NBC’s Olympics coverage has gotten a dressing down from Forbes, Vanity Fair, Engadget and more for on-air gaffes, humdrum features, VR viewing and a range of other issues. But two commentators — Johnny Weir, a two-time Olympic figure skater, and Tara Lipinski, the 1998 women’s gold medalist in the sport, have at least outdressed their on-air competition.
The pair has just been tapped along with fellow figure-skating announcer Terry Gannon to host Sunday’s closing ceremony. While Weir and Lipinski may not have the flair of Czech snowboarder Eva Samková‘s painted-on mustache or South Korea’s skeleton gold medalist Yun Sung-Bin’s “Iron Man”-inspired helmet, they literally pack a lot of style. Just ask airport security.
During a phone interview last month, Weir rattled off favorite brands like Thom Browne, Hermès, Chanel, General Idea, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Viktor + Rolf, Dries van Noten and RtA. “I’m going to bring the fashion every night for the people who are watching,” he said. “I’ve always considered myself more of a collector of fashion than a consumer. I love the history of fashion, knowing where the fabrics are sourced from, understanding how they’re prepared and sewn. Also, I’m not such a snob when it comes to fashion. I’ll go to Century 21 for work blazers and I’ll go all the way up to Birkin bags. They’re my favorite bags. I save up each year to get one. Sometimes it’s by hook or by crook. I’ve got some crazy vintage ones. I would heckle for them.”
He and Lipinski, who knew of each other from their ice time, first worked together in 2010 for Universal Sports. When they reconnected at the Sochi Games in 2014 critiquing the Olympic skating for NBC’s Sports Network, they liked to present a united front with their on-air looks. Weir is unabashed about his “love of furs.” They make the most of their adjoining hotel rooms, brainstorming every morning about what their themes should be and how they want to look. In fact, the door is pretty much always open since the pair research and study together. Pages and pages of Lipinski’s handwritten notes are usually strewn all over. (Names like Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are easier read than said.)
“Putting on a show is so much more than saying, ‘Oh, here’s a triple lutz.’ You want to profile the skater you are watching. You want the audience to be invested in their story. You want to build up what they are going through at that moment — what they’ve done, what they’re struggling with, what’s going on in practice.…I take tons of notes — notes everywhere. A lot of times Johnny laughs and says I never use any of them,” Lipinski said.
Weir is sometimes laughed at, too — by his family and friends who think he’s “insane for the amount of money I’ll spend on a bag. I just love the tradition of the Birkins and the Kellys and how special they are,” he said. “It’s gotten to the point now that Tara and I have a precedent and a reputation to uphold so I can’t wear the same thing twice. If I do, I have to be really clever about it. Much to the chagrin of my accountant and my financial advisers, I spend way too much money on clothes every season. But it is something I love and I would rather buy a new jacket than eat actually.”
Lipsinski’s own Olympic fashion haul required six to eight large suitcases with 40 or 50 dresses. Excessive as that might sound, they have other appearances, including “Today” show runs and prime-time cameos. Lively, Dress the Population, Elizabeth and James and Alice + Olivia are a few of her favorite labels. Lipinski said, “Because Johnny and I love the fashion aspect and are always coordinating, it makes it all that harder. We change for every appearance that we do. We really do go through the clothes that we bring.”
Lipinski said she and Weir are trying to shake skating’s ice princess persona. “Whether it’s our commentary being very honest and transparent or having fun outfits that match, it’s putting on a show. It’s not only that we have fun doing it, but it brings in the audience. They think, ‘OK, we’re going to sit down and Tara and Johnny are on our couch with us chatting about ice skating.’ We also try to bring the glitz and glamour to it.”