‘Nike Nightie’ babydoll tennis dress loses fans at Wimbledon

Nike’s “Premier Slam Dress” is far from an Ace. These tennis whites, meant for Serena Williams and other women tennis pros, are revealing much more than just a player’s talent on the court.

Serena Williams, in her exclusive Nike Serena SW19 dress, on day two of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, June 28, 2016 in London.

If you’ve ever dreamed of attending Wimbledon—now in day two of its 2016 championship—let me help you imagine yourself there: You’re a champion tennis player, heading out onto the court in front of thousands of live spectators, and potentially a few million television viewers, ready to play your heart out and go for that elusive tournament title you’ve been practicing for all year (well, all your life, really). You go to take your first shot—it sails over the net to be a perfectly placed serve—but all the spectators’ eyes and camera lenses aren’t glued to the tennis ball, they’re staring at your underwear and exposed midriff. Your “cute” tennis dress has shot up revealing all. Embarrassing? Yes! Distracting? Yes! Avoidable? Absolutely.

But this is exactly what has been happening to many of the female tennis players competing at Wimbledon for the women’s tennis championship this week. Nike’s “Premier Slam” dress, costing $100, is a lightweight babydoll dress that seemingly complies with Wimbledon’s strict dress codes: it is pure white, bar a small tasteful logo, and it appears to have a modest enough length. Its shape is distinctly feminine, a romantic silhouette, that some spectators have jokingly started nicknaming the “Nike Nightie.” And while there’s nothing wrong with looking feminine on the court, it does seem odd that Nike would think to put strong female athletes in little baby doll looking gowns that don’t offer much in the way of support or function.

Nike.com

When the tennis stars are in action, the short, floaty dress flies up every chance it gets, leaving the players sporting them in an awkward position, their attention divided between having to pull down the dress or hit the perfect shot. Nike, even though it is a sports gear company, seems not to have fully appreciated the rigors female pro players would put the apparel through when it designed the outfit. It’s downright surprising that the company somehow overlooked the dress’s unfortunate potential for revealing more than a players talent.

Germany’s Sabine Lisicki refused to wear the dress as she felt it was too revealing. “I tried it on but didn’t feel comfortable showing that much” said the 26-year-old tennis ace. “For me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and not to think about anything.”

Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki of Germany at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, June 27, 2016. Adam Pretty | Getty Images

Nike has apparently tried to resolve the problem by lengthening the dress, but as one Twitter user Dianne tweeted: “So that’s the fixed version of the dress? Hmmm.” Still, Serena Williams, ranked number one by the Women’s Tennis Association, has also refused to wear the dress. Instead she is sporting an exclusive version, the ‘Nike Women’s Premier Wimbledon Serena SW19 Dress.’ “The racerback design is a classic silhouette, while the pleated skirt continues the story of Williams’ dresses from previous Grand Slams in 2016,” reports Women’s Tennis Blog.

So far, so good, Serena’s design doesn’t seem to be impeding her style or play as Williams beat Swiss Amra Sadokovic in two straight sets. With the nipped-in waist and higher neckline it must be easier for Serena to concentrate on her game than on worrying about revealing too much.

It must be a challenge designing sportswear for professional sportswomen; taking into consideration the need for breathability, comfort, moisture, support, flexibility, and fashion. But the real pity is that sporting leaders Nike forgot the essential: modesty. At times we have to put function over fashion in a bid to give active women the chance to take part in a sport without worrying if they’re over-exposing themselves.

Women’s Wimbledon whites over the years

Women have been competing for 132 years in this lawn tennis championship and dress-styles have gone a long way in providing women with the chance to surpass themselves whilst remaining as feminine and elegant as possible. Let’s hope this Nike dress is just a little hiccup in the history of powerful women proving to the world their impressive strengths on the tennis courts.

Steffi Graf at Wimbledon, 1990. Bob Martin | Allsport | Getty Images
Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon, 1988. Bob Martin | Getty Images
Martina Hingis at Wimbledon, ca.1996. Gerry Penny | AFP | Getty Images
Venus Williams at Wimbledon, 2001. Clive Brunskill | Allsport | Getty Images
Maria Kirilenko of Russia at Wimbledon, 2009. Clive Brunskill | Getty Images
Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, 2015. Ian Walton | Getty Images
Serena Williams at Wimbledon, June 28, 2016. Clive Brunskill | Getty Images

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Cerith Gardiner
Cerith Gardiner
Cerith Gardiner was born in London and has been living in Paris for 14 years. She spends her time working as an English consultant, acting as taxi driver to her four children, and wondering if she'll ever be as stylish as the French.

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