Thursday, June 30, 2016

For Some at Wimbledon, Nike’s Dress Just Doesn’t Do It

For the female tennis players wearing Nike at Wimbledon, one style did not fit all.

Instead of the typical outfits Nike offers most players who are paid to wear its apparel, the company issued a loosely hanging, short dress. It was white, in accordance with Wimbledon’s dress code. But it was not exactly ideal for competitive tennis, according to several players. Wardrobe changes have ensued.

“When I was serving, it was coming up, and I felt like the dress was just everywhere,” Rebecca Peterson of Sweden said. “In general, it’s quite simple, the dress, but it was flying everywhere.”

Peterson played with a long-sleeved shirt over her dress to hold the dress somewhat in place.

Katie Boulter improvised by tying a headband around her waist to serve as a belt, which held the fabric somewhat more in place. Lucie Hradecka wore leggings underneath the dress, effectively turning it into a shirt.

Hradecka’s coach, Jiri Fencl, said Hradecka had felt cold in the cool English summer with only the light dress on, and had expressed some concerns about playing in the dress instead of her normal, more form-fitting competition apparel, especially given her two-handed groundstrokes and the crouching she does in doubles.

“That was the first dress she ever tried on in practice,” Fencl said. “She saw it was very short and that it flies, so she was trying it. Sometimes, with two hands you can grab the dress if it flies a lot. I think every player was like, ‘Hmm, that’s short.’ She was worried about it in doubles, too, because when you get up from I-formation, you can grab it.”

This was not what Nike had in mind. In a news release distributed before the tournament, the company touted the dress: “NikeCourt female team athletes will compete in the one-piece NikeCourt Premier Slam Dress, which represents a departure from the skirt-top combinations worn in previous Grand Slams.” The release said: “Despite the traditional aesthetic, the dress features modern design elements such as power pleats and racerback construction, which work in tandem to enable the athlete’s movement.”

But once put to the test during qualifying last week, the dress quickly proved problematic. It was largely shapeless, with long fabric hanging freely in the front and back. It most resembled the “babydoll” style, developed in 1942 by the New York designer Sylvia Pedlar to cope with wartime fabric shortages — and is more commonly associated with lingerie and sleepwear than athletic performance.

by Ben Rothenberg,  NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Cal Sport Media, via Associated Press