Usually the most scandalous part of breaking dress-code ad Wimbledon is wearing a bit of color, but things are apparently different this year with players complaining of Nike’s ineffective and inappropriate dress. The dress, called the NikeCourt Premier Slam Dress, does not look scandalous at first glance. On the model, it features a high neckline and a skirt that is no shorter than any other tennis dress. The problem, however, is the dress’ light fabric and loose fitting empire-waist cut.

The design, which is tight at the sternum and becomes loose around the breast, flowing down to the hem, is too billowing for the athletes to effectively play. This has caused problems at Wimbledon, with a number of tennis stars including Taylor Townsend, Donna Vekic, Eugenie Bouchard, and Rebecca Peterson all experiencing problems with the garment. With fast movement, the hemline flies up about the players’ waists, revealing not only their athletic shorts but also their torsos in the process. Sabine Lisicki, the 2013 Wimbledon runner-up, actually refused to wear the dress, stating “I tried it on but didn’t feel comfortable showing that much. For me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and not think about anything.” While other players didn’t have much of a problem with the dress’ modesty, some had problems with the dress affecting their performance. Rebecca Peterson said, “When I was serving, it was coming up, and I felt like the dress was just everywhere. In general, it’s quite simple, the dress, but it was flying everywhere.”


Photo Credit: Nike

Others are calling the dress a “nightgown” and “lingerie,” slamming Nike for sexualizing female athletes. However, while the dress may be short, its loose fit makes it relatively modest when compared to tighter designs. The short hemline is meant to allow for movement, not to expose the player. Rather, the problem here is not one of hypersexualization of female athletes, but of Nike’s failure to effectively test their design before allowing star players to wear it at Wimbledon. The empire waist cut doesn’t keep the skirt from baring the wearer’s stomach and back when the fabric, which is evidently not heavy enough, rises due to movement and wind. Coach Judy Murray recognized this as the issue, stating that “the important thing for any clothing manufacturer who is sponsoring top players is to make sure that the clothing is functional for the job in hand…So I’m sure that Nike will be taking steps to address it. Because anything that is not functional proves distracting to the players and that’s not in anybody’s interests.”

Some of the women wearing the dress have taken to making style adjustments to prevent wardrobe malfunctions. Katie Boulter tied her dress down at the waist with a white headband to prevent the dress from getting in her way, while Lucie Hradecka simply wore her dress as a top, pairing it with white leggings.

So far, the controversial dress has not been recalled by Nike, who said on Monday that “We often customize products and make alterations for athletes as they compete…We work closely with our athletes to provide them with product that helps them perform and feel their best on the court.” Players can evidently opt to have their outfits altered on-site by Nike. And while reviews have mostly been negative, at least one player likes the “negligée” dress. Eugenie Bouchard stated, “For me, I love it…It’s nice and short so you can move around and be free with your movements. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s funny that people paid a lot of attention to it, but I think it’s really nice.”

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