Serena Williams vs. Tennis Dress Codes

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If you watched the U.S. open this year, you may have noticed the rather unique outfit choices made by Serena Williams. There is, however, a back story to her interesting tennis clothes.

After giving birth to her child Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September 2017, many health complications followed. Williams mentioned in a Vogue interview that the day after she gave birth, she suffered from a serious blood clot, along with many other problems. This did not stop Williams from participating in the French Open, which is held late May through June. She was back on track. Due to the blood clots, Serena Williams wore a catsuit designed and made by herself and Nike. The outfit looked like a pair of leggings attached to a short sleeve fitted shirt. Nike claims it is a power suit, which is meant to help her recover and prevent blood clots.

Many know Williams for being one of the best tennis players in the world, winning more than 23 grand slam titles in her career. Therefore, the public was outraged when news surfaced that the French Open took issue with Willaims wearing the “power suit.” According to CNN’s article “Why Serena Williams’ Catsuit Ban Matters, and What it Says About Us,” Williams was not that fazed. In a press conference talking about Bernard Giudicelli, the head of the French Open, she stated, “We already talked. We have a great relationship,” followed by saying “Everything is fine, guys.” This goes to show that Serena does not have time to worry about this, and she has more important things to do, like being the best tennis player and icon to this generation.

Nike seemed to disagree with Williams’ calm approach, and the company took it to Instagram. Nike posted a picture with Williams in her catsuit, with the caption “You can take a superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”  A few months later, Williams competed in the U.S. Open, wearing something that made quite a few heads turn. Williams wore a large tulle skirt and black one-shoulder dress, finishing the outfit with fishnet stockings and sparkly sneakers. This costume was designed by Virgil Abloh, CEO of Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton, alongside Nike. Williams’ point was made clear: She would express her style and wear what felt right to her despite what people might think.

Students had a lot to say on this issue. Greta Kiefer, a sophomore, stated the following: “The catsuit ban was unnecessary since it was used for life-threatening conditions. I do not agree with dress codes because some of the rules are too restricting; some people have personal/medical reasons to wear certain things.” Another sophomore, Madison Crofts, agreed with Kiefer saying, “She should have been allowed to wear it, especially because it helped with her blood clots.” Crofts then went on to say, “I believe that dress codes in tennis are fine, as long as they are lenient, and then everyone will follow them.” Sophomore Olivia Erndl had similar beliefs stating, “I disagree with the ban because she was wearing it for medical reasons. I think that tennis should have less strict clothing rules because in the end of the day, it’s not a fashion show, it’s a tennis game. What players wear should be what is comfortable for them and what will keep them happy.” In the end, Williams will continue to be one of the greatest tennis players, regardless of this controversy.

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