Fashion Flashback: The 10 Most Memorable Olympic Fashion Moments

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Every other year, sports fans the world over eagerly await the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Spectators are riveted to every aspect of the Games, from where the Olympic Games will be held to the athletes participating, and of course, how many medals their country takes home.

While the main focus is on the participants’ phenomenal athletic prowess, sometimes the outfits worn are just as memorable as the performances. Fashion Reverie enlisted some Olympic fan friends to help curate a list of the 10 most memorable outfits worn for competition and an honorable mention for a standout opening ceremony. We’ve listed our entries in chronological order to not play any favorites.

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The Summer 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea

 The Track and Field category was dominated by Florence Griffith Joyner aka “Flo-Jo,” who still holds the record for “fastest woman alive” in the 100 and 200 meters. Flo-Jo was also fiercely fashionable, delighting fashionistas who couldn’t wait to see her next signature hooded, superhero competition look. Flo-Jo was a woman who understood the power of the accessory, most especially long acrylic nails. Her gold acrylics even matched the three gold medals she took home. Over twenty years later, Flo-Jo has served as inspiration for another track and field star, Sha’Carri Richardson.

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The 1988 Winter Games, Calgary

Great Britain’s ski jumping Michael Edwards aka “Eddie the Eagle” was a phenomenon because he was the antithesis of the sleekly confident Norwegian jumpers he competed against. He was the first Brit to compete in the sport since 1928. What made Eddie a media and fan favorite however, was his hutzpah, cartoonish pink and white bottle rim glasses, and bizarre outfits that glorified Britannia. Every time he stuck a landing, the announcers screamed, “The Eagle has Landed!” Eddie got a whole new generation of fans after the film “Eddie the Eagle” came out in 2016.

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More from the 1988 winter games in Calgary. While putting this list together, it was impossible not to think of figure skating outfits. Katarina Witt skated out on the ice as a blinged-out risqué Heidi in 1984, but she was even more memorable in 1988 at the Calgary Winter Games, when she channeled Cruella De Vil in a blue getup while skating her way to a gold medal. Her skirt-less outfit upset the International Skating Union so much that they instituted “The Katarina Rule,” henceforth requiring female skaters to wear skirts while competing on the ice. 

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1992 Winter Games, Albertville

No one can pull off a glitzy, over-embellished skating outfit better than Surya Bonaly.  At the Albertville Olympics, with her huge braided hair extensions, the five-time European champion wore a green puffy skating dress designed by Christian Lacroix in the short program. And in the long program, Bonaly skated in a matador’s costume with padded shoulders, also designed by Lacroix.

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The 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona

At the 1992 Summer Olympics, Oscar de la Hoya showed his love for Team USA with his performance in the ring, taking a gold medal in the lightweight boxing division. His Stars and Stripes entrance outfit made this tiny champ a walking statement for Team USA.  

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1994 Winter Games, Lillehammer

The 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer Norway showed the world that fashion designer Vera Wang could do more than design a beautiful wedding dress. Vera’s designs for Nancy Kerrigan were far removed from the usual Vegas showgirl style ice dancing dresses. Nancy looked every bit the Ice Princess in a tasteful cream and gold sequined halter dress before she was struck down by Tonya Harding. 

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2004 Summer Games, Athens

The 2004 Summer Games in Athens treated audiences to dazzling performances by Canadian synchronized swimmers. Fanny Letourneau and Courtenay Stewart didn’t take home medals, but they got high scores with the fashion police for their glitzy Queen of Hearts swimsuits and matching makeup.

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The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games

Rhythmic gymnasts perform on the floor using apparatus such as hoops, balls, and ribbons. Flashy outfits are an integral part of the performance, but Russian-Azerbaijani Aliya Garayevan outdid herself when it came to her competition outfit.  She wowed spectators in a neon yellow, green and orange leotard accessorized with silver lame thunderbolt detailing and flame print on her illusion bodice. Marching wristbands, bright red lips and cheeks rounded out her superhero-ninja look.

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The 2018 Winter Olympics  Pyeongchang, South Korea

Yun Sung-bin aka “South Korea’s Iron Man” wore a helmet inspired by Marvel’s superhero Iron Man, which may have helped him become the first South Korean athlete to win the gold in skeleton racing. Post-race, Sung-bin told CNN, “He’s my favorite movie character and when I first saw myself going down the track, it looked like Iron Man flying with his suit, that’s why I got the helmet.”

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More from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Norwegian curling team riffed off artist Keith Haring’s iconic zigzag canvases as they maneuvered on ice to shoot granite stones into the “house” aka goal circle. Curling is an inclusive but relatively obscure sport. The Norwegians’ zany outfits have helped it gain more attention.

Our Olympic fan friends also pointed out a number of notable team looks at more than one opening ceremony. Top contenders over the years include Germany and Japan for honorable mentions but the top spot goes to the sign holders at the Albertville opening ceremony who posed as walking snow globes in the March of Nations. Opening ceremony looks provide enough material for a whole other article.


—Vivian Kelly

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