Nike’s perforated racerback dress takes centre stage at Wimbledon | Fashion

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Whether you think it’s “perfection” in a frock or more like a lampshade crossed with a doily, one thing about the Nike dress at Wimbledon is undeniable: it’s everywhere.

The Court 1 quarter-final between the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and American Madison Keys on Wednesday featured both players sporting the same Nike dress – which combines a racerback top with a double layer, perforated skirt.

Keys also clashed earlier in the week with the 16-year-old prodigy Mirra Andreeva, who was also wearing the dress for the pair’s last 16 match. The dress has also been spotted on the British No 1 Katie Boulter and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, among others.

“It is undeniably odd to see two players wearing the same dress and felt like a miss from Nike. Actually, I received a lot of messages and DM’s saying: ‘Why are they wearing the same thing?’,” said Laura Ward, the founder of luxury tennis apparel brand EXEAT. “It’s like turning up to a party in matching outfits.”

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Katie Boulter wearing the dress
Katie Boulter also wore the same dress earlier in the week. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Ward was complimentary about the frock itself, however, saying the “body-con top and voluminous layered skirt creates a really flattering silhouette combo”, while Glam Spin Tennis, a tennis blog focused on “style, fashion and the glam life” gushed: “The Nike eyelet dress is perfection.”

Speaking after watching Sabalenka beat Keys resoundingly 6-2, 6-4, Hikmat Mohammed, an editor at Women’s Wear Daily, called the dress “daring” by Wimbledon’s strict traditional standards. “The net curtain dress is fun, frilly and a bit feminine,” he said. “And seeing two women wear it, one from Belarus and one from the USA, feels like a show of sisterhood to me.”

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But others, notably non-fashionistas on social media, have been less effusive. “This Nike frock, which I’ve seen on several players at Wimbledon today, is a lampshade crossed with a doily and truly horrid,” wrote the British writer Rose George, author of The Big Necessity. Another Twitter user, Pam Gunn, agreed, noting that “doilies are for afternoon tea, not sportswear”.

It’s not the first time the sports brand has provoked a raised eyebrow at SW19. In 2016 its Wimbledon “nightie” was decried as the most impractical sportswear ever, with big names reportedly refusing to wear the floaty number, which had a tendency to do a Marilyn Monroe every time athletes went for a shot. The British tennis player Katie Swan, then 17, resorted to tucking it into her shorts midway through a match.

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Katie Swan of Great Britain plays a backhand during the Ladies Singles first round match against Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland on day two of the Wimbledon Championships in 2016
Katie Swan was one of the victims of the 2016 Wimbledon ‘nightie’, which had a tendency to float up. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

But if an outfit is annoying, boring, or looks a little bit like a badly cut pair of grannie’s net curtains – tough luck. The vast majority of tennis players don’t have much choice once they are under contract with a clothing brand, according to My Tennis HQ’s Karue Sell.

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“At the end of the day, the choice of what a player will wear on the court comes down money: players will choose to wear the clothes of the brand that is willing to pay the most during negotiations,” he wrote, addressing the question in an article on the website.

Money clearly matters: in 2018 Roger Federer famously ditched his longstanding association with Nike, after signing a $300m (£231m) 10-year deal with Uniqlo. Nowadays the brand may be chasing a younger audience. Jannik Sinner, 21, who walked on court at Wimbledon with a Gucci bag to gasps of shock from traditionalists, recently signed a 10-year £150m deal with Nike.

Having the same dress, or T-shirt and shorts shown repeatedly on our television screens during the two weeks of Wimbledon is simply payback, said Ward. “Wimbledon is the crown jewel in the tennis calendar, the single most watched tournament in the world,” she said.

“What they’ve done with this year’s dress is use texture and silhouette to help them catch the eye over the other brands on courts … I guess it’s worked, because we’re all taking about it.”



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