February 27, 2016 - 6:00 AM
GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. - Women's curling clothing has come a long way from revealing white polyester pants.
That is what Cathy Overton-Clapham wore the first time she played in a Canadian women's championship in 1991.
"The pants were see-through," Overton-Clapham said.
Team uniforms were supplied by the tournament sponsor. So Kathie Allardyce's team from Manitoba went out and bought underwear with red hearts on them.
If spectators in Saskatoon could see their underpants, the team decided they would promote the sponsor with a Tournament of Hearts theme.
The fashion faux pas didn't stop there.
"Our jackets were white with fluorescent orange and yellow in them," said Overton-Clapham, the third on the team. "The writing on the back was fluorescent as well, so it was really hard to see.
"There really was no give to the pants. The jackets were so thick. There was a really thick terry lining in them. There was an elastic band around the waist to the coat that came up on you when you were playing. It was too warm to wear the jacket."
It didn't get much better for Team Manitoba the following year when they were handed bright yellow pants to wear at the Tournament of Hearts.
The Sandra Schmirler, Colleen Jones and Marilyn Bodogh championship teams wore kilts at various points in their careers, not so much in homage to the sport's Scottish roots, but because they couldn't stand the pants.
While curling fans remember Jennifer Jones's electrifying walk-off, in-off shot to win the 2005 national championships in St. John's, N.L., her voluminous pants in their celebration pictures are still an internal joke on the Winnipeg team.
"Those were terrible pants," second Jill Officer said.
The women were eventually allowed to bring their own pants to the Tournament of Hearts on the condition that they be black. The shirts and jackets are still supplied by the equipment manufacturer sponsoring the tournament.
There is a decidedly sleeker look to women's curling fashion at the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta. Some pants are yoga style with a long inseam and flared leg, while others are a jean cut.
The jackets, designed for the manufacturer by Rachel Homan's third Emma Miskew, are tapered and curved to fit a woman's body.
"More slimming, less boxy, less male-shaped," Officer said. "I would say the first few times that I went to a national championship wearing Manitoba clothes, for sure those clothes felt like unisex clothes.
"The pants for sure are way more comfortable than they used to be. A more athletic feel and stretchy material as opposed to tight polyester when you get burns on your legs from sweeping and sliding."
Curling shoes have gone high-tech with cross-trainer influences. Instead of basic black, there are silver and white touches.
The challenge with women's curling clothing is the sport demands a lot of it. It has to be warm for cold arenas, stretch for contortions and fit a wide variety of athletic female body types. A low-rise pant is potentially embarrassing when sliding out of the hack.
The invention of Lycra and quick-dry fabric were gifts to female curling apparel. The materials helped eliminate stiffness and bulkiness from pants and jackets.
Former Canadian women's champion Robin Wilson was brought on board by Scott Paper when it took over sponsorship of the national women's championship in 1982. Her mandate was to make women's curling into the top female sport in Canada.
"The men and the women at the time wore the same uniforms. Literally, on television, it was change the head," said Wilson, now media relations director for the Hearts in Grande Prairie.
"We were trying to change it and make it different and make it more feminine. Along the way, we made a few mistakes and gaffes. When you look at the event this year, the look has come together tremendously."
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016