Tennis players are revealing their frustrations with the strict Wimbledon dress code – as social media players called it ‘sexist’ and ‘old-fashioned’ that women might have to wear white while menstruating.
The white clothing has been a Wimbledon tradition since the beginning, with lawn tennis being predominantly played in whites since the beginning of the game towards the end of the 19th century.
Reasons for wearing white clothes ranged from the colour being associated with wealth and the more functional reason that it covered sweat stains better than coloured fabric.
However in recent days, a number of players have spoken out about the strict dress code, with British player Heather Watson telling The Times: ‘I have come off court and I’ve looked and gone: ‘Oh my God. I hope you can’t see that in any pictures.’
Meanwhile social media users are also campaigning for a change to the dress code, with one tweeting: ‘I love Wimbledon. But as a former athlete who prayed ahead of every major swim meet that I wouldn’t have my period that day, I’ve always wondered how female tennis players felt about being forced to wear white (with limited bathroom breaks).
Tennis players are revealing their frustrations with the strict Wimbledon dress code – as social media players called it ‘sexist’ and ‘old-fashioned’ that women might have to wear white while menstruating (Pictured, Emma Raducanu)
Meanwhile another wrote: ‘Wimbledon dress code tradition is actually wild when you think about it. Making the girlies rock white? What must happen when they’re on their period?
‘The constant anxiety you’d have about a potential leak. Free the girlies from wearing white please.’
A third added: ‘Why the f*** does Wimbledon still make female tennis players wear all white, regardless if the female is on her period?’
Rennae Stubbs told The Telegraph that the conversation had come up in the locker room on multiple occasions, saying: ‘At Wimbledon, you’re very cognizant of making sure that everything’s ‘good to go’ the moment you walk on the court – making sure that you have a tampon.
British player Heather Watson recalled how she has come off court at Wimbledon and feared her period may have leaked onto her white clothing
Rennae Stubbs said she was ‘so paranoid’ while on her period and wearing all white at Wimbledon (pictured in 2003)
‘A lot of women have pads on top of that, or making sure that you have an extra-large tampon before you go on the court
Wimbledon’s VERY strict dress code for tennis players stepping out on court
The first clause of the ten-part decree issued by Wimbledon states: ‘Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround.’
The second clause specifies that white does not mean off-white or cream colours, while the third limits splashes of colour to a single trim around the neckline or the sleeve cuff, and to just 1cm in width.
The back of players’ tops, which includes shirts, dress, tracksuit tops and sweaters, must be totally white. The same goes for bottoms, but a single trim of colour is allowed down the outside seam, permitted it’s not wider than 1cm.
Accessories such as wristbands caps, headbands and bandanas must also be totally white except the single trim of colour.
Even underwear is not allowed to be anything but white if it’s possible they could be seen during play.
‘I think it might have been the one time that I actually left the court at Wimbledon, when I did have my period.’
Meanwhile she also revealed how she had once had to tell a rival their period was leaking, quietly pulling them to one side to say ‘you should probably go to the bathroom.’
She told The Times: ‘You are so paranoid that it could happen to you.’
Meanwhile former Russian-born French player Tatiana Golovin said she prefers to wear ‘something darker’, adding: ‘For an athlete, it’s very tricky to wear white because you have the photographers, you have pictures everywhere, you’re sliding on the court, you’re falling, you’re playing, your skirt’s flying up.’
Three Wimbledon junior players were forced to change their underwear in 2017 because they fell foul of the regulations.
The rules state that medical supports and equipment should also be white ‘if possible’.
As the sport became more popular and more active, the obscuring of sweat by wearing white became a priority.
However, while wearing whites was always the convention, the code became stricter in response to Ted Tinling’s women’s tennis dresses.
Tinling, a tennis player turned fashion designer, made waves when he designed a dress for Gertrude Moran in 1949 that revealed her silk underwear beneath the short skirt.
He also added trims of colour to the dresses of Joy Gannon and Betty Hilton, which ultimately led to the Wimbledon committee to order competitors to ‘wear all-white clothing’.
Tinling and Wimbledon tussled again in 1962, when he outfitted Brazilian player Maria Bueno with a dress that featured shocking pink lining.
The following year, Wimbledon ordered all players to wear clothing that was ‘predominantly white throughout’.
Social media users branded the dress code ‘sexist’ and called it ‘ridiculous’ women were required to wear white while playing, regardless of whether they were menstruating
In the 1970s, when the US Open became the first international tournament to allow coloured clothes, Wimbledon dress codes relaxed enough to see champions such as Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert add splashes of colour to their kits.
But over the next few decades, the dress codes have reverted to its original strictness, with the All England Lawn Tennis Club saying in 2017: ‘To us, the all-white rule isn’t about fashion, it’s about letting the players and the tennis stand out.
‘Everyone who steps on a Wimbledon court, from a reigning champion through to qualifier does so wearing white.
‘That’s a great leveller. If a player wants to get noticed, they must do so through their play. That’s a tradition we’re proud of.’