I’m pretty sure Olga Ryabenko designed the costumes for all three — she’s also responsible for Zhenya’s costumes (minus this season’s free), Alina’s, Kanysheva’s&mweb_unauth_id=896e6ff28a8b4ce5965dc4db4f4c0900&simplified=true), etc. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Ryabenko’s aesthetic, which is mostly a matter of taste. She is exceptionally gifted at playing with color, especially gradients and colors within a narrow band (Medvedeva’s Nocturne dress, for example), but that’s really all I can remember of her color stories? And, well, my main issue with her costumes is that they’re just not especially flattering to a given skater — for example, much like Zhenya, I have a fairly long torso, and Ryabenko’s designs have frequently accentuated that aspect of Zhenya’s proportions. I think Zhenya’s ELAIC FP dress is one of the all-time most unflattering costumes: the base grey color doesn’t accentuate anything positive in Zhenya’s features; the pink skirt (and the fact that Ryabenko is partial to floaty skirts that frequently flip all the way up) is ... a nightmare, an actual nightmare, and is a spotlight on Zhenya’s poor posture whenever she breaks at the waist to pick for jumps; the detailing of the top is sublime and gorgeous but has no resonance to the program/music and doesn’t translate well on camera; nothing about the design draws your attention to Zhenya in motion or flatters her while she’s standing still. That being said, the top half of the dress is breathtakingly beautiful and would win a Project Runway challenge. (Vera Wang, for all the shit she gets, is actually exceptionally talented at highlighting Nathan’s body in motion — the color block top for the Nemesis SP, for example, drew your eye to his speed when rotating jumps and spins and made him appear even more aerodynamic. Her costumes aren’t works of art in a still photograph, but that’s not the point.) (And, well, Nathan has a whole list of things he doesn’t want/outright won’t wear, so Vera is also constrained.)
Ryabenko has a very defined point of view, though, which I appreciate, even though it’s not exactly my preferred style. I think some of her dresses are stunning and would retail for obscene prices as fashion, but as skating costumes, her work has left me underwhelmed more often than not. At their worst, her dresses are both overdone and dull, with a side of unflattering (again: Zhenya’s ELAIC FP, and frankly Nocturne, while better, wasn’t much better); at their best, they’re gorgeous but often still a touch too bedazzled. And bedazzling is her main mode of expression, other than some layering in the skirts. In my opinion, her range isn’t very wide — almost all of her dresses tend to be rather heavy with crystals on the top, almost as if a chandelier just fell on the skater, but there’s nothing interesting in terms of texturing, draping, etc. Wang’s costumes for Chen may be boring as sin most of the time but the texturing on the sleeves of his Mao’s Last Dancer costume is to die for and couture. Or, if you find comparing men’s costumes to women’s unfair, there’s Lisa McKinnon, who somehow manages to leave an indelible mark on each of her pieces while also never repeating herself.
But, again, it’s a matter of taste. I worked as a stylist and Ryabenko just isn’t my aesthetic, though I had clients who would have killed for her dresses. Beyond that, though, I just don’t find her work visually interesting. It’s pretty, and it’s shiny and sparkly, and it’s nice to look at for a moment, but there’s not much beyond “pretty.” Honestly, I’d probably be more charitable if it weren’t for her issues with non-standard proportions — she did Zhenya so dirty for so long and made her look like she lacked a waist. (I’m just going to say it: this was the most flattering, sophisticated, stunning costume Zhenya ever wore. Just look at Zhenya! She looks downright sexy, which is ... not in Ryabenko’s wheelhouse, and her limbs look long but not gangly because the dress is working with her and not against her.) But, well, it is what it is. I think Kostornaia’s FS dress is overdone — the sleeves might have worked with a broader range of colors or if the dress weren’t in such a heavy shade already, and as for the blood drops... the less said about those, the better. Shcherbakova’s SP dress is the same “SERIOUS ARTIST GREY” + feminine accents combination we’ve seen before, and the FP dress is frankly uninspired. (And the costume change insipid and no longer interesting at this point in the season.) Trusova’s SP dress is a nightmare and just hurts me after her iconic Kill Bill outfit, which played to all of her strengths: it was vibrant, young, different, feminine but not fussy... can we go back to last season?