Figure Skating: Failing Gender Equality in Fashion

By Gabby Teachey and Gauri Nair

Throughout history there have always been divisions between men and women, and the dress code in figure skating did not skew from these societal norms. Despite the lack of restrictions regarding the costumes of male competitors, females had to follow a number of rules and regulations to make sure their ensemble was what the judges deemed “appropriate”. 

Up until 2003, female competitors had to wear “a skirt covering hips and posterior” if they wanted to avoid losing points for immodesty. If the referee and judging panel agree, they can deduct points for costumes they deem hazardous or too revealing for the competition. Costumes must be “modest, dignified, and appropriate for athletic competition” and the code rules out those which are “garish,” “theatrical,” or gives “the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for the discipline.” 

There are a lot of preconceived notions about the differences in apparel between the genders. Sophomore Dana Landry said, “Well, men tend to be able to wear whatever they want but there’s more regulations on women’s costumes just cause they’ve been more sexualized over the years. And the fact that they have to have less revealing outfits is kind of demeaning because you’re only looking at the woman as an object.” 


The history of looking at women objectively in sports is not a new idea: for decades and even centuries women proving they can do anything men can do has been looked down upon and been ridiculed. Rather than praising women for their skills or athletic ability in sports, people praise women for things they deem more feminine such as their body, grace, attractiveness, etc. 

There’s no doubt the rules surrounding female costumes are unfairly biased. As Junior Autumn Wall stated, “I feel like the rule about the referee or judge panel deducting points for costumes they think are too revealing is just unnecessary because it’s subjective and just one person’s thought process. If they want to do that, they have to have standard rules.” The rules are subjective, with no real, set standards that tell an athlete what’s considered too revealing and what’s not.

Despite unfair rules and regulations in place, figure skating costumes have no doubt taken a drastic change since the event’s Olympic debut in 1924. According to Junior and figure skater Tracy Ly, “Now, the fabrics are thinner and more flexible and cover less in the body, making it easier to skate in. They are also way more complex now so there’s more designs and materials being used. Back then it was pretty plain.” Junior Autumn Wall agreed, adding, “The old ones look really boring.” 

Throughout every change to the rules, regulations, and overall styles, it’s clear that discrimination between men and women in athletics is something that has been around for centuries and is still having an effect on athletes today.