Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Costume Conundrum!

Disclaimer: I find all Parties in the following post to be perfectly likable, agreeable people. This post reflects my opinion on the given issue, and should not be construed into any negative opinion of anyone.

My lack of posting lately is not for lack of content. Between competition prep, finding a new and sane mom to talk to, and the gathering forces of Winter Show approaching, I have lots to think about.

But it's touchy. People are at odds with each other and I am loathe to take sides. Coaches are complaining that they are being accused of favoritism, parents are complaining that the rehearsal schedule is being switched around, and kids are being kids.

In the Costume Room, there is a particular heated debate going on over the nature of Winter Show, and how that affects the costuming of the skaters.

Last year, I noted that most of the soloist costumes were the same, which made sense to me. The ones that didn't have a similar costume to the soloist in the same role the previous night, I figured that there was not a costume of that type in her size, so the costumers were making do.

I was only half right.

Costumer A comes to me and says that Moms and Daughters are being overly picky about the costumes being assigned to them. Costumer A says that "This is the role, and this is the dress for that role."

Costumer B says, "If you don't like the dress, feel free to choose something else. We want you to have a good show experience here!"

I stand with Costumer A, and here's why:

Spring Show and Exhibition are a series of fun skating numbers strung together. In a show of this kind, sure, feel free to wear whatever looks good on you. That's fine. You're not telling a larger story, you're not performing with others, you're just you. Please, by all means, look as good as you can.

Winter Show, however, is telling a story. Specific characters are supposed to do specific things and look a specific way to further the story. Remember the "performer" bit, where everything you do adds to or detracts from the Performance? Yeah, that applies to what you're wearing, too. If you're a Housemaid, then maybe you aren't supposed to be cute and frilly. You're cleaning the stupid house. Only women in Pledge commercials look cute and frilly while housecleaning. Real people look a bit dowdy. Now, of course a "dowdy" outfit at a skating rink will be all black sequins with silver trim, so take that with a grain of salt. If our ingenue showed up one night in heavy purple eyeshadow, false eyelashes, overdone rouge and fire engine lipstick, (because she thought she looked good in it,) that would be completely inappropriate for the "Young Child" role she was playing.

But Moms and Daughters are coming back with their assigned Winter Show outfits, complaining that they don't like them and would like to choose something else. This has Costumer A in fits, Costumer B scurrying to the racks to find something "suitable," and my fellow Skating Mom and I in hysterics. (She's new, too, and also a Theatre Person.)

Our resolution?

We will be patiently explaining to Moms and Daughters that this is the outfit for the role. You wear it or don't. And when we say "don't," that means you can forfeit your solo to one of the dozens of eager little girls who would be happy to have it (and the dress.) They're right outside, I can go get one of them now.
In a Real World situation, a skater in a professional ice show is going to have no say at all in what she wears. ("You're in the giant Nemo head," sparked some rather lively laughter.) An actor in a play has very little say about what they will be wearing. I don't know about competitive skaters, but I would imagine the same holds true for them: They may get some say, but the final decision rests with someone else. (Any Pro Skater stopping by, please fill us in!)

Kids, this is all part of being a Professional. A Professional doesn't waste time whining about their costumes. They put them on, play their part, and years down the road they will laugh with their friends, "You wouldn't beleeeeive the crazy thing I wore for that show!"

But what do you think, Readers? Do you think an Ice Show that tells a story like a play should allow the skaters to dress themselves? Or should we keep wardrobe in the hands of those who are seeing the larger picture and not just individuals? Take the poll in the sidebar!


  1. Wardrobe is wardrobe. If you're assigned a role as a shrub in the christmas play, you don't get to dress up as Mary just because you look good in blue.

    I'm on your side.

    PS. The only play I was ever in, I got to play a schoolgirl who attempts a murder at the end. The 'star' kept missing her cues so I had to improvise dialog until someone kicked the pretty girl in the butt to get her on stage. It must be in the water they serve at the rinks. Costume never came up.

  2. Hmmmm... for some reason the poll isn't letting me vote.

    Anyway, I have to agree with your assessment of the situation. If the rink is providing the costumes then I don't think the skaters should really have any say in what they are wearing. This goes double in group numbers where the skaters are expected to be in matching costumes.

    Now, granted, I do think there could be a few exceptions:

    (1) You can't get a costume to fit. You do what you can, maybe find someone to sew something similar enough for it to match the group.

    (2) For solo roles only - Let the skater provide their own costume if is suitable for their role. This stems mostly from frugality and the fact that I know a lot of skaters who don't need to buy another "Sugar Plum Fairy" costume, as they have a closet full of white chiffon and sequins. Of course, they should ask for approval from the costume committee or whoever is in charge, to make sure it goes with the rest of the show, but if it means buying one less costume then money saved is a good thing in my book. Of course, this should be brought up as soon as possible so everyone is on the same page and should NOT become an issue of not liking a costume after is has been dealt out. Costume committee/director have final veto powers, and what they say goes. (I can see how this could create conflicts with the "why is she special?" issue. Simple answer: she is special because she has a solo and you don't. Now go practice and leave me alone. If you spent your time skating and not whining maybe you would have a solo too...)

    (3) You have a superstar skater in your show. Probably not really an issue for most practical purposes, but if you have one make them happy and let them choose their costume. If they are a featured big-name skater, they probably have some solo routine and not a "part" in the production anyway, and they are probably capable of choosing something appropriate.

    I suppose my exceptions are mostly because when my rink did holiday shows they were pretty much zero budget and everyone provided their own stuff - skaters swapped costumes, kids made their own props, and most of the solo routines were performed by national and world champions. Of course, we didn't have an overall story either, which would definitely change my view on things.

    And, actually I think it can be a big mistake to reveal your costume choices early. For example, at new rink, they want to have a precision team. They want the costumes to look like masks. Complete with eye patches. On the boobs. That pretty much killed any hope of having a senior team right there, because nobody over the age of 10 wants eye patches on the boobs.

    Anyway, despite my ramble about free choice and all of that, really I do think that the skaters shouldn't be choosing costumes for shows or group numbers. The director and costume committee have a much better idea of how the show should look as a whole and so they should be the ones making final decisions. And you're right - if we as skaters don't want to wear giant patches on our boobs we don't have to skate. And we won't.

  3. Also, as a clarification - by soloist I mean someone who gets the full rink all to themselves, not a featured 30 seconds in a group number.

  4. Everyone who asks for a different costume should be offered another option - one that's truly hideous.

  5. My background is theater, so I am relatively new to the skating world. The notion that anyone has a say in what costume he/she wears in a theater-style show seems to me absurd. On the other hand, I suspect most skaters are used to choosing their own competition and exhibition dresses, etc, so they may simply need to be educated about the process. If they're just being divas? Give them the "you wear this costume, or I offer it--and the role--to someone who will" speech.

  6. Haha AMS-- that's exactly what I used to do. (I ran that costume room for 5 years).

    The problem at St. Lidwina's rink is that no one will definitively put Someone In Charge, so the costume room people have no one at their backs. They are at the mercy of the diva moms and spoiled princesses.

  7. I really appreciate how costume room volunteers manage to go thru various shapes, sizes, and um... personalities. Agree it's all about the larger story.

    Question: costume is provided by the rink, period. What about make up, hair style, and skater provided accessories? Are there guidelines whatsoever other than safety?

  8. So it seems our consensus is "wear what you're given!" I dont see what there is to complain about, very few of these outfits are awful.

    I think for hair and makeup, the boundaries are simply taste and safety. I have seen a lot of really overdone makeup on really small competitors, and it's just silly.

  9. Back in the Dinosaur Ages of the Winter Show (or at least 2 decades ago), there was no "choosing" your Winter Show costume. Skaters and their parents did not get to say "yes" or "no" to the dress chosen for a particular part.

    Itchy sequins in your armpits? Too bad.

    Crown that was falling off your head? Better staple that sucker down, because if it falls off, it means you didn't do a good enough job of securing it.

    It's ugly! Well so are you when you make that face.

    Half the reason people lose it in the small, cluttered costume room over Winter Show is because too many options are given to skaters and parents with not very much reason. 200+ skaters require costume fitting, usually with limited time and limited help. As much as we'd love figure skaters and [some] of their parents to be reasonable people, they cannot be held to that at times of show, therefore, other people (costumers) need to (and should be able to) decide for them.

    Sorry, Prince. As much as it seems like those Adidas pants & grungy t-shirt are an appropriate choice for a dashing wooden toy-turned Prince Charming of the Winter Season, I think the costumers have a much better idea of black slacks and a nice top with some sparkle to whisk away Princess Who is Having the Most Insane Dream of her life.

  10. P.S. - I sympathize with the costume volunteers...