When Serena Loses, She Still Wins
Serena Williams has indisputably revolutionized fashion in tennis, and, more broadly, women’s professional athleticwear standards. Upon her return to tennis at the 2018 French Open after having her first child, she debuted a Nike catsuit that was both stunning and functional. It was engineered to help the 23-time Grand Slam champ and first-time mom keep post-pulmonary embolism induced blood clots at bay. The French Tennis Federation was so pressed by the look that they publicly condemned her and proceeded to tighten their dress code. She continued sticking it to the outdated, patriarchal clothing standards of the industry by wearing a Louis Vuitton one-shouldered bodysuit and tutu look, designed by Virgil Abloh, to the 2018 US Open, skewering and inverting the gender standards of the sport.
A year later, Serena has made her most political statement on the court yet with her look at the 2019 French Open. Her latest Nike x Off White look is a crop top, skirt, and jacket—demurely feminine enough for the traditionalist French outfit standards—covered in the French wods for words “mother, champion, queen and goddess.” The look asserts and reclaims all that the Federation implicitly denied her when it condemned her catsuit last year: her identity at the intersection of womanhood, motherhood and fierce athlete, and her ability to hold all of those elements in harmony. Though she was taken out in the 3rd round this year, Serena and her world-shaking of gender and racial narratives in tennis continue to reverberate throughout the industry, and it’s clear that Serena’s influence is here to stay.
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