For the second time at the Pyeongchang Olympics, a wardrobe malfunction threatened the routine of a pair of ice dancers. Much to everyone's surprise, France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron skated through the problem and still placed second in the short program. When you think about it, it's probably more surprising this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time.
According to several reports, there was at least one instance where the dress slipped enough to expose Papadakis' breast — something NBC managed to obscure by blurring the entire image in the video replay. While it must have been rattling to both skaters, to the untrained eye, it looks like nothing happened.
"It was kind of my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics," Papadakis said in a press conference after her the halter of her dress came undone at the beginning of the routine. "I told myself I didn't have the choice; I had to keep going, and that's what we did, and I think we can be proud of ourselves, too."
Despite appearances to the contrary, these elite skaters aren't on the ice in flimsy little dresses. "The biggest reason for costume failures is strictly an engineering issue, because people want so much of the costume cut away," costume designer Gail Johnson told Refinery29. "I try to convince people not to cut everything away because it isn't like the nude mesh is going to give them cancer. It's just more structural." That's why you see Johnson's client, U.S. Championship winner Bradie Tennell wearing a nude mesh neckline holding up her Cinderella-style blue costume during competition.
Johnson had nothing to do with Papadakis' costume, but she guesses that a plastic hook or snap may have broken. She would use a metal hook for that kind of closure, but that is still no guarantee against breakage or the chance that the skater's movement could simply undo the hook. Often it's up to the designers to remind their clients just how strong their outfits need to be.
"I think people are fooled by the nature of the costumes and the ease and the musicality and the choreography," Vera Wang told People. "It is an extreme sport.”
It takes about 120 hours to make a costume that can withstand all that jumping and spinning while also shimmering in the light like it was woven from dewdrops and unicorn hair. They run from $1500-3000, a cost that includes those pricey crystals. Once they've acquired these works of art, skaters usually make sure to test them out before something like the Olympics. Johnson said she instructs her clients to pull hard on their costumes weeks before their competitions. "Then I can fix it," she said. "If you wait for the last minute, there's nothing I can do about it."
"Skaters are trained to finish their program pretty much no matter what,” figure skating teacher Barbara DeLaney-Smith told The New York Times last week after something similar happened to Yura Min, the Korean American who is competing with partner Alexander Gamelin for South Korea.
Despite all of her advice and double checking, Johnson said one costume she made malfunctioned on an ice dancer in a competition because the dancer decided not to use an extra nude strap Johnson added for security. "When her [other] strap popped open, it was bad, because she was losing the front of her dress," Johnson recalled.
Reject that extra mesh at your own peril, ice dancers.
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