Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


How to correctly dress a figure skater.

Translation of an interview by a correspondent of the Russian language publication Sonia Ray (SR) with the costume designer for figure skaters Nika Valegjanova, printed on March 20, 2008

To win over the judges at figure skating competitions, just technique is not enough. The skater has to leave a good impression as to be remembered and to get good marks. One of the means to reach such a goal is the costume. Costume designer Nika Valegjanova (NV) works with Yuka Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov who took fourth place at the recent World Championship.

SR – Who makes the costumes for figure skaters?

NV – Often the costumes are made in the theater. For example, Slava Zaitsev designed costumes for Natalia Bestemjanova and Andrey Bulkin and they were made in the tailor shop of the Bolshoy Theater. They had to stay still for long hours leaning on skiing polls, as their arms would not get tired, while the costumes were handmade to fit their figures. These days, computers are assisting in making the patterns which can be used to cut the fabric.

SR – How does the costume begin?

NV – In my case, everything starts with the coach – Tamara Moskvina. Usually she would come in with bright eyes and would tell me what new number they had developed, would bring the disk with the music and the tape of the practice so I would see what moves they are making. Then I make my design and present it to her. Sometime I would make prototypes and the skaters would skate in them while the costumes are being held by pins.

SR – How many fittings is required to make the costume fit well?

NV – Sometimes the costume can be made from a pattern in one session, but other times it takes 5-6 fittings. Sometimes even this is not enough. I had a situation with Alexander Smirnov recently. I found an appropriate fabric that stretched and looked like wool. We joined it with natural leather and after several fittings we made a very nice looking costume. Two days before they were to leave for the competition I came to the practice session to see how things were. All of a sudden during practice, Alexander came to me and told me that he could not skate in the costume since it was limiting his movements. I was almost hysterical. We had to make a similar costume from a different material in a hurry. The new costume did not look on him as good as the first one, but it did not limit his movements. It is very hard to guess. Each fabric has its own features.

SR – How many copies of the same costume are usually made?

NV – Usually they make only one for a season. The skaters do not skate two seasons in the same costume. They may use the old costumes for an exhibition performance, but for the competitions they need the new ones.

SR – Maybe that is the reason why even the costumes of the leaders sometimes have holes in the mesh or splitting seams.

NV – The holes in the mesh are unavoidable. But the seams have to be mended. The skaters have to watch out for their costumes, have to mend them and wash them. The skaters can not afford assistants that would look after the costumes, the hairdressings and their make up.

SR – How does fashion affects the costumes of the skaters?

NV – Of course there is a figure skating fashion. Each season has its rules. It was known that the representatives of the former Soviet Union countries liked very stylish costumes with a lot of beads and a lot of laces. Even men had laces on their shirts. Sometimes there are difficulties with the fashion. Currently in vogue are costumes similar to the formal evening dresses, especially for women -- short cut and with deep décolleté. It is very good for the skaters like Tatiana Navka: she can open her feet, and upper torso. It is different for Yuka – her skin is of transparent bluish color and at the cold ice in a cold light she will look green. Also, her sports figure with strong shoulders and broad hips is not suitable for open dresses.

SR – Could the costumes be changed during the same competition?

NV – Yes, it is possible. Tamara Moskvina once even dressed a male skater in a costume from one program and the female – from another. I was very upset seeing this, but she explained that she looked around at the rink, saw what the people were wearing there and thought that in that particular instance it was better for the skaters. I thought about that and realized that as long as the costumes did not clash, it appeared that she found a new design beneficial for the skaters. And that was most important.


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