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Donovan doles out Skate America fashion hardware

Wagner, Rippon earn major style points for bold wardrobe choices
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Adam Rippon was one of many skaters to receive high marks from Sam Donovan based on wardrobe selection at Skate America. -Getty Images

Sam Donovan was a contestant on the Lifetime series Project Runway: Under the Gunn as well as Project Runway All Stars. He is a lifelong figure skating fan and says that Tara Lipinski's little blue dress at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, was one of the biggest reasons he got into fashion.

2016 Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, showcased another dominant performance by a slew of American skaters. It was also a display of how detalied, charismatic and powerful costume selections are for each and every figure skater.

With that being said, here are my selections for the 2016 Skate America fashion podium.


Gold: Ashley Wagner (SP)

I generally try to avoid hyperbole, but Ashley Wagner may be the most stylish figure skater of all time. After breaking with the mainstream idea of what constitutes a figure skater (delicate, airy), Wagner has seemingly settled comfortably into her role as the tough-as-nails underdog that will take you down -- with her wardrobe consistently matching her attitude.

The gorgeous Balmain-looking creation could walk a Paris runway just as easily as perform on the ice. And her routine at Skate America, which was gorgeously skated to the music of the Eurythmics, makes her that much cooler. The deep, luscious navy outfit complemented her seemingly darker hair with aplomb, and the rhinestones looked more like spikes, supplementing her punk rock-esque look. What Wagner truly does better than any figure skater right now is display a consistent attitude, and her minute swivel moments before planting herself at the start of her choreography is evidence of that. 

The message in short? Don't mess with Ashley Wagner.

Silver: Mao Asada (SP)

While Mao Asada may not have taken a medal at Skate America, her dark fashion sense will always be gold to me -- or silver, in this case. Yes, this has been done before, even at this event by one Gracie Gold, but there's a fatalistic romanticism to how Asada carries herself on the ice that breathes life into her stylish choices. She, like Wagner, understands the element of performance and storytelling in figure skating. The illusion of her gloves and bodice creeping into her skin, while her shredded skirt seemingly fades into nothing, helps create the look of a shadow fluttering about the ice. It's a striking, if subtle, effect.

Bronze: Mariah Bell (SP)

Mariah Bell looks like she was selected after hours of intensive search from central casting to play a figure skating princess in a Disney movie, so thank goodness she chose an "I'm coming for you" anthem in the form of "Roxy Heart" to put Ashley Wagner on her toes. While she couldn't quite overcome Wagner's lead in the short program, her tongue-in-cheek '20's look did manage to unseat Ashley's decidedly good ombré of a free skate dress to earn a bronze-medal position on my podium. But, in good narrative form, the stage is certainly set for this new U.S. ladies rivalry to dazzle us. Certainly, these ladies will be reaching for the gun.


Gold: Shoma Uno (FS)

Perhaps the most realized look of the night on the men's side, Shoma Uno lived up to his name, grabbing the top spot of this sartorial podium following his gold-medal performance at Skate America. Dressed as the devil coming to drag the witch formerly known as Adam Rippon to the underworld, Uno's tuxedo-esque bodysuit gleamed with sinister scarlet sequins. With a name like Uno, I expect he'll be topping the podium quite often.

Side note: I adore his hair, which makes him look as much a puppy as his costume makes him look like a flamenco dancing demon.

Silver: Adam Rippon (SP & FS)

Don't get me wrong, Adam may have been docked a few points simply for not living up to the ridiculousness of his gorgeous "I'm a witch and you can't kill me" costume last year. However, his ethereal "Birds" costume worked beautifully with his Benji Schwimmer-choreographed piece, and he looked like Ashley Wagner's fellow 90's-circuit-party-raving GBF in his short program, which is what I imagine he's like in real life. Whatever narrative mind-meld is occurring on team USA is certainly winning, at least from a stylistic point of view. 

Bronze: Boyang Jin (SP)

What's black and white and fierce all over? Boyang Jin graphic deviation from the generally bland field of men's wear in professional figure skating.

I mean, seriously. Rippon let me down from his 'Sgt. Pepper' fantasy stripper from a year ago, but by comparison, Jin could just have easily been competing on RuPaul's Drag Race at Skate America. Was this particularly memorable? No. Was it easily the most "different" looking costume, when most of the boys seemingly forgot to pick up their competition from the cleaners on time? You betcha. Still, it was probably a little too store-bought for an international competition.


Gold: Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres (SP)

Apparently there was some kind of awakening in the force over on the dark side -- also known as pairs figure skating -- because these guys BROUGHT IT. It started with a "Oh wow, they both look pretty good" at Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran, to a literal gasp when these two came out. That's not to say the improvement was unilateral, but this time around, it really was difficult to narrow the podium down to just three looks. Among the field, however, Vanessa and Morgan cleared it with ease, due to their runway-chic vibe.

Both Vanessa and Morgan could have walked off a Versace runway, strapped on some skates, and I wouldn't have batted an eye. There's a sexiness in their looks that correlated with their energetic performance, which really struck a chord. 

Silver: Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov (SP)

These sparkly, effervescent short program outfits shined like the optimism a gold medal-winning pairs couple is supposed to embody. If only they knew that the silver coloring would have been so sadly ironic, because they didn't even manage that.

Bronze: Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov (FS)

God bless Russian extravagance and it's never-ending gifts to the world. I never knew how badly I needed to see what a Steampunk Barbie/ballerina couple vogueing to emo pop looked like until these two, and I thank them for it.


Gold: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (SD)

Maia Shibutani is a skating goddess in pants. That is all.

Silver: Yura Min & Alexander Gamelin (SD)

A tear-away reveal will always be the way to my heart, and Roxxy Andrews better watch out. From a fashion perspective, I was ready to put these two in the top three already, but when the snaps started popping to reveal the Technicolor-dream leotards within, I was sold.

Bronze: Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (FD)

Most skaters save their cutesy or riskier looks for the short program, likely because they're trying to have a "moment" with the judges to sway some artistic points their way -- or to just avoid shock costume failure deductions -- so I'm always pleased when skaters make a less-than-typical choice for the free skate. This is lovely and cute, and a breath of fresh air.