London, June 29: The dress code may be notoriously strict but as the world’s best women tennis players exit the Wimbledon locker room this week their dresses will be both catwalk statement and rebellion.
Centre Court fashion seems not to have moved on much for men since Fred Perry, the British three-time Wimbledon champion, launched his now classic polo shirt in 1952. For the ladies, however, the specially designed Wimbledon dress is now a major talking, and selling, point.
Caroline Wozniacki, the former world number one, will lead the way in a dress by Stella McCartney.
The regulations demanding all-white clothing apart from a 1cm wide trim led to complaints last year from Wozniacki and other women of “creepy” knicker inspectors and reports that some players had been forced not to wear a bra.
In response, the players have pushed the rules to their limits.
Wozniacki, ranked number five, is scheduled to open her Wimbledon campaign against China’s Zheng Saisai tomorrow. She admits that despite being one of the world’s top sportswomen, fashion still matters on court.
“If I feel good on court then it’s one less thing to worry about. It gives me confidence and the freedom to really focus on my game,” she said.
The need for the design to be suitable for the gruelling environment of the tennis court has meant the player working closely with McCartney.
“I have regular fittings throughout the season where we have the chance to see how the design fits, and an opportunity to test it out on the practice courts,” she said.
Wozniacki, 24, has insisted she will be fit for Wimbledon despite retiring on Friday with a back problem during the semi-final of the Aegon International.
Wimbledon’s enforcement of all-white outfits has been criticised by some commentators but remains popular among players.
“We get to wear a lot of bright colours during the year on tour, so it’s actually nice to wear something classic on court,” said Wozniacki.
The Wimbledon dress is lucrative for sportswear companies, with copies of Wozniacki’s outfit available for £90 (around Rs 9,000).
Ana Ivanovic, the Serbian ranked number seven, will wear Adidas’s Fall All Premium dress, featuring spaghetti straps crisscrossed in the back.
Venus Williams, the American five-time Wimbledon singles champion, has designed her own dress. The Fleur Du Monde Wimbledon dress, featuring a “racer” back and traditional scoop neck, is available from the player’s EleVen clothing company for $96 (around Rs 6,000).
Jelena Jankovic, the Serbian ranked 29, is the top representative for Fila and will wear the Spring Lawn dress with mesh inserts on both front and back.
Marija Zivlak, author of the Women’s Tennis Blog, said: “Even within the strict confines of Wimbledon rules, there still is a lot of room for creativity and experiments.”
Looking good was not a requirement in the late 19th century when women had to wear full-length skirts. There was an outcry in 1905 when May Sutton Bundy, the first American to win the women’s singles championship, pulled back her cuffs to reveal her wrists.