Wimbledon’s Dress Code And Its Impact On Female Athletes: Tennis Stars Speak Out

Wimbledon’s all-white dress code has been predominant since the Victorian era

The annual Wimbledon Championships have returned, and athletes have made it clear that they are ready to update the tournament’s age-old traditions, particularly those that massively affect women athletes, such as the dress code.

Wimbledon’s strict all-white dress code has been in place since the Victorian era, but it is now called into question.

Formerly, the rule was enforced because any sign of sweat was considered “rude or improper.”

It’s difficult not to scoff at that thought when you consider the real fear the players have of menstrual blood showing through their skirts.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Catherine Whitaker, a tennis broadcaster, stated this: “I cannot imagine going into the biggest day of my life, with my period, and being forced to wear white.”

Monica Puig, a former tennis player and Olympic champion, responded to the debate by tweeting about the stress of wearing white while competing in a tournament:

“Definitely something that affects female athletes! Finally bringing it to everyone’s attention! Not to mention the mental stress of having to wear all white at Wimbledon and praying not to have your period during those two weeks.”

The current dress code completely neglects the effects of periods on athletes.

Tennis player Qiwen Zheng recently revealed how menstrual cramps affected her performance. After losing to Iga Swiatek in the French Open, Zheng told reporters,

“I can’t play tennis because (my) stomach is too painful,” CNN reported.

“I wish I could be a man on-court… so that I don’t have to suffer from…my stomach pain. I think I could enjoy it more, like to run better and to hit harder, “she continued.

Uniforms aren’t the only thing that has an excessive impact on female athletes. During a match, players may leave the court twice to use the bathroom (while doubles teams must share their allocated number of breaks).

The limited bathroom breaks at Wimbledon highlight how periods are not taken into account during the tournament.

Due to the lack of recognition, athletes must devise their own workarounds, such as wearing additional pads, larger tampons, or strategically using birth control.

Heather Watson, a British tennis player, told BBC Sport that while she enjoys the traditional aspect of wearing white, planning her period around the tournament can be stressful and “annoying.”

“I’ll probably go on the pill just to skip my period for Wimbledon. That’s the thought process and conversations that girls have about it,” she said.

Female athletes aren’t the only ones who oppose the dress code.

Tennis players Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have expressed their dissatisfaction by pushing the boundaries of what they wear—Agassi even boycotted Wimbledon between 1988 and 1990 to make his point. 

However, their argument is based on the freedom of expression in terms of style.

Changing the dress code is only the first step toward creating a more welcoming environment for professional tennis players.

Wimbledon has not yet responded to any of these players’ remarks. There appears to be no sign of change, with no ongoing petitions or policy efforts.