The Inside Edge: Crystals, suspenders, birthdays

Grand Prix Final competitors prove fashionable in Quebec City

Italian Carolina Kostner's self-designed unitard was all the rage at the Grand Prix Final.
Italian Carolina Kostner's self-designed unitard was all the rage at the Grand Prix Final. (Getty Images)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(12/16/2011) - We were glued to the Grand Prix Final, senior and junior, last week. We're very happy for all the medalists, particularly those from the U.S. team: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Jason Brown, Josh Farris, Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer.

Fashion ins and outs
We were a bit too busy to talk about the on-ice fashion earlier in the Grand Prix season, but we have several favorites from the season so far:

Akiko Suzuki brought us three great dresses. We liked her short program dress, with black appliqué pieces outlined in stones. She changed her soft, watery ruffled pale blue/lilac free skate dress for a snappy fuschia number in the Final.

Kiira Korpi was breathtaking as always, in a ruched, pale lemon short program dress and a red-carpet-worthy, star-spangled, black free skate dress, with looping diamante straps.

True to her Italian heritage, Carolina Kostner has brought high fashion to the ice for years. This year, she designed all of her own costumes. We really loved the spectacular navy long program dress she wore at the Grand Prix, with its beaded Klimt-like pattern. But Kostner saved the knockout look for last, appearing in a silver ombré unitard at the Final. According to her website, the outfit is encrusted with over a million Swarovski crystals.

Our most-improved award goes to Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov for beautiful costumes and a new, very becoming hairstyle on Kavaguti.

It's nice to see Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig in elegant costumes that match their exciting programs, especially the exquisite burgundy Daphnis and Chloe outfits.

As for the dance competition, there are almost too many gorgeous costumes to talk about. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir: stunning. Davis and White: stunning, and you know how much we love White in formal wear. We'd like to see Kaitlyn Weaver and Florent Amodio do a little duet in their tiger costumes.

Two favorites among the men: Daisuke Takahashi's short program outfit, black velvet with a spangly loose tulle top, and Adam Rippon's long program costume, almost nude, again with the ruched spangled tulle that's showing up everywhere this season. We loved the "scarf" with gold metallic accents that Takahashi added to his costume for the Final.

Have you ever seen so many suspenders? Jeremy Abbott, Samuel Contesti, Javier Fernandez and Tomas Verner are all sporting the vintage look. We give the "Battle of the Suspenders" win to Abbott, whose costume has great details and really makes sense with the program.

Verner wriggled out of his suspenders late in the program, but the costume change award was destined for Konstantin Menshov, until he failed to stick the landing of the Velcro at the end. At the NHK Trophy, after starting his program in suit-like black, he opened the lapel to reveal an alien bursting out of his stomach. It was too bad that the alien didn't go back in as scheduled, but the tentacle peeping out in the kiss-and-cry was priceless.

Happy Birthday
We talked to Brown, who turned 17 on Thursday, by phone the afternoon he got home from Quebec City. He said he is really happy to have won the junior men's event the first time he qualified for it, and that he was inspired to share the event with the senior finalists.

"It was overall an amazing event to be at," he said. "I've never been at an [international] event with seniors! To walk into the dining room and see them, and watch them practice, was so exciting. Being in Chicago, there's not that many [senior-level skaters], and to see it was unbelievable. I can't tell you how exciting it was to watch the Grand Prix this year, to see who it was going to be."

Going into the event, Brown said he had been training hard and listening to his body. Now that he's home, he's looking forward to the U.S. Championships next month.

"I've been staying positive and focused," he said. "I'm really hoping that this whole experience will keep pushing me and make me believe in myself even more. It was so inspiring to be there, I just hope it pushes me -- I'd love to have a triple Axel for nationals. It was really close when I was home."

Although the junior men's free skate followed the senior men's, Brown was able to watch almost all the seniors compete.

"Kori [Brown's coach, Kori Ade] said, 'Jason, you can't go all this way and not see any of the senior men.' I watched the short programs, and then I watched the last four free skates. It was unbelievable, back-to-back excitement. It was so cool to be there, and the fan base was amazing. It was pretty packed, and when Patrick Chan took the ice, it was crazy."

Brown, who has been quite the world traveler this year with competition trips to Australia and Italy, thought Quebec City was beautiful and very European.

"It was like an hour-and-45-minute trip to Europe," he said. "And everyone's so nice there. Everyone speaks French. They announced all the scores in French, which I liked because I didn't know what anyone got."

He doesn't speak French, then?

"Not at all. I know hello, bonjour, and I know merci."

Another birthday
Simpson and Blackmer also had a wonderful time in Quebec City.

"The city was beautiful," Blackmer told us. "Everything felt like you were in Europe, everyone spoke French. We were blown away by the beauty of it."

Blackmer said that even before he and Simpson heard their scores, they were extremely pleased with how they had skated.

"We were beyond excited to skate the way we did," he said. "To go out there and skate the way we've been training is always a great feeling. Our strength is our connection with each other. When we were waiting for our marks we were super happy. Britney had this big smile on her face because we had showed the judges that connection and skated our best. Of course, we were ecstatic when we saw that we'd gotten a medal."

"It was amazing," Simpson added. "It was really nice to go there and skate two personal-best programs. And after we were done, since we were the first event, it was so nice to go and watch the seniors and see the difference of how they take command of the ice. And the ice dance was such an amazing event."

Blackmer turned 20 the day after the competition ended and said that everyone at the closing banquet sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

"It was a perfect birthday," he said. "We got a medal, and there were great people there, and I have a great partner. Britney was beautiful. She wore a new black one-shouldered dress, and she looked so pretty!"

"The banquet was amazing," Simpson added. "It was so much fun."

Congratulations to Adam Blake, who won the Young Artists' Showcase choreography competition. Amanda Hofmann won the "Grassroots" junior division.

Sarah and Drew
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