Dress resembles nightwear -- some players made alterations to their outfits in qualifying to prevent them flashing too much flesh
Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard is a fan of the dress, but Serena Williams has her own, specially designed Nike outfits
Garbine Muguruza upset as play continued
Andy Murray progresses
When it comes to the rules about clothing at Wimbledon, it sounds so easy: stick to predominantly white.
But such a seemingly simple mandate gets designers in a tizzy. Just how do they infuse patterns or color into outfits without drawing the ire of Wimbledon’s notoriously picky fashion police?
This year Nike’s offering for female pros is generating plenty of discussion – and without arguably its highest-profile female tennis athlete, Maria Sharapova, who is serving a two-year doping suspension.
Maybe Nike planned it that way. You know the saying: any publicity is good publicity.
Entitled the “NikeCourt Premier Slam,” color isn’t the issue. Rather the dress draws comparisons to a short, flimsy piece of nightwear, something more appropriate for use behind closed doors than on a tennis court.
Already leaving little to the imagination, a blast of wind – and the weather forecast calls for 30 mph gusts Friday and Saturday – can make the uniform even more revealing.
After players were forced to alter the dress themselves during Wimbledon qualifying last week in nearby Roehampton – Czech Lucie Hradecka wore leggings and Britain’s Katie Boulter tied a knot around her waist – the UK’s Daily Mail reported that Nike had recalled the outfits following complaints.
The newspaper said Nike had sent an email to players and agents that read: “We need to make a small change to your dresses per Wimbledon rules. Could you please bring them by the Nike Wimbledon house.”
Nike, in an email sent to CNN, denied recalling the dresses although it admitted changes were needed.
“The product has not been recalled and we often customize products and make alterations for athletes as they compete,” said a Nike spokesperson. “We work closely with our athletes to provide them with product that helps them perform and feel their best on the court.”
Fixes to the attire that have featured during the tournament proper include sewing the sides up so they are less revealing.
But it’s all a matter of taste. The 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard – one of the sport’s most marketable players despite a slump last year – is happily donning the gear.
“I like it,” Bouchard told reporters Wednesday. “I can’t comment on anyone else’s opinion about them. Nike comes up with some cool, modern designs.
“And it’s definitely short, but that’s how I like my dresses so I’m fine with it.”
Madison Keys, the 2015 Australian Open semifinalist in the same young age group as the Canadian, chose a Nike outfit she has been wearing all year, but in white: A skirt and tank top.
“It was going to be an easy transition,” Keys told reporters. “I haven’t played in a dress for years.
“So for me it was just more about it’s easy to switch into a different color instead of switching into a dress.
“They let us know it was always an option.”
That option was preferred, too, by 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.
“I didn’t feel comfortable showing that much,” Lisicki said.
The German, mirroring Keys, selected the skirt and tank top.
“For me the most important thing is to feel comfortable and not to think about anything, and with this I feel great. I like it. I think it looks good.
“It’s classic. So that’s why I picked that one.”
Wondering about Serena Williams?
Arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time with 21 majors, Williams wears a dress designed specifically for her. It bears more resemblance to the ensembles of Keys and Lisicki than Bouchard’s. The glaring difference was a high neck.
“I think Nike has been really good about making things, designing with me to make things that look good, play good essentially,” Williams told reporters. “That’s kind of our motto. Obviously we want it to work. This works really well, too.”
Older sister Venus has pushed the boundaries in the past, notably by wearing flesh-colored underpants at the 2010 Australian Open. She wears clothing from her own line, EleVen.
The five-time Wimbledon champion seeks a balance of fashion and functionality.
” I’ve had a lot of fashion adventures, that’s for sure,” she told reporters this week. “But it’s never stopped me on the court. I’ve been able to play my best. It hasn’t been an issue.
“Fashion is very important for me, so it always has to be fashionable. But clearly it has to be functional. They go hand‑in‑hand. I wouldn’t say one is ahead of the other.
“But it’s easy to design something functional without being fashionable. It’s about challenging yourself to push it a little bit.”
Venus Williams, Bouchard, Lisicki and Keys all won to reach the third round as play continued Thursday, with Bouchard upsetting Britain’s highest-ranked women’s player, 16th seed Johanna Konta, 6-3 1-6 6-1. Venus Williams played on a small showcourt, court 18, which raised eyebrows given her success at the All England Club.
But French Open titlist Garbine Muguruza succumbed to the curse of the first-time slam winner, losing to Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova 6-3 6-2.