Nine Iconic Outfits From Olympic History

Vera Wang dresses, lycra race suits, six-inch manicures and more.
Cathy Freeman drapes the aboriginal and australian flags around her shoulders, smiling, at the 2000 sydney olympic games
Image: Getty

As much as the Olympics is about celebrating sport, the games always come with a side-serving of fashion.

Whether it’s in the form of a custom designer dress for a figure skater, Swarovski embellishments for a gymnast, or a totally practical racing suit for a sprinter; sometimes, we can’t help but let our eyes wander to the event’s sartorial aspects.

Ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, marie claire Australia is looking back at the most memorable fashion moments marked in Olympic history.

25 Sep 2000: Cathy Freeman of Australia in action during the Women's 400m final held at Olympic Stadium during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia.
Image: Stu Forster / Allsport via Getty

Cathy Freeman’s racing suit

2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney

The green and gold Nike Swiftsuit Cathy Freeman wore to claim gold for Australia is immortalised in history. Not only was the garment visually striking, but it featured a different fabric covering each body part in order to minimise drag.

“Ultimately, I simply enjoyed the way it made me feel when I ran, even though I had a reservation about the way it made me look,” Freeman reflected in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 2020.

Image: Getty

Lara Teixeira and Nayara Figueira’s anatomical swimsuits

2012 Summer Olympics, London

At the London Olympics, Brazilian synchronised swimmers, Lara Teixeira and Nayara Figueira competed in swimsuits inspired by human anatomy. The front featured a bejewelled heart and the back, a spine and ribs. Their swim caps were also designed to look like brains.

Michelle Kwan wears a dress by fashion designer Vera Wang at the winter olympic games
Image: Getty

Michelle Kwan’s velvet Vera Wang

1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano

Team USA’s Michele Kwan turned to famed designer Vera Wang for the 1998 Winter Olympics. The figure skater was garbed in a pale purple, velvet Wang creation while competing in Nagano, Japan.

24 Sep 1988: Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA prepares for the 100m during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Griffith-Joyner went on to win the gold medal with a time of 10.54 seconds. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy/Allsport
Image: Tony Duffy / Allsport

Florence Griffith-Joyner’s hood

1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul

A sartorial pre-cursor to Freeman’s famed look, Florence Griffith-Joyner, aka the fastest woman of all time, wore a hooded suit to the Seoul games. The US three-time gold medallist accessorised with six-inch nails and a some gold jewellery.

Image: Getty

Miwako Motoyoshi and Saeko Kimura’s (literally) fire swimsuits

1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles

The competition was heating up at the 1984 Olympics, and so were synchronised swimmers Miwako Motoyoshi and Saeko Kimura. The Japanese athletes wore matching, flame-emblazoned one-pieces for their bronze-medal winning performance.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: Outfit designed by Levi Strauss to be worn during the opening ceremonies for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics (Photo by Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Image: Getty

The Team US’s opening ceremony outfits, courtesy of Levi Strauss

1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles

Levi’s jeans are ironically American, so when founder Levi Strauss designed Team US’ (incredibly ’80s) uniform for the opening ceremony, the looks instantly went into the history books.

Ato Boldon
Image: Getty

Ato Boldon’s bug-like sunglasses

2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney

Ato Boldon’s bug-like sunglasses are so renowned they were still inspiring fashion design two decades on from the Sydney Olympic Games. In 2020, eyewear brand Oakley brought the design back to commemorate the games, cementing the Trinidadian sprinter’s trend-setter status.

Image: Getty

Tamara Larrea and Dalixia Fernandez’s Y2K accessories

2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney

The Sydney Olympics only occurred at the turn of the millennium, but these accessories worn by Cuban volleyball players Tamara Larrea and Dalixia Fernandez were a perfect precursor to Y2K style

The US womens gymnastics team wear swarovski covered leotards at the 2016 olympic games
Image: Getty

The U.S gymnastics team’s Swarovski-covered leotards

2016 Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro

The U.S women’s gymnastics team wore clothing fit for queens at the Rio Olympics. For the team event, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Madison Kocian wore red, white and blue leotards, all of which were embellished with over 4000 Swarovksi crystals (and carried a reported $1200 price tag).


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