ELLENTON — The talents of a Florida figure skating coach and a seamstress are on display for the world at the Sochi Olympics.
Seamstress Dawn Imperatore and coach Jim Peterson designed and constructed 12 costumes that will be worn by three skating pairs who train at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in southwest Florida.
Peterson coaches U.S. skaters Nathan Bartholomay and Felicia Zhang and David King and Stacey Kemp of Great Britain. Imperatore also created costumes for Canadians Rudi Swiegers and Paige Lawrence.
Zhang is a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports Peterson selects the music, choreographs routines and also helps Imperatore with costume design. He recently sat in a small sewing room above the ice rink for hours, meticulously securing 1,440 crystals to a costume with a toothpick and glue.
"He's very, very talented, and he leaves nothing to chance," Imperatore says. "He eats, drinks and breathes figures skating. I don't think the guy sleeps, actually."
Imperatore, who started sewing when she was 9, has spent more than 200 hours on the 12 Olympic costumes. She even takes them home and washes them because the solvent used at the dry cleaners will dissolve the glue used on the costumes.
She says it's "really cool" to think that the same costumes that were drying on her shower rod at home will be viewed by millions around the world.
The costumes not only need to match the music and the characters, but also be flexible enough to hold up to rigorous wear. Points are deducted If something falls off a costume.
"I'm not like these commercial retailers," Imperatore says. "I do it because I love these kids."
The creative process begins at Imperatore's house where Peterson plays the music and sketches what he thinks the costumes should look like. Sometimes, he encourages the skaters to close their eyes and tell him what color they envision when they hear the music.
Peterson calls music "the secret weapon," and says the right complementary selections are crucial.
"I want them to use what drives them, what makes them excited to be out there performing," said Peterson.