While I have not caught Olympic Fever, I watched the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony with considerable interest. There was an outcry about the uniforms Ralph Lauren designed for the American team because they had been manufactured in China, yet none at all because they were unflattering (lumpen blue berets, white loafers with bobby socks) and heavily branded (logos on both cap and blazer). The Brasilians, who wore fitted yellows and green separates, were the best dressed team; they gave off joy and heat. The British, in space-age white-and-gold jackets, missed the opportunity to do something entirely unironic (Chariots of Fire white flannels) or entirely ironic (trenchcoats and Hunter boots). Instead the Bermudans, in white dress shirts, navy jackets and red Bermuda shorts (identical to those they sported, brazenly, at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver) took both those prizes. At the center of it all Usain Bolt, in slim yellow trousers, looked fittingly majestic carrying the Jamaican flag.
But my favorite costume was the little cap-sleeved A-line dresses the young women carrying the country signs for each team wore. The fronts of the dresses were printed with a crowd of contemporary faces, which were meant, I think, to represent the crazy and happy diversity of city of London, the Games, and the whole wide world. I don’t know who designed them or the signs themselves, which floated above each girl like a halo. The get-up reminded me of the dresses Hussein Chalayan has crafted out of wood, fiberglass and Tyvek, which are less like garments than contraptions. There’s something cerebral, innocent and eccentric about these little Olympic dresses that, for the overscaled, overblown event, was exactly right.