Fashion is all about pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the box. Fashion Shakers is a series that is focused on the tennis players that dared to paint the lines and went for style winners.
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French Open Fashion Shakers: Serena Williams' 2018 superheroine bodysuit
The iconic champion's outfit wasn't just a fashion statement; it also served as inspiration for all moms recovering from pregnancies.
Published Jun 10, 2021
Serena Williams is a passionate player that isn't afraid to go for her shots at pressure points—as reflected by her 23 Grand Slam singles titles. With her fierce on-court mentality, it comes as no surprise that Serena's fashion embodies her risk-taking qualities.
At no time was that more evident than in 2018, when Serena found herself at the center of controversy on the terre battue at Roland Garros.
One of the most exciting aspects about Serena hitting the Grand Slam stage is not just seeing her all-court game, but also what outfit she will debut in her opening match. For many years, the 73-time WTA titlist has captivated audiences with her custom-made Nike kits. But when she walked onto Court Philippe Chatrier in 2018 with a leopard-dotted Wilson bag—"Serena" written in crisp white cursive letters on it—she quickly turned heads.
“I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess,” Serena told press in Paris, adding that she felt like a queen from Wakanda, the fictional nation in the Marvel movie Black Panther.
Donning a midnight-black bodysuit with a vibrant red waist band, and her hair braided and pulled back into a slick bun, Serena certainly looked like a Marvel superhero. The crowd cheered as she walked onto the court.
The 2018 edition of Roland Garros was Williams' first major since the birth of her first child, daughter Olympia, in 2017. But after knocking out world No. 70 Kristyna Pliskova in the first round, she was faced with controversy over the outfit from French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli.
The outfit that was meant to inspire women and mothers was deemed as not respectful in an interview with France's Tennis Magazine.
“I think we sometimes went too far,” Giudicelli said. “The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”
The notion that Serena disrespected the sport was not taken lightly by fans. The Wakanda-like catsuit wasn't just a fashion trend, but it was also worn for health reasons. Serena underwent a tough pregnancy with Olympia, developing severe blood clots, and the outfits' compression allowed for proper blood flow.
“I’ve had a lot of problems with my blood clots," Serena said during the event. "God, I don’t know how many I’ve had in the past 12 months. I’ve been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going.
The all-black catsuit was banned by the FFT, a decision that outraged the tennis world—it was largely taken as micro-aggression against Serena, one of the few Black women in the sport. Serena has dealt with harsh criticism throughout her career, from her hair, skin color, outfits and body shape. While it sadly wasn't a surprise for Serena to be the center of a fashion controversy, it was shocking to see the outfit banned at Roland Garros, an event typically known for its expression of style.
But this wasn't even the first time that a bodysuit came under fire: at the 2002 US Open, media outlets referred to Serena's US Open catsuit as "curve-clutching," "trashy" and "leaving “little to the imagination."
Serena has experienced an overwhelming amount of ridicule and racially driven scrutiny during her time as a professional tennis player—perhaps the reason she was unbothered by Giudicelli’s statements.
"Everything will be OK," Williams said following the ban.
With 23 Grand Slam singles trophies in her trophy room back inside her Florida home, along with her fashion and jewelry lines and iconic status—she's 100 percent right.