Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The 2016 Olympics Parade of Nations: Fashion Review

I love Olympics Opening Ceremonies. I particularly loved this year's Opening Ceremony in Brazil. The "maypole" weaving was cool, the samba dancers were brilliant (and I loved the variety of ages and body types!), the pyrotechnics were spectacular, and the torch-lighting (as well as the torch itself) was lovely and moving.

But let's get real: one of the best parts of any Opening Ceremony is checking out the athlete's outfits during the parade of nations.

This year, the vast majority of outfits fell into one of three distinct categories: blazers, track suits, and ethnic (or ethnic-inspired) garb. Below are some of the best and worst in each category.

The blazers varied somewhat in style, and were paired with pants, skirts, shorts, and dresses; some with hats and some without; some classic and some a bit more contemporary or trendy. Some ended up looking cute and crisp, others bland and boring, and still others were reminiscent of yachters or flight attendants or ice cream vendors. Whose blazers blazed and whose just fizzled?

Aruba's turquoise jackets were paired with crisp white pants or short skirts and white shoes, and featured a white patterned stripe down the right side and a small white crest on the left. They were paired with cute white hats with coordinated turquoise hatbands. The outfits were attractive, well-tailored, and flattering to the athletes. Thumbs up!

Australia paired a green and white striped jacket with dark green piping and white collared shirts with white Bermuda shorts for the men and short wrap skirts for the ladies. The women wore a green and gold print scarf that was pretty and tied in to the color scheme nicely; the men wore gold ties with green stripes that were not and did not. It wasn't a horrible look, but a simple change of tie would have done a world of good. The sockless white oxfords were a cute touch, though. 

Bulgaria's dark cranberry jackets were accented with only a small white pocket square and were worn over light blue-gray pants for men or sheath dresses with white piping for women. The piping was cute but the hem length should have been adjusted for many of the women - the shorter hem on a few of the athletes was much more flattering than the dresses that fell at the bottom of the knee on others. Apparently the men weren't given shirts to wear under the jackets, as they were sporting a variety of neckline styles on their white undershirts. I liked the white-on-navy hats for men and navy-on-white hats for women.

The Czech Republic wore striped black and white jackets with narrow lapels and red piping on the pockets. They could have worked well except that many of them seemed to be poorly fitted and too short for the athletes, both sleeves and overall length. Some of the pants also seemed to be poorly fitted to the point of looking uncomfortable. The print T-shirts worn under the jackets also looked odd, as some of the print could be seen at the neck, and the bottom of the tees were visible under the too-short jackets. Great concept, less than ideal execution. 

France's blazers looked more like overshirts than actual jackets, with shirt-style collars and zip fronts. The cuffs were noticeably short and the overall length was much longer than a standard blazer. I did like the "dashed" white piping along the front and the white polos and pants, but I felt like it needed a hat of some kind to complete the look. 

Poland was another case of good concept but poor execution. The blue-gray jackets with flap pockets and super-high lapels weren't bad, just a bit short, especially in arm length. The white undershirts looked too casual but the red pants were great. 

Puerto Rico, on the other hand, was a decent execution of a lousy concept. The combination of fire engine red pants and skirts, red-and-white striped shirts for men and inserts in the voluminous tops for women, and bold blue and red shoulder patches and jacket hems were just too much. Take half the fabric out of the women's tops so they were fitted halters, lose the red stripes altogether in both outfits, and this look would have been vastly improved. The hats were great, at least. 

Russia's navy jackets with white trim and a gold crest were beautifully tailored and looked great, especially when worn with a white dress shirt and dark red bow tie, as some of the coaches did, and even worked with the red-and-white striped jerseys on the women. But the casual undershirts on most of the male athletes did not pair well with the jackets, and the baggy white pants and voluminous pleated skirts looked juvenile and messy, especially worn with tennis shoes. 

South Korea wore the more successful version of the Russian garb. Nicely tailored navy jackets with narrow white piping and a tastefully-sized flag insignia, light blue dress shirts with white collars and long ties, white pants that seemed to have the option of slim-fit or a looser version (an excellent choice!), classy navy canvas slip-ons, and all-white hats created a casual elegance that suited the occasion perfectly. Big thumbs up to this team. 

Spain took a classic cut and style and livened it up with brilliant color: bright navy jackets and red pants and ties for men and the reverse colors for women, all with white shirts and dark navy sneakers, topped by a white hat with patterned hatband. Bright and fun, but still classic and classy.

Everyone remembers Tonga from the parade of nations! Well, the Tongan flagbearer, anyway. He gets points for rocking ethnic garb better than anyone else in the stadium. But the rest of the athletes wore a lovely combination of blazers and ethnic touches. Their red, barely-double-breasted jackets were trimmed with blue-gray that matched the men's ties and the women's skirts, which seemed to be their choice of lengths and a few varying shades of gray. The men wore neatly tailored dark gray pants and a traditional apron. Another excellent blend of traditional and contemporary looks.

Uruguay's outfits were quite washed-out looking next to the brighter colors of most of the athletes. Pairing white pants, shirts, and hats with faded shades of blue and gold to match their country's flag, the outfits simply didn't pop they way they could have.

And finally, we have the Americans, who sported classic navy jackets with gold buttons and, of course, a giant Polo logo (ugh), paired with white pants and a red, white, and blue striped jersey. It wasn't a bad look, but it was nothing special. It definitely could have used a hat.

Worst look in this category: Puerto Rico, for having too much going on all at once.
Best look in this category: South Korea, for finding the perfect balance of casual and classy.

Track Suits
The more casual look of track suits has become popular over the past few Olympics. Some of the designers attempted to add interest with colors or details, but on the whole, the track suits looked boring and sloppy.

Croatia drew some criticism for their red-and-white checkered jackets, which did remind me of the Ralston-Purina logo. However, I found it more interesting than many of the solid-colored track suits, and I liked the casual windbreaker-style jacket paired with regular pants rather than nylon running pants, which moved the look from sloppy to appropriately casual. Croatia gets a thumbs up from me. 

Cyprus was one of the duller track suits, with bright blue suits highlighted with oddly placed orange stripes under the arms which made it look like they were carrying backpacks when their arms were down, and which bagged awkwardly when their arms were raised. I'm sure they were comfortable, but this look just feels too casual to me. 

Egypt's red-and-white track suits (red pants for all; red jackets for men and white for women) were a little better than Cyprus', but still a bit bland. And many of the women's jackets seemed oversized. But if you're going to go with track suits, you could do worse than this look. 

Ireland's track suits were a nice color combination of cobalt blue with bright green sleeves, but the skinny fit of the pants were out of proportion with the rest of the outfit. 

Italy's black track suits were unrelieved by any kind of detail other than the red and white spat-style sneakers. Yawn.

Similar to Croatia, Norway opted for a running jacket, but paired it with white shorts and a cute polo, topped with baseball hats. It struck a nice balance between casual and tailored, but the print was dizzyingly busy when the jackets were zipped up. 

Dear Slovakia, leggings are not pants, even if you're an Olympic athlete. The white jackets with red patterned sleeves for women and black-patterned sleeves for men with matching lining in the hoods were cute, but pairing them with print leggings for the women and red skinny pants for the men was not the best choice. A longer jacket would have been a vast improvement.

South Africa's bright green-and-gold track suits were more visually interesting than most, but they were still casual track suits. Bonus points to this particular athlete for totally working it, though.

I'm wondering what kind of drugs are legal in Sweden, because there must have been hallucinogens involved in this design. The men's jackets were actually pretty cool, with blue and yellow swoops reminiscent of the nation's flag, and their navy shorts were fine if a bit long. But the swoopy design did NOT work on the women's knee socks, which was too bad because it would have been a welcome distraction from the horror going on above them. The solid yellow jacket wasn't awful, which is probably why many of the women left it on to cover the satin monstrosity underneath. The top was a baggy sleeveless hoodie, with either a long tunic skirt or short 1980s-era basketball shorts below. The flagbearer's flared navy sleeveless satin dress with the swoop pattern on one side of the skirt was actually really cute, which no doubt accounts for her big smile, in contrast with the pained grimace of blonde over her left shoulder.

Worst look in this category: Sweden. Because see above photo.
Best look in this category: Norway, because even though the jacket pattern was quite busy, the overall look was casual and flattering without looking sloppy or boring.

Ethnic Garb
Many nations opt to have their flagbearer wear ethnic garb while their athletes wear more contemporary outfits, but there are always several nations whose entire contingent wears traditional or ethnic-inspired garb. These are often my favorites of the whole parade.

As many of the ethnic-inspired costumes do, Benin's outfits echoed the colors in their flag. These lovely yellow print tops with scalloped hems, dark green skirts or pants, and matching traditional headpieces were finished off with a broad red fringed scarf. A gorgeous combination of traditional and contemporary styles. 

Burundi's outfits, on the other hand, were very traditional, with the men wearing a loose printed robe and an ivory shoulder wrap and carrying long spears, and the women wearing a brightly patterned drape over white tanks. I loved each look individually, but they didn't tie together well. 

Cameroon's athletes wore stunning dashiki-style tunics and long skirts printed in bold gold and orange patterns on a chocolate-brown background, with matching traditional headpieces. Just breathtaking. Thumbs up for this look.

The Cook Islands wore ethnic-inspired dresses for the women and matching tunics with black pants for the men, and the women wore traditional floral coronets. The green print fabric was stunning and the outfits looked cool and flattering. I would buy that dress if I saw it in a store. 

Indonesia: Oh, Indonesia. Hands down, the most gorgeous look of the entire parade. The men's white blazers were trimmed with red collars and cuffs and emblazoned with a traditional pattern in red that matched their headpieces, paired with red pants and tie. But the elaborate ethnic costumes worn by three of the marchers, with rich print fabrics and large golden or feathered headdresses were absolutely breathtaking. 

The Senegalese women wore traditional garb consisting of a flared yellow blouse with green front panel and cuffs, a long yellow skirt, and yellow head wraps. The color was lovely against their dark skin, and flattering to all. An excellent choice, and a big thumbs up for this team. 

White is always elegant, and the Sudanese contingent was no exception. The men wore traditional white robes with white turbans trimmed with ribbons in their national colors, and the woman wore a sari-style robe with the same trim all along its edge. The pure white was eye-catching and the trim added a patriotic touch as well as some visual interest. 

Worst of this category: I hate to choose a loser here, because they really were all beautiful and meaningful, but I have to go with Burundi, simply because their male and female athletes didn't seem to belong to the same team, and isn't the whole point of the parade of athletes to show team unity?
Best of this category: Indonesia, because wow. 

Defying a Category
Of course, there were some costumes worthy of note (for good or ill) that did not fit into any of the three categories above. 

Germany's outfits were...well, let's be frank: they were a hot mess. For women, too-short navy leggings worn with too-long shapeless gray skirts and baggy maroon jerseys were topped off with a long silver coat. For men, the same short leggings and maroon tops with baggy navy shorts and shapeless navy coats were topped off with navy baseball caps. Thumbs down. Ugh.

Although Hungary's men wore perfectly serviceable but boring navy suits with white shirts and blue-gray ties, the women stole the show with adorable red-and-white dresses with short sleeves and half-pleated skirts. Another outfit I would wear myself.

With only two countries in this category, it's pretty obvious that Germany is the worst and Hungary is the best. 

I do love seeing all the teams together at the start of the games, full of potential and excitement and patriotism. I love the symbolism of their national and team unity as displayed in their team outfits. But I look forward even more to the end of the Games, when the pressure is off and the athletes run into the stadium in a giant clump, mixed together sport among sport, nation among nation, no longer concerned with national or team identity but simply athletes sharing together the joy of competition and personal achievement, and the unity is no longer among their teammates or their countrymen, but among all the citizens of the world who join together, on the field and off, to celebrate the glory of human endeavor.