PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A day after the second costume malfunction of the Winter Olympics exposed the breast of a French figure skater, the costume designers were feeling a little exposed, too.
“The first thing that everybody says is, ‘Crap, I’m glad that’s my not my dress,’ ” Pat Pearsall, who designs and makes dresses for U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday. “But then you definitely feel badly for the skater, and then right after that you feel badly for the costumer designer.
“There’s definitely going to be some discussions, animated discussions about it.’’
The talk was animated Tuesday in the world of figure skating costume design when USA TODAY Sports reached out to known designers. Collective dismay surfaced Feb. 10, when the dress worn by South Korean’s Yura Min slipped just seconds into her routine at the team event. Though she competed her routine without unintended body part exposure, more embarrassment followed this week.
On Monday, the halter top worn by ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis unfastened at the beginning of the routine and later appeared to reveal the lower part of her breast.
Pearsall attributed the malfunctions to possible inexperience by the costume design makers while noting that both garments were halter tops that require specific closures.
“The only thing that keeps that halter dress up is that neck,’’ she said. “Those hooks, whatever that closure is at the back of the neck, is the only thing that keeps the entire dress up.
“Now, in a case like that, when I make a halter dress, you must have a redundant system of closures back there. I mean, you just do. I usually do buttons and loops, and then I do hooks and bars, and then I do like little hooks and other small bars. but you must have a redundant system. And if you don’t, things like this will happen. If one system fails, you want the next system to catch.‘’
Lisa McKinnon, who has provided costumes for U.S. pair Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim and several other figure skaters, pointed out that an attempt had been made to fix Papadakis’ dress right before she performed.
“I really don’t understand why it wasn’t fixed properly there,’’ she said. “You only need like a couple of more seconds maybe with that needle and thread and it would be fine. I would think they would know what they were doing.’’
Echoing the need for sturdy closures on halter tops, McKinnon also pointed out that the delicate-looking costumes belie the physical nature of competitions.
“Sometimes the costumes just get pulled so hard that you have to really take care of the materials that you’re using and how it’s put together,’’ she said. “One hook is not going to do it.’’
Del Arbour, a costume designer who has worked with many Olympians, expressed no need for an investigation to determine what went wrong with the costume design.
“I think it’s a situation where they don’t check and make sure that it’s not going to happen,’’ Arbour said. “It was very upsetting.’’
But Suzy Hubbs, an experienced costume designer in Colorado Springs, Colo., suggested the nature of the sport creates risk for the so-called malfunctions.
Said Hubbs: “I know frequently after competition, a skater will come back and say, ‘Hey, this snap popped off. Can you fix it?' Or, ‘This tore a little bit. Can you fix it?’
“There are tremendous forces acting on those fabrics and acting on those skaters’ bodies. That’s just a lot of force. There’s no easy answer.’’
Maybe so. But McKinnon called it “unbelievable’’ to have seen two costume malfunctions in figure skating at a single Olympics, with Pearsall adding, “I don’t think I’ve heard of this many, and let’s hope they’re aren’t anymore.’’