Wimbledon’s controversial all-white dress code is expected to undergo a major change after the prestigious tennis competition faced months of pressure from female athletes.
The 1880s rule restricts players to wearing only white clothing – including undergarments such as underwear and bras – and has been the subject of criticism for the toll it takes on female players in relation to their periods.
Current guidelines require players to wear all-white, with undergarments that can be seen during play or because of sweat only allowed to have a “single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre”.
Now, Wimbledon bosses are due to scrap the undergarments rule for female players, which will come into effect from 2023 and will allow for different coloured underwear and bras to be worn.
The archaic rule became the subject of widespread attention after stars spoke about the anxiety around getting their period while competing, including Australian player Daria Saville who admitted she has needed to skip her period altogether and British star Heather Watson revealing she would likely take birth control to stop her period ahead of Wimbledon.
— gabs (@gabriellaholmez) July 3, 2022
At the same time,the rule drew fresh criticism when Romanian player Mihaela Buzarnescu was forced to swap her bra for her coach’s prior to her first-round match in July, after officials noticed hers was too dark.
“My bustier was too black and could be seen up here,” she told Eurosport at the time.
“The white one I had was too transparent and you could see everything underneath and I couldn’t wear it, so I borrowed from my coach, I took her bustier.”
A group of protestors also made headlines during the ladies’ singles final, gathering outside Wimbledon dressed in white shirts and red undershorts with signs reading “About bloody time”, “Address the dress code” and “You can do it Ian Hewitt”, referring to the All England Club chairman.
Gabriella Holmes and Holly Gordon, who organised the campaign Address the Dress Code to highlight the anxiety women face while competing in all-white, were among those protesting, telling The Guardian they began calling for change after opening up to each other about the challenges of playing sport while menstruating.
“We’ve come down today because we want Wimbledon to address the white dress code that doesn’t take into consideration female athletes on their periods,” Holmes said at the time.
Members of the public have begun calling for action too, including Gabriella Holmes and Holly Gordon, the women who started the campaign Address the Dress Code. Image: Getty Images
“We want to make it really known to Wimbledon that the rules they are making at the top, they’re all already filtering down to grassroots levels. We are already seeing tons of young girls who drop out of sports when they start their period or by the time they’ve hit puberty they’ve stopped sports altogether.
“We think it’s the time to address those barriers for young girls getting into the sport and it starts at the top, so that’s Wimbledon. We want women to be able to focus on the tennis and on the sport and not have to worry about other factors when competing at this level.”
More athletes have since spoken out about the issue, with Andy Murray’s mother and coach Judy describing it as a “traumatic experience” and noting that other sports had already dropped similar rules.
“One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports,” Murray told the Daily Mail.
“Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.
“I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing.
“I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.”
Recently, an #AddressTheDressCode petition was launched by Gabriella Holmes and Holly Gordon; calling on Wimbledon to rewrite its rules 'with menstruation in mind' after female tennis players shared worries about observing the Wimbledon White dress code whilst on their period. pic.twitter.com/2cd0lDzLjD
— Bloody Good Period (@bloodygood__) July 15, 2022
Since the announcement of the rule change, tennis icon Billie Jean King has slammed the rule, saying it was one of her biggest “pet peeves”.
“My generation, we always worried because we wore all white all the time,” she told CNN.
“And it’s what you wear underneath that’s important for your menstrual period.
“And we’re always checking whether we’re showing. You get tense about it because the first thing we are is entertainers and you want whatever you wear to look immaculate, look great. We’re entertainers. We’re bringing it to the people.”
In a statement, the All England Club stated they were in discussions over ways to support players and prioritise women’s health.
“Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that,” the statement read.
Image: Getty Images
This article first appeared on OverSixty.