Tuesday, June 1, 2010

French Open Fashion

The tennis world has been focused on the French Open [actually known as Roland-Garros now] this past week - but more on what is being worn than on who's winning. The reason? Venus Williams!

In case you are not a big tennis fan, you may not know that in the off season both Venus and Serena are involved in fashion. Each has a line of clothing - Venus designs for "Eleven by Venus Williams" which has casual sports clothes for the player and the spectator. Soft fabrics for active clothes that would fit most anyone, but which are intended for play time. She also designs all her own tennis wear. It's always feminine and a bit edgy, like this white tennis dress from last year with the scalloped hem.

Serena's line is AneresDesign - for the independent woman who wants to dress well and look sexy. It's much more edgy, feminine and very much "dress up". She is working on a lingerie line and a fragrance, but they are apparently not yet available. Over the years Serena has shown up at various tournaments in not-so-normal tennis wear - things like denim, and boot covers on her shoes, tights and things that were a bit bare and a bit tight. For Roland-Garros this year she chose a conservative blue tennis dress with lime trim and a lime headband.

That's why it came as such a surprise when it was Venus who showed up this spring wearing a lingerie-like tennis dress. She has worn it several times, but didn't get big press until she showed up in Paris. There are two versions - red and black - but it's the black one that she has worn the past week.

It's a bit bare, rather short, and certainly suggestive of lingerie, but on first view I rather like it. NOT that I would ever think of wearing it! I look for the longer skirts and have never even considered a tennis dress - way too form fitting for me! Critics have called it her can-can costume, night clothes, and dance hall wear.

To give you a few other "costumes" to consider, here are some of the other leading female players and what they are wearing this week.

Jelena Jankovich of Serbia chose a yellow dress - rather similar to Serena's blue number. It's long enough, has a bit of ruffle for feminity and fits nicely. She has just played tennis for two hours and still looks fairly fresh and the dress is holding up and doesn't look sweaty, except for some wrinkling around the midrift. A nice choice, I think.

Oliva Sanchez of Spain chose a similar black dress with a bit of a floaty skirt. I like the higher square neck and the dress does not have the stretch at the waist so it doesn't pucker like Jalena's does, but overall, same dress different manufacturer. I don't particularly like the black. It looks a little "evening" to me, but overall a nice dress. Do you see a theme here in dress styles?

Other players have gone with a more traditional approach. Australia's Sam Stosur chose a regular knit tennis dress with trim at the neck and sleeves. She's worn it in orange and in navy, but it's pretty much the same dress that Chris Evert wore twenty years ago.

And Li Na from China is wearing what you and I would wear - a tennis skirt with a v-neck tee shirt. The pleats in the skirt give her additional room to move and the whole look is professional and appropriate to her job.

So, why all the hoopla about Venus's dress. It's still a bit short and a bit more like lingerie than everyone else's, but why is it creating a furor? It's what you cannot see.

Traditionally, women tennis players wear shorts or spanks that either match or contract with their dresses. Serena's are lime (contrast), Jelena's are yellow (match), Oliva's black (match), Sam's are white (contrast), and Na's are white (match).

But Venus' are skin-colored. Take a look at the action view and you decide... are these too much for the tennis court?


  1. Well I've played tennis since high school and we attended the Family Circle Tennis Tournament in Hilton Head for many years and I've seen tennis fashion evolve into something I never imagined. And really, it's all due to the Williams sisters. I kind of like the edgier stuff, but I think they tend to push it just a tiny bit too far. Like it makes you cluck your tongue but not quite call the FCC. It's a thin line they dance across and they do it well. I would prefer NOT to see butt when I'm watching tennis but if that wasn't freeze-framed, you'd probably never see it. Serving is a split-second action...unfortunately, someone with a telephoto lens has made it last a lifetime.

  2. Good point. And she does actually have on spanks - they just fit tight and match her skin. Apparently the commentators and men, in general, found it very distracting. I really like the red one better, too.

    We're headed to DC in July to see the WTT Kastles. I hope she wears one of them so I can see it "live" and decide for myself.

  3. I don't watch tennis a lot, but I never thought about the fashion that goes into it. I guess it's just like any sporting event...think of the Olympics and the crazy things they have to wear for that!