It was a tight _ and very stretchy _ showdown on Olympic ice for Evan Lysacek and Evegni Plushenko.
In the end, Lysacek's snakes alive beat out Plushenko's sparkly, red sizzle during the frosty Vancouver finals that were sartorially dubbed "La Cage aux Follies" by one insider.
Two bulky serpents of Swarovski crystal bounced around the American's neck and up the back of his Vera Wang one-piece. "Thank you, Vera," Lysacek offered as he sweated out his winning scores Thursday night.
"The tall, raven-haired Lysacek cut a riveting figure on the ice," said InStyle magazine's fashion director, Hal Rubenstein. Were the snakes too much? "A bit too heavy in close-up, but striking on the ice."
Still, the look was tamer than Lysacek's costume for the short program, another Wang piece in all black with sequins up top and long, bushy feather cuffs. Lysacek called that one his favorite.
Nick Verreos, the "Project Runway" alum and red carpet designer, said Lysacek and his King Cobra buddies were "dark and dramatic" _ and definitely gold medal-worthy.
Plushenko's tight unitard with a red vest design left the fashionistas cold. Same for Jef Billings, a longtime skating designer who has dressed Peggy Fleming, Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes for competition.
"How odd that the one skater who gracelessly questioned the masculinity of any competitor who was not going to attempt a quad in their long program should hit the ice dressed like the master of ceremonies at a drag club," Rubenstein said. "If there is ever a version of La Cage aux Follies on ice, Plushenko is ready for rehearsal."
Verreos called Plushenko's outfit as he earned silver a "'High School Musical' costume that matched his 'High School Musical' performance."
More spin on the big skate from our experts:
Weir went home without a medal, befitting his "fallen angel" theme of silvery crystals in a toned-down look _ at least by Weir standards.
Rubenstein: "With a style and manner unlike any other figure skater, if Weir wanted to appear otherworldly, he succeeded."
Billings: "I'm sure the design had a significance to Johnny since he always attempts to convey some idea in his clothes but not sure it was evident to the audience."
Verreos: "I'm happy, and I'm sure PETA is, too, that Johnny lost the fur. It showed his elegant restraint and maturity mirroring his almost flawless performance."
Japan's Nobunari Oda, evoking Charlie Chaplin's silent "Little Tramp," could have used a costume assist when one of his skate laces broke loose.
Verreos: "Can you please give me a couple sequins?! I get the Charlie Chaplin reference but I was falling asleep until the lace snapped. Never before have I been so excited about a wardrobe malfunction."
Rubenstein: "You need to hit the ice looking commanding, not adorable."
Billings: "I like that it was not enhanced with beads, etc. Just the essence of the original done a bit simply and adapted as a costume that could be skated in."
Takahashi, also from Japan, won bronze in bland checks with matching wraparound scarf.
Rubenstein: "The vested checked shirt gave the vibrant skater the air of the guy who walks into a room knowing who and what he wants. But the untucked shirt at times appeared a little sloppy on the ice, and at times seemed in conflict with the clarity of his jumps. Next time, Takahashi should tuck himself in. He can look cool after he wins."
Verreos: "Cirque de Soleil gone wrong. ... I give Takahashi points for always bringing us over-the-top costumes, but this one looked like a tablecloth from a cheap Greek taverna."
Billings: "It was a bit distracting because there was a lot of extra fabric pieces flying around. The folded scarf around his neck was a bit overpowering for his small frame."
Canada's hope placed fifth as he went for "Phantom of the Opera."
Rubenstein: "Stuck somewhere between a band uniform and a double-breasted tuxedo, Chan's costumed betrayed the one trait a skating costume shouldn't project _ discomfort."
Verreos: "Although the `Phantom of the Opera' has been done one too many times for my taste, his costume was a refreshing twist on an overused theme. And, thank goodness, no Andrew Lloyd Weber mask in sight!"
Billings: "The jacket seemed a bit restrictive and perhaps some of the detail was lost."
He was in fourth place for Switzerland in flowing shirt sleeves under a vest with lace that flapped at the shoulders.
Verreos: "The Swiss may be famous for their couture laces and embroidery, but Stephane's Tea Cozy shoulder pads were a definite miss."
Rubenstein: "Maybe it's the big shock of hair atop his handsome face and frame, but Stephane tends to favor costumes that make him look like the romantic hero in a ballet, opting for military jackets with lots of buttons and braided shoulders, or cinched vests worn over Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt. It makes him look dashing if a little foolish."
Billings: "Slight period detail which was appropriate to the piece of music. Nothing unusual but it did the job."
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