Well, I found the source of the stupid 'ladies wear dresses' rule in figure skating. Unsurprisingly, it was Katarina Witt. Witt, who skated for East Germany when there still was an East Germany, was and is rather infamous; I'm not entirely sure I like her as a person, as her media image is so aggressively temptress-shark that it's difficult to tell what she might be like when she's at home, but she is definitely very strong-willed and disinclined to take any shit from anybody, which I do respect.

Apparently what happened was that the international figure skating people had some general rules about not being naked on the ice, and the general sexist environment of the planet Earth took care of the rest. Until 1988. In 1988 -- the year before the Wall fell, so there was still an East Germany and it was run by the Stasi -- Katarina Witt decided that one of her Olympic programs was going to be set to a medley of classic Broadway show tunes. Witt has always been a very flashy skater, particularly a competitive jumper, and very much Liked Getting Attention, so her costuming was always designed to be very eye-catching and emphasize all the whirling around.

She showed up to the short program costumed like this. Some reports indicate she showed up an earlier competition in less than that, and that there were frowny faces all over the place until they stitched a billion feathers onto the back of that thing. Basically, the officials forgot to tell her she wasn't allowed to skate dressed like a Vegas whore, so she did, and then everybody clutched their pearls so hard it actually made the news.

Now, I would like to point out that this costume is not actually all that revealing. It has sleeves. The pretend-neckline -- it's really illusion netting up to the rhinestone "necklace", which is pretty modest -- doesn't particularly look like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen, and she's wearing high-denier tights under it. She is, in fact, covered neck-to-skate-boot, and all the way out to the wrists. But apparently the illusion that she was a grown-up showgirl with legs and boobs and all that was horrifying to people who wanted the image of figure skating to stay squeaky-clean, and there was a big scramble to lay out, in great detail, what the ladies were allowed to wear on the ice.

Sensible people, if they were worried about someone accidentally flashing on camera, would have just gone, "Okay, fun's over, everybody wears sleeves and stirrup pants now." And that, while probably annoying, would have at least been functional and fair. The reason you don't see the women competing in the unitard designs favored by some of the men -- or, God forbid, trousers -- is because this is still officially forbidden by the rules. What the skating people did was sit down and legislate, in great detail, what exactly they thought a lady should look like on the ice, and then decide how many points they were going to take away for women who didn't conform. You had to look mostly-naked, but not too mostly-naked, and there had to be a skirt on it so you could pretend you didn't mean to be mostly-naked but whoops I have to do a lot of spins now, and a lot of incredibly stupid, petty, sexist, controlling bullshit that I really have to stop looking up now because it's making me grind my teeth.

The men sometimes get similar flak for their costumes, although for nominally different idiot reasons. One of the kabillion reasons the USFSA kind of hates Johnny Weir is that the style of costume he favors -- a zentai catsuit with embellishments -- is most associated with Russian competitors, who have a long tradition of male ballet dancers behind them and dress their skaters accordingly. Good old-fashioned red-blooded patriotic American men were supposed to wear tuxedo pants, which he evidently thinks are boring. Other male skaters have gotten complaints for looking generally froofy and "gay", which is apparently a bad thing. I'm always torn between retorting, "So?" and "...are you not paying attention to these people?"

Katarina Witt, by the way, was eventually caught and appropriately punished for her audacity by karma, when she turned pro and, uh, made a shitton of money, headlining on tours for two solid decades. And posed for Playboy, selling out the entire print run of her issue for only the second time ever in the history of the publication. And developed a minor acting career. Yeah.

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