Women’s figure skating is, hands down, one of the most visually stunning events to watch at the Olympics. Not only do the athletes put on an impressive display of grace and skill, they also dazzle us with their glittering costumes.
Glitter and crystals, however, weren’t always the norm in the world of figure skating. In fact, at the 1924 games in Chamonix, France, women wore full skirts with sweaters and hats that didn’t look much different from their everyday clothes (which makes sense, considering Olympic skating rinks used to be outdoors). In 1936, though, Norwegian skater Sonja Henie changed the game when she competed in a skirt with a comparatively short hemline. From then on, hemlines continued to go shorter.
In terms of decoration, most skating outfits were quite plain during the World War II era, as fabric shortages led skaters to favor simple silhouettes with less fabric and little embellishment, according to Insider. Through the ’50s and ’60s, women’s costumes were still quite basic and generally featured high necklines with flared skirts. By the ’70s, lower necklines were making their way onto the ice and embellishments also started gaining popularity.
Then the ’80s rolled around, and spandex, sparkles, chiffon, sequins and beads reigned supreme. One outfit, a feathered blue number worn by East Germany’s Katarina Witt at the 1988 Olympic games (pictured below), was deemed too scandalous by the International Skating Union. As a result, the ISU changed dress code rules and introduced “The Katarina Rule,” which stated that women’s hips, midriffs and buttocks had to be covered with a skirt, as noted by The Atlantic. That same year, American skater Debi Thomas made waves by wearing a full unitard for competition, which led to a ban on costumes without skirts.
In the 1990s, another trend that emerged was designer costumes. Skaters like Nancy Kerrigan and France’s Surya Bonaly skated in costumes designed by Vera Wang and Christian Lacroix, respectively.
The no-skirt ban was lifted in 2003, per The Boston Globe, and full leotards became acceptable; most recently, Mae Berenice Meite of France competed in Pyeongchang wearing a bedazzled unitard, while Russia’s Irina Slutskaya wore a sparkly one-piece at the 2006 Olympics.
These days, embellishments are still popular as ever and short skirts are still No. 1. Skaters also favor illusion mesh and backless designs that mirror dresses we see on runways and red carpets.
Click below to see the stunning evolution of women’s figure skating costumes through the years:
Evolution of women's figure skating costumes
Evolution of women's figure skating costumes
Figure skaters at the 1924 winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, 30th January 1924. Left to right: Herma Planck-Szabo of Hungary, Ethel Muckelt of Britain and Beatrix Loughran of the U.S.A. Planck-Szabo won gold, with Loughran and Muckelt taking silver and bronze respectively. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Eingeschrï¿½kte Rechte fï¿½r bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) *08.04.1912-12.10.1969+Sportlerin, Eiskunstlauf, Norwegenwï¿½rend der Olympischen Winterspiele in Chamonix- 1924 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Sonja Henie leaps during her figure skating routine at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. She is the defending gold medalist.
22nd February 1952: Jeanette Altwegg skates for photographers after winning a gold medal in the Women's Figure Skating Competition in the Winter Olympics at Oslo. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1/23/1956-Cortino D'Ampezzo, Italy- Lovely US figure skater Carol Heiss cuts a pretty caper on the ice in the Olympic rink at Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy. She'll match her skill with the world's best skaters in the upcoming winter Olympics.
American figure skater Tenley Albright practices along the ice prior to a competition at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
(Original Caption) Peggy Fleming, 20, who was World Figure Skating Champion three times and the only U.S. skater to win a Gold Medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics, cuts a pretty figure on the Rockefeller Plaza skating rink in New York April 10th. She makes her New York professional debut as a special guest star of Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies at Madison Square Garden from May 22nd through June 1st.
CANADA - APRIL 18: Ice sculptures: Simone Grigorescu; left; the Romanian skater who now lives in Denver; Colo; was leading the Labatt ProSkate after Saturday's short program but finished second after a strong performance by American Janet Lynn in the women's singles. Californian Peggy Fleming; centre; 1968 Olympic champion; skated in the non-competitive portion of the show. JoJo Starbuck; also of California; right; skated solo in exhibition. (Photo by David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Portrait of the three medal winners in Women's Figure Skating at the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, February 7, 1972. Pictured are gold medalist Austrian Beatrix Schuba (center), silver medalist Canadian Karin Manguessen (right), and bronze medalist American Janet Lynn (left). (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
INNSBRUCK, AUS - 1976: Dorothy Hamill skates on right skate with both arms posed above her head and left leg back during the Winter Olympics skating competition in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. Dorothy Hamill wins the gold medel for the USA in the Womes Figure skating competition. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Despite a sparkling performance in the free skating section of the women's Olympic figure championships, America's Linda Fratianne could not overcome the lead of East Germany's Annett Potzsch, and the gold medal went to Potzsch. Fratianne, performing here 2/23, got the silver.
Lake Placid, NY - 1980: (L-R) Dagmar Lurz, Anett Pï¿½tzsch skating at Winter Olympics medal ceremony. (Photo by Steve Fenn /ABC via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Frauen: Die Olympiadritte Dagmar Lurz(D) bei einer Pirouette- Februar 1980 (Photo by Schlage/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Kira Ivanova (USSR) Bronze medallist (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1984: Figure Skater Rosalynn Sumners of the United States competes in a figure skating competition circa 1984. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
SARAJEVO, YUGOSLAVIA - FEBRUARY 16: Katarina Witt (GDR) skates her short program during the Women's Singles figure skating competition of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia on February 16, 1984. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Tiffany Chin from the USA performs at the 1984 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 25: Katarina Witt of the German Democratic Republic skates in the Women's Singles event of the Figure Skating competition of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 1988 at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
CALGARY - CIRCA 1988: Figure Skater Elizabeth Manley of Canada competes in a figure skating competition in the XV Olympic Winter Games circa 1988 at the McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 25: Debi Thomas of the USA skates her Short Program of the Women's Singles event of the Figure Skating competition of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 1988 at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Thomas was the bronze medalist in the event. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 21: Kristi Yamaguchi of the United States competes in the Women's Singles event of the Figure Skating competition of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games held in Albertville, France on February 21, 1992. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 21: Japanese figure skater Midori Ito smiles at the end of the women's free program at the Winter Olympic Games 21 February 1992 in Albertville. Kristi Yamaguchi from the United States won the gold medal in front of Ito (silver) and Nancy Kerrigan (bronze) from the United States. (Photo credit should read JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP/Getty Images)
ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE: French figure skater Surya Bonaly performs her free program during the Winter Olympic Games 21 February 1992 in Albertville. Bonaly finished in fifth place. AFP PHOTO/ERIC FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
25 FEB 1994: NANCY KERRIGAN OF THE UNITED STATES IN ACTION IN THE FREE PROGRAM AT THE 1994 LILLEHAMMER WINTER OLYMPICS. KERRIGAN TAKES THE SILVER. Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill/ALLSPORT
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY - FEBRUARY 25: Tonya Harding of the USA competes in the Free Skate portion of the Women's Figure Skating competition of the 1994 Winter Olympics on February 25, 1994 at the Hamar Olympic Hall in Lillehammer, Norway. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
European Ice Figure Skating. Oksana Baiul, Ukraine (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS via Getty Images)
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY - FEBRUARY 25: Lu Chen of China competes in the Free Skate portion of the Women's Figure Skating singles competition of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 1994 at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre in Lillehammer, Norway. Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
NAGANO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 20: Tara Lipinski (USA) skates in the Free Skate event of the Ladies Singles figure skating competition of the 1998 Winter Olympics on February 20, 1998 in Nagano, Japan. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
US figure skater Michelle Kwan performs her free skate program in White Ring during the 1998 Winter Olympic games. (Photo by ï¿½ Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Russian Irina Slutskaya performs her women's free program at the Olympic Ice Center, 21 February 2002 during the XIXth Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Slutskaya won the silver medal. AFP PHOTO CRIS BOURONCLE / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Figure Skater Sarah Hughes of the United States reacts to the crowd
after performing her free skating program at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic
Winter Games, February 21, 2002. Hughes went into this event in fourth
place after the short program. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Michelle Kwan of the United States performs during the ladies
qualifying free skating program at the World Figure Skating
Championships in Nagano, central Japan, on March 20, 2002.
Shizuka Arakawa of Japan performs during the Figure Skating gala of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, February 24, 2006. REUTERS/David Gray
BOSTON - DECEMBER 10: Sasha Cohen performs her routine to 'God Bless America' during the Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge on December 10, 2006 at Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. Cohen won the event. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Irina Slutskaya from Russia finishes her women's short program during the Figure Skating competition at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, February 21, 2006.
TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 23: Carolina Kostner of Italy performs during the women's Free Skating program of figure skating during Day 13 of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 23, 2006 at Palavela in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Mao Asada of Japan performs during the women's free skate event at the World Figure Skating Championships in Turin March 27, 2010. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito (ITALY - Tags: SPORT FIGURE SKATING)
TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 27: Yu-Na Kim of Korea competes in the Ladies Free Skate during the 2010 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2010 at the Palevela in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 25: Joannie Rochette of Canada celebrates winning bronze in the Ladies Free Skating during the medal ceremony on day 14 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on February 25, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia performs in the ladies' short program figure skating at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Carolina Koster came back to ice rink after the controversy about complicity in doping by her former boyfriend and Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, in Turin, on December 21, 2014. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Korea's Yuna Kim competes during the Figure Skating Women's Short Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT FIGURE SKATING)
Natalia Popova of Ukraine compete in the Figure Skating Team Ice Dance Short Program during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Victor Fraile / Power Sport Images (Photo by Victor Fraile/Corbis via Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Mae Berenice Meite of France competes in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 29: Ashley Wagner of the USA competes in the Ladies Free Skating during ISU World Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena on March 29, 2014 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Gracie Gold of the U.S. competes during the figure skating women's free skating program at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT FIGURE SKATING)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Carolina Kostner of Italy competes in the Ladies Free Skating during the Figure Skating Team Event on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 12, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
France's Mae Berenice Meite competes in the women's single skating short program of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's Alina Zagitova competes in the women's single skating short program of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, Pyeongchang- FEBRUARY 11 - Mirai Nagasu of the United States celebrates after jumping a triple axel in her routine as she performs in the Ladies free skate in the team competition at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics Figure Skating competition at the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Gangneung in Pyeongchang in South Korea. February 11, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA FEBRUARY 11, 2018: Figure skater Choi Da-bin of South Korea performs during the ladies' short programme as part of the figure skating team event at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 21: Evgenia Medvedeva of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes during the Ladies Single Skating Short Program on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 21, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)