with two jewelled cobras on the chest — was inspired by a dress Julianne Moore wore on the red carpet at Cannes.

"Gabby's choreographer Lori Nichol had the very clear image in mind of the feeling that she wanted, she wanted Gabby to have power, she wanted her to look more like a woman as opposed to a girl skating," said Lamond.

AFP/Getty Images
Meagan Duhamel, left, with partner Eric Radford, says her costume was inspired by a bathing suit she saw on Pinterest.

As much as a costume adds to an overall image, a wrong choice can be disastrous. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin outraged Aboriginal leaders in Australia for their demeaning costumes — bodysuits in a dark-brown skin tone, with white geometric motifs meant to be bodypaint, and green leaves.

They can also directly affect marks: if a skater loses any part of a costume, be it a bead or a hair barrette, it's a one-point deduction — the same as for a fall.

And virtually every skater has a wardrobe malfunction tale.

Daleman recalled one competition where her dress was too big after she'd lost some weight. Her straps wouldn't stay up, so she plastered the dress to her skin with body glue _ an adhesive that sometimes referred to as "butt glue," that dancers and gymnasts use.

"I remember trying to slowly peel off my dress. My dad who was at that competition was like 'Why are you still in your dress?' I'm like 'Daddy, I'm glued in my dress,"' Daleman laughed.

AFP/Getty Images
Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

The elaborate costumes have come a long way from classic simplicity of Peggy Fleming or Dorothy Hamill, and Lamond credits that to the evolution of stretch fabric. Skaters demand the lightest of fabrics, both to enable them to move with ease, and to make up for the weight of the Swarovski crystals.

Figure skating has attracted high fashion designer Vera Wang, who skated as a young girl. She designed American star Nathan Chen's outfits for Pyeongchang, and also designed skating costumes worn by Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, and Evan Lysacek.

Among some of skating's most memorable costumes: American skater Johnny Weir wore a swan-inspired ensemble complete with one red glove (the beak) at the 2006 Olympics.

Katarina Witt's bejewelled blue costume at the 1988 Olympics, with feathers where a skirt should be, conjured images of a Vegas showgirl, and prompted the International Skating Union to write the "Katarina Rule." Women, according to the rule, had to wear skirts that covered the hips and posterior. The rule was repealed in 2004, meaning women could wear tights, pants or unitards.

Also on HuffPost Canada:

Most Memorable Figure Skating Costumes Ever