Serena Williams - Breaking Fashion Barriers

Serena Williams - Breaking Fashion Barriers

Tennis queen Serena Williams uses clothing to express her personality and challenge societal norms.

As Serena Williams stepped onto the court at the 2022 US Open - her final tournament - on August 29th, the tennis player wore a small black dress paired with sneakers adorned with 400 diamonds. The design, consisting of six layers, symbolized her six championships at this event, drawing inspiration from figure skaters' costumes. The crystals on the dress simulated a star-filled night sky - the moment she competes. Vogue noted that Williams always surprises with bold, creative outfits.

According to the New York Times, through fashion, Williams has broken barriers of race, age, background, and traditional tennis attire rules. Her attire reflects a part of her personality: determined, strong, confident, and always self-loving. Fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson told Vogue, "It's not by chance that her outfits have a stripe here, a neon color there. Everything is calculated to convey the message: women deserve to be admired." John Hoke, Nike's design chief who has worked with Williams for nearly 20 years, gave her a perfect score in style.

Traditionally an aristocratic sport, tennis has its traditional clothing rules and dress codes. Wimbledon mandates players to wear white, while the Australian Open allows only one emblem on the shirt sleeve, with any patterns on the cap needing to be "tennis-specific." The US Open and Roland Garros also have their own regulations. However, Williams always finds ways to innovate in terms of style and color, making her outfits not just sportswear but also fashionable statements.

Since turning professional in 1995, the African American woman has always used clothing as a weapon. Her outfits are meticulously planned and considered an essential part of her career. Initially, she simply expressed her love for fashion with denim, studs, snake patterns, and mesh. Over time, she used her attire to advocate against injustice and inequality in society.

At Roland Garros in 2018, despite the rule against wearing tight-fitting suits, full-body suits, Williams walked onto the court in a black catsuit inspired by the female warriors of Wakanda - a fictional kingdom in the movie Black Panther. Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation, angrily stated in Tennis magazine, "Sometimes we are too lenient and let things go too far, like in Serena's case. Such clothing will no longer be accepted. We need to respect other players and especially the audience."

However, fans passionately supported Serena when she revealed that she wore the bodysuit to aid blood circulation. Previously, she faced life-threatening difficulties due to blood clots after giving birth to her first daughter in September 2017.

A year later, returning to the tournament, Williams chose a black and white crop top and tennis skirt paired with a trapeze jacket. The words "mother," "champion," "queen," and "goddess" were printed on her shirt in French. Serena collaborated with designer Virgil Abloh to create the outfit, explaining, "These words mean a lot to me. I want to remind women that they deserve respect whether they are champions, queens, or ordinary mothers." After childbirth, Williams went through a crisis period of balancing motherhood while maintaining her performance and achievements.

As she began pursuing her 24th Grand Slam title at the first round of the 2021 Australian Open, the American tennis player continued to showcase her fashion taste with an asymmetrical catsuit. According to Sun Sport, the outfit was inspired by Florence Griffith-Joyner, one of the greatest sprinters in history.

Williams has had a fashion affinity since childhood. While her father, Richard Williams, directed his children towards sports, her mother, Oracene Price, greatly influenced her daughter's clothing preferences. Price taught her to sew when Williams was just over two years old. The tennis player once told Vogue, "I used to watch my mom lay out Vogue magazines and cut out clothes from them."

In 1998, Williams and her sister were chosen to pose for the magazine. She wore a black and white dress by Carolina Herrera. The tennis player's friendship with Anna Wintour - editor-in-chief of Vogue US - flourished. Wintour called Williams a "fearless dresser" for defying all fashion rules. Williams wasn't afraid to wear revealing dresses despite having muscular arms and thick thighs. For her, there's no need for high heels when wearing evening dresses. Oversized dresses, frills, all were experimented by the "tennis queen."

Williams has shattered some of Vogue's boundaries, including becoming the first black female athlete to appear on the cover of the magazine in 2012, alongside soccer player Hope Solo and swimmer Ryan Lochte. She continued to feature solo on the covers in 2015, 2018, and 2022. Thanks to her fashion-forward outfits on the court, Williams became a VIP guest, sitting front row at fashion shows in Milan, New York...

In 2019, she was one of the hosts at the Met Gala alongside singer Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, and Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele. On the red carpet, the tennis player wore a Versace dress with Nike sneakers personalized for her. Following in her sister Venus's footsteps, Williams studied fashion design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and founded her own fashion brand, S by Serena, in 2020. In the same year, she established the Serena Williams design team at Nike, providing opportunities for young designers of color to join. At Paris Fashion Week in March 2021, she walked the runway in a tribute show to her close friend, designer Virgil Abloh of Off-White.

Chris Evert - the dominant female tennis player in the 1970s and 1980s - once wrote an open letter to Williams in Tennis magazine, suggesting that Williams had let fashion distract from her tennis career. "I appreciate becoming a well-rounded person is important to you. However, have you ever considered your place in history? Is that something you care about?" Evert questioned.

Williams has never responded. With her contributions to tennis and fashion, Vogue and The New York Times consider them valuable achievements.

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