For a group of athletes who always look so dandy doing their specialty—glittering along in bursts of sequins and satin—figure skaters seem sadly drab in practice and off the ice. This perverse situation has continued while other sports have fired up their image. Pro football players long have paced the sidelines in sweeping hooded capes, basketball teams have warmed up or cooled down through various colorful layers and the stars of track and field have adopted practice costumes that now are high fashion in the jog and fitness set.
The skaters suited up at left represent an experimental breakthrough: if warmups do it for the world of sport in general, why not borrow the theme and adapt it to specific conditions? In this case, the borrowing was the idea of Designer Anya Robertson, a onetime fashion model who stays in shape by figure skating, often practicing the same long, cold hours as the kids in competition. What skaters needed, Robertson felt, was some kind of standard, accepted warm-up uniform of the type other sports now have.
"Just go to a public ice rink sometime," she says. "The place looks like a shipwreck. First, you can't wear skiing warmup pants for figure skating because they're too bulky. You can't wear tennis warmups because you can't get the darned things on and off over your skates." As if that weren't bad enough, the scenes that really disturbed Robertson came during actual competition. "I see skaters sitting there near the ice with a topcoat around their shoulders and an old pea jacket wrapped around their knees while waiting to compete. It gets worse in the loosening-up period before their own performance. The skaters have to peel down to their competition outfit, which isn't satisfactory since the warm-up is followed by a chilly period of waiting before they go back on the ice."
Having diagnosed the problem, Robertson formed her own company, named it Polar Sport and produced the first warmup uniforms designed solely for skaters. Her initial creation was a nylon stretch warmup for women, featuring pants with full-length zippers between contrasting stripes. The pants can be zipped away quickly without removing the skates. The women's matching warmup jacket can be worn without the pants because it is the same length as a skating dress. Robertson then added a stretch leotard to go under the uniform—it can be worn alone or with a matching skating skirt that pulls up over the leotard. The skirt comes equipped with a single kick pleat that can be worn either front or back since, as Robertson says, "When doing school figures, you have to look down to see your tracings and a full skirt hides them." Borrowing next from football, Robertson designed a full-length brushed-wool cape that wraps up the skaters, both men and women, in suitable sideline fashion.
The new line of skating clothes has attracted interest in one especially important sector. Newbold Black IV, secretary of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has ordered sets of the warmup wardrobes for evaluation (in red, white and blue, naturally), noting, "We're looking for what's best and most practical for our teams." In addition, the outfits were being tested by the U.S. competitors at the world figure skating championship in Munich. If the vote from Munich is favorable, skating may follow the rest of sport with a hot new warmup look.