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Volume 26 No. 65
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Serena Williams Making Statements On Court With Tennis Style

Williams turned more heads at the French Open this week with her zebra-striped outfit
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Women's tennis dresses have "become a political tool" through Serena Williams, an "unabashed statement of female empowerment and independence not just for herself, but for all," according to Vanessa Friedman of the N.Y. TIMES. This has been "happening slowly over the last year, but it crystallized this week" with Williams' outfit at the French Open, a "black-and-white striped crop top, tennis skirt, trapeze-back jacket that flew out like a cape in the wind, and maxi skirt." This is all "to a certain extent a statement" about Williams and her talent. But it is also a "statement about women in general," and to "what extent they should be free to break old rules that have lost all meaning." This began last year when Williams "appeared at the French Open in a catsuit," which French Open authorities said was a dress code violation. At the U.S. Open later last year, Williams "appeared in a tennis tutu," a dress that "on its own was taken as something of a riposte to the French ... but which sent messages about reclaiming and reinventing old tropes of what was considered traditionally 'ladylike' and defining them as powerfully as she pleased." Williams "understands as well as anyone on the court -- or in sport, for that matter -- what fashion can do" (NYTIMES.com, 5/29).

MAKING IT BIGGER THAN IT IS? ESPN's Pablo Torre said when the French Open banned the catsuit that Williams wore last year, it "enabled a whole new marketing campaign ... that's infused clearly with some larger social significance." However, ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "I've seen this connection being made to the French Open's decision last year. Are you sure that even if she had worn this last year and they let her that she wouldn't be wearing this now? I have not seen this put out there as a direct refutation or some rebellious move against what the French Open had done before" ("High Noon," ESPN, 5/28).