By Carlo Versano
Serena Williams's choice to take the court at the U.S. Open in something resembling a tutu added dimension to a debate that's been waged at more traditional offices across the country: what exactly is considered work-appropriate attire in 2018?
Most might not think of a tennis court as a workplace, but for sports pros that's exactly what it is. And a mega athlete at the top of her game donning a frilly, flamboyant costume seemed designed to make a statement, chief fashion critic for the New York Times Vanessa Friedman said Thursday in an interview on Cheddar.
But Friedman said she thinks Williams's choice "is fantastic" and "what athletes should do."
That is, athletes should wear what makes them feel good.
Williams' fashion statement comes as French tennis officials retroactively banned the catsuit she wore during this year's French Open, saying it did not "respect the game." That outfit, though, actually served a medical purpose, made of compression fabric to prevent the blood clots Williams suffered from after giving birth to her first child last September.
Medical needs aside, the episode raises the question of, in an era of casual dress ー where athleisure wear is de rigueur and many offices allow jeans at work ー why should female tennis players still have to wear skirts or dresses on the court?
In fact, Friedman said, there is no clause in the Grand Slam rule book that requires dresses or skirts be worn on the court.
Instead, it's more a "social hangover" from an era when women had to conform to a stereotype in order to compete at the professional level, "because they were wearing the garb of women," Friedman said.
But times are different. Performance wear has evolved to better serve the needs of athletes. And in the age of social media, athletes are more attuned to their personal brands and styles.
The discussion reflects a broader one about what is appropriate when dress codes are left so vague, Friedman said.
"Respect is in the eye of the beholder."
For full interview click here.