When making a figure skaters dress, it is important to note that the costume is a key memory of the performance, it will be shown on every photograph, live TV and online recording of the routine. Aesthetically it will sync with the choreography and music track for a striking balance.  The skater brings the dress to life and the rink spotlights dazzle spectators’ eyes with the sown in crystals and sequins. 

However, where do these ice skating dresses/outfits come from, who decides on the colour tones, how much time goes into the design concept and production?  We interviewed Artisti Serventi Ltd, Bulgaria based, who serve the CEE and Russian markets primarily.  To view updates on their gorgeous costume designs, check out their Facebook page here.

artists table where they design figure skaters outfits

Artisti Serventi designs and manufactures dresses for different types of sports, with a strong focus for competitive Figure Skating.  They are well versed in the rules in competitive figure skating, for example, 1) you have to wear a skirt which covers the hips and butt and not just a leotard, this upkeeps the excessive nudity discipline rule (1988 Katarina Rule), 2) Skin toned panels must be used if the skater wants to show simulated skin around the back, but not too excessive or, 3) 50% of the skater’s body must be covered by the fabric.  Having an outfit which appeases the judges, not just technical skill is very important.  The integrity of the dress must hold during the performance, if anything falls away on the ice there will be a points deduction for the skater.

To produce these outfits our designers require dedication to dance and ice skating.  You need the love of design and apparel, but also prepared to accept many sleepless nights to meet deadlines. To get to where our company is, it took more than five years of hard work to establish our quality service.  Personally speaking, this included the deprivation of a good life balance and many difficult times. Of course, the difficulties are not over, but we are constantly looking forward and taking on new challenges. Let’s introduce you to the process of making figure skating dresses and the steps we need to go through.

Starting the Process to Make a Figure Skaters Costume  

How do you start the design for making a figure skaters costume? It all starts with a brief from a client who wants to trust us with a design.  We are open to receiving requests from the athlete or parent as well as the coach. In our experience though, we have found its better to discuss the order with the coach to avoid mistakes. They know exactly what the costume requirements are.

Communication is important, we must understand exactly what they need. We don’t presume anything or decide any options for them, they must buy into the design process from the start.  Our team shares our portfolio and details who we have successfully made outfits for, alongside client testimonials.

The designer will pursue all information to imagine the costume to every minor detail.  For example – what are the requirements from the performer, parents or coach?  What colour preferences, what music will be played, can we listen to it, how fast will the dance be, are there a lot of stretches or lifts?

There are clients who have design ideas of their own, who know what they want. They make their own sketches or design. Of course, that makes it easier for us to make a figure skaters dress. However, there are many customers who are confused and need direction.  In this case, extra patience is required. 

Although the skating rules are universal, we also design Dance dresses and their rules may differ from country to country. You see different dress code rules at different levels at which the athlete competes. An example of this revolves around the showing of skin. The bare part is no longer suitable for young children and we advocate protecting their innocence.  On all social media posts we also modestly hide their faces when showcasing the costume. For everyone else, we usually work to 50% coverage over the body for Figure Skating costumes.

Some coaches want the costume to be lined, others have a particular wish on the length of the skirt. There is never a one-stop shop when it comes to purchasing an ice skating costume.  The creation of these outfits is an art and there are many variables. 

Sketch Designs to make a Figure Skaters Dress

Based on all the information we have received from the client, our team gathers and discusses the options. In some cases we have a suitable model or cut already made. If not appropriate, it’s our designer’s job to draw a sketch of a new model according to the client’s requirements. Of course, it takes some time to think through the information, listen to the music repeatedly, consult with the team members until they reach the drawing stage. 

We use chemical coloured pencils to make the figure skating dress drawing beautiful.

In some cases, the client is happy 1st time, but we are happy to make amends. We make changes or completely re-draw the figure skater dress concept. Sometimes we add new designs to current figure skating costumes, this is an easier process.   

At this stage, once we know all the components to be added to the dress,  we can determine the final price. To get started we require a 50% deposit. The remaining amount and the shipping amount are paid when the costume/dress is ready. To be sure of their money, we provide our customers with two payment methods – Paypal and company bank account. It’s at this stage the project cost is agreed for us to confidently move forward to the mockup stage. 

How to measure for a figure skaters costume?

Our next process begins with the development of a critical path or work plan, and the steps are to be strictly followed. First, we create a template based on the actual size of the performer’s body, which is matched to the sizes provided by the client. It is important to note that exact measurements are vital because inaccuracy leads to huge consequences in amending the design.  We don’t always have the ice skater available for measurements, so it’s the client’s responsibility.

Notes of Alterations to a skaters template size
Body Template for Initial Dress Sizing
anatomical dimensions sheet for skaters dress body sizing

To make a figure skaters dress fit perfectly on the athlete’s body, accurate anatomical dimensions are required. We have had cases where clients do not meet our requirements and as a result, the ice skating costume does not fit properly. The most common mistake is for them to measure a larger size in order to use the dress longer. In this case, the costume does not fit to the body but hangs and is not fit for competition. Of course, the repair is possible, but it’s an additional cost to the project.

In most cases, our customers use dresses for at least two seasons but do sometimes stretch to three or four seasons. This depends on how it is used i.e practice wear, stored and washed.

We suggest to every client that if they want us to make the costume a little bigger, then we must know upfront.  We know how to style, cut and sew the dress accordingly so the result is good. Keep in mind that even a few wrong centimeters in an area can lead to poor results. See the pictures below.

What materials are used to make an ice skating dress?

We mainly opt for a material that can stretch in both directions, Lycra.  There are various manufacturers of Lycra from all over the world, with perhaps the highest quality from Italy.   

We prefer elastic materials because the dresses are made for clients who are not local to us.  When worn for the 1st time these costumes must fit.  Perhaps if the client is with us, it would be possible to use other types of materials, making adjustments when necessary. 

Velvet is soft and smooth, but it is difficult to stretch in all directions, we don’t use it. This creates risks for the quality of the outfit. The second reason is that this material cannot be painted. Our business skill set is hand-drawn designs from our artists, velvet does not work.

Other add on materials you will find when making a figure skaters dress are Chiffon & Mesh.

How is the ice skating dress / costume actually made?

Once the body template is ready, the necessary details are cut out from the material we have prepared. This is followed by sewing, painting, baking at high temperature, sewing crystals, sewing again, more crystals, etc. This is where our hand made skills come in, but also the long hours.

– Sewing – First we sew the main pieces of fabric. They may be coloured or white depending on the model.

– Drawing – This way the sewn pieces are placed on canvases so that they can stretch as much as possible so that our artist can draw seamlessly. Special textile dyes from famous manufacturers are used.

– Baking at high temperature –  Once the drawing is ready, we fix the paint using high temperatures. This ensures the costume paint will not be damaged during the subsequent washing. We can use an iron in small areas, but we use a special in house press mainly for this purpose.

figure skater dress being hot pressed
Dress being pressed under heat

Decorating the Skaters Outfit With Crystals

The below dress layout was shown as a sketch further up the article, look how amazingly it has progressed.

Ice skaters dress on lycra fabric with crystals being stitched in.

There are many opportunities here. The variety of crystals is great with variables sizes, colours and quality. There are three types of crystals according to their attachment. Hot Fix Crystals, Cold Fix Crystals and Sewing Crystals:

Figures skaters dress design using crystals

Hot Fix Crystals – These type of crystals have a factory-fitted adhesive on their back. In this case, an iron or a special retainer is used.

Crystals for Cold Fixation – As you can guess, these crystals do not have pre-installed adhesive on their back. An instant glue is used to secure them.

Despite the differences in the two models of crystals, in both cases it takes the use of tweezers and a lot of work to put each crystal in the right place. But its where the figure skaters dress comes to life.

Sewing Crystals – These crystals are larger and have small holes made in their production. They are secured with a needle for sewing and thread.

How much does an Ice Skating Costume Cost?

The price of the ice skating costume is directly dependent on the quality of the crystals. Therefore the type of crystals we use is determined by the customer. The highest quality crystals are “Swarovski”, but of course the most expensive. This manufacturer also has a cheaper series called “Stellux”. We have other manufactures in the Czech Republic, South Korea, and China. 

How do you keep your customers updated?

The process is not short and easy. Throughout this intricate process, we are in constant contact with the customer who receives photos for each stage of the production of costume/dress. If questions arise, we specify exactly what can be amended or do our best to show why we recommend certain design alterations.  

During this process, the client may make changes. Once the outfit is ready, we re-check all measurements to make sure we have not made a mistake. Photos are taken and sent to the client, upon approval we then make the necessary arrangements to send the costume to them.  

How are Ice Skating Costumes dispatched?

The costume/dress is wrapped in a protective foil with air bubbles. This is to protect the product and prevent the crystals from scratching. It is then packed in a box and packaged by our logistics company. There are several ways of delivery depending on the urgency of the order and the security of delivery. The parcel can be shipped via regular mail or the UPS, with the delivery time being 2 to 14 days depending on what the customer chooses. Each customer receives a tracking number.

Stages of an Ice Skating Dress in the making

And when the dresses arrive for the new figure skaters of the future, they prove their worth. Could these little stars be our next champions? Read our other article on the 4 best ice skaters in the world, if you are reading this, one day this could be you!

So how do you make a Figure Skaters Dress? Get the professionals in. They will have a real interest in figure skating, with a devotion to design and apparel. A dressmaker knows how the costume should move with the body and allows it to stretch whilst maintaining the design. They have the persistence to see the project through with constant sewing, stitching, baking and if you want crystals applying… send them a box of chocolates! 🙂

A designer who will make a figure skaters dress

Skate Perfect says thank you to Svetla (picture), manger of Artisti Serventi for their contribution to this article and especially their beautiful visuals.

If you wish to follow their progress or place your own order for a costume/dress, please follow them here on FaceBook

Hand-painted leotards for RG,acrobatics,baton twirling,ice skating etc.

We have some other photos from Dancing on Ice, a UK TVC show, featuring Heather Mills and her ice skating partner. Again here outfits are designed with flexibility in mind for their dance routine. You can find a link to this article – how to Ice Skate with a prosthetic leg.