Clothes are not just items to keep you warm or cool; they express status, show defiance and even relieve anxiety.
For tennis legend Billie Jean King, clothing allows female tennis players to express their individuality through colors and prints, a right she and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) fought for in the embryonic 1970s, when white was ubiquitous as the color of the sport.
Wimbledon still uses this rigid white dress code – originally put in place to camouflage sweat stains. currently, it helps the SW19 Grand Slam maintain a sense of uniqueness in relation to the Australian Open, French Open and US Open, but arguably reduces the individuality of the players.
What’s more, it raises concerns for menstruating players that blood can be seen on white clothing.
“My generation, we were always worried that we were wearing all white all the time,” King told CNN’s Amanda Davies. “And what you wear underneath is important during your period.
“And we are always seeing what we are showing. You get stressed about that because we’re entertainers first and you want what you wear to look clean, look great. We are entertainers. We are taking it to the town.”
At Wimbledon this year, campaign organizers called on them to relax their strict dress code, gathering in SW19 with placards reading “About the bloody time” and “Targeting the dress code”.
It follows comments from several women, including a former Olympic champion Monica Puig and Australian tennis player Daria Saville, who spoke of the “mental stress” caused by the all-white dress code and the resulting “skipping periods”.
Manufacturers are starting to develop solutions, while Wimbledon’s dress code remains in place, Adidas told BBC Sport it had time-proven training products for women.
“You can breathe and feel like you don’t have to check everything every minute when you sit down and change sides,” King added, referring to wearing dark clothing underneath.
“So at least it’s been brought to the fore, and I think it’s important to discuss that.”
In addition to the white politics that players raise concerns about in their time, King noted that it can be difficult for fans to try to tell players apart on the court.
“There is nothing worse in sports than when you turn on the TV and two players are wearing the same uniform or the same outfit. It’s awesome. Nobody knows who is who.
“This is one of my dogs, I’ve been yelling for years. Have you ever seen a sport where people wear the same outfit on each side?’
CNN reached out to Wimbledon for comment, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
The fading taboo around menstruation is a testament to the progress women’s sports have made in recent years, a battle King has led for 50 years.
Two years ago, the Federation Cup – the flagship international competition in women’s tennis, in which players compete for their national teams – changed its name to the Billie Jean Cup King in her honor, and now the tennis great is using clothing to highlight its champions. With a ‘winner’s jacket’ designed by famous fashion designer Tory Burch.
Building on the tradition of the famous ‘Green Jacket’ worn annually by the winner of The Masters golf tournament, Burch designed a blue jacket for the winners of the Billie Jean King Cup, hoping that it would eventually become as iconic as its predecessor. .
Every stitch, every stitch and every inch of fabric is full of symbolism.
His color, “Billie Blue,” was chosen “because King has worn blue many times throughout his amazing career,” Burch explained.
Most famously, King entered the court as Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” in a blue and menthol green dress adorned with buttons down the front and rhinestone detailing.
Even her shoes were blue, deliberately chosen to match her dress, which still stood out on novel colored television and subverted gender stereotypes.
“The shoes and the color, it’s all very important to me,” says King. “I always try to make sense of what I wear.”
Since that moment when King defeated Riggs 6-4 6-3 6-3 in front of an estimated worldwide television audience of 90 million, gender equality has progressed inside and outside the sport, albeit at times without pause, a few steps back or stumbling sideways. done
That same year, the US Open became the first Grand Slam to offer equal prize money to men and women, and the US Supreme Court upheld women’s rights in Roe vs. While Wade gave them the right to have an abortion, that decision was overturned in June.
“Each generation, they go farther and farther from the beginning of the struggle,” says King. “I think history is very important, the more you know about history, the more you know about yourself.”
King hopes that today’s generation of female tennis stars, who will wear a specially designed jacket as Billie Jean King Cup winner, will take a cue.
“But the most important thing [history] it helps shape your future and that’s what I want these young women to do. Their job now is to move forward, lead and shape the future.’
And inside the jacket, to remind the Billie Jean King Cup champions of the ‘fight’ and their place in it, is a message from King himself.
“Congratulations on winning the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup,” King reads aloud. “As a member of the first team to win the Federation Cup in 1963, I dreamed of sharing this title with women like you.
“Tory Burch shares my passion for tennis and women’s empowerment. We designed the Champion’s Billie Blue Jacket to represent your incredible victory and how far women have come in sports. Together, we can make equality a reality. Billie Jean King, be brave.