Sk8 or die! "Tessa & Scott:" a sartorial appreciation


Taken as a sports glory confessional, Tessa & Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold (Anansi, 192 pages, $19.95) is pretty standard. It has more than its fair share of inspirational sound bites (“The young couple faced difficult challenges, but they were sustained by their love for skating and the knowledge that they could be champions.”). It’s also packed with glossy photographs and mildly amusing anecdotes. Yet, taken as a study in the evolution of dancing facial expressions, body chemistry, and ice dancing fashion choices, the book becomes exponentially more interesting. 

In terms of facial features, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada's 2010 Olympic ice-dancing champs, among their many accolades) were born to dance to together. They’ve got the distinctive “Are we siblings or are we lovers?” look that’s become a prerequisite for the sport. The fuzzier the line, the better. Ambiguous sexual preference is suggested, but not mandatory. Both Scott and Tessa have creamy skin and thick – slightly wavy – chocolate brown hair. It’s versatile enough to be tightly wound back, gelled, and hair-sprayed into oblivion, pre-show. Yet, they can also rock the slightly mussed-up, sweaty, post-dance routine look. Tessa is a huge fan of ponytails, though her go-to look for the ice is an intricate top bun. She’s got a strict anti-bangs policy. Scott has a fantastic variety of smiles (including a grimace that strikes a fine balance between warm and fierce), though he’s lacking a bit in the upper-lip department.

Tessa & Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold, or TSOJCDG, has about four major categories of photographs. The majority are mid-performance drama shots. The rest are the post-dance glory moments, cutesy childhood pics, and special nature photography shoots with Myra Klarman. Along the way, a few hybrids crop up. For example, take the classic moment when a pre-pubescent Tessa and Scott chomped on their medals to test the veracity of the gold.

The earliest evidence of Scott and Tessa’s signature pose is a photograph from early 2000. It’s an icy and intense glare at the cameras, complimented by the arched scowl of Scott’s eyebrows and a passionate clutching of his partner’s lower thigh or shoulder. Scott has a tendency to shut his eyes in passion, Tessa’s tend to widen for the crowd.

TSOJCDG is peppered with shots from a rustic shoot the couple commissioned from photog Klarman. For some reason, Klarman thought it would be a good idea for the couple to wade knee-deep into a lake, and pose crouched in the water. Tessa and Scott seem oblivious to their soaked clothing, and it’s one of those shots where you think more about what happened before and after than the actual image you’re looking at.

Back on the ice, I’d say Tessa has a great fashion sense, especially considering the track record her peers. She favors shades of pink, crystals, velvet, lace, fringe, pearls, and sheer fabric; usually all of the above at once. Scott tends to go for a more conservative image, with a classic tuxedo or suit. Tessa’s fashion climax probably arrived at the 2010 Olympics during a compulsory Tango Romantica. With her usual dark red lipstick and pulled back hair, Tessa wore a one-shouldered burgundy gown with a black tulle overlay, her bodice decked out in ruffles and intricately webbed pearls, jewels, and floral patterns. Underneath, she went for classic leggings and not much else: it seems the publishers didn’t catch an unfortunate nip-slip captured in some of the images.

Tessa only missteps when she ventures too far deep into Dancing with the Stars territory, as she did when competing earlier in her career in Andorra. She wore a magenta strappy dress, exposing lots of skin and bedazzled within an inch of her life. Not long after, Tessa took a risk with a three tiered, sparkling number – plus fringe and a diamond choker – for the 2009 Nationals, but it looks like one that paid off, landing the jump from tacky sad to tacky fun. 

Tessa & Scott: Our Journey From Childhood Dream to Gold is an enchanting look at the lives of two artistic and athletic champions. It may not be worth reading the 184 pages of copy and biographical detail, but it’s certainly worth a bookstore browse to check out over 171 shiny photographs of “big dreamers” and ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.