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Figure Skating Fashion Through The Years

Figure skating costumes have long been the source of both admiration and ridicule. Many consider the frills and sequins to detract from the athletic aspects of the sport. Others say some of the more elegant costumes add to the artistic impact of skating at its most beautiful.

Over the years, skating outfits have changed considerably, particularly for women. Sonja Henie, who won figure skating gold for Norway in 1928, 1932 and 1936, was the first to wear a "short" skirt; raising hers from ankle to knee length to make it easier to perform jumps.

But after things went a bit too far — in 1988 Germany's Katarina Witt famously fell out of the front of her low-cut costume during a spin, while France's Surya Bonaly liked to compete in one-piece unitards — the International Skating Union stepped in with some guidelines.

Today, according to the ISU, figure skating's governing body, "Ladies must wear a skirt. The Ladies dress must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport. Men must wear full-length trousers: no tights are allowed and the man's costume may not be sleeveless." Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

Julie is a correspondent for NPR's science desk.
Slideshow produced by May-Ying Lam.

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