Nike’s controversial baby doll dresses for tennis

Athletes playing for teams are expected to wear uniforms and those playing in individual sports have some restrictions too. But what is astonishing in this day and age is when those requirements are aimed at exploiting women’s sexuality. The most notorious were the rules for beach volleyball that at one time required women to wear skimpy bikinis.

I have not watched professional tennis for sometime. Wimbledon is currently going on and though the tournament dress code is quite reasonable, those women who have Nike contracts were provided this year with dresses that seemed to resemble baby-doll night dresses with side splits that are not as functional as players would like since they swished around, and many women were not pleased.

Nike tennis dress

Nike then made some modifications since some players were making ad hoc adjustments.

The controversial breakout star of Wimbledon this year has turned out to be the NikeCourt Premier Slam Dress — a short, swingy, babydoll-like piece of attire that has created a storm on the court. At issue is both its questionable practicality and, gasp, its potential to flutter in a revealing manner.

Writing in The New York Times Tuesday, Ben Rothenberg explained that when Nike issued the dress to the female players who represent the brand, it immediately garnered mixed reviews. The company had promised “power pleats and racerback construction, which work in tandem to enable the athlete’s movement” but players instead found, as Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson said, “It was flying everywhere.” Players quickly improvised their own hacks, with Katie Boulter turning a headband into breeze taming belt, and Lucie Hradecka donning leggings underneath the dress, and Nike made some alterations to the side slits. The Times says that when Nike offered its players a more traditional ensemble, “There were several takers.” But others approved of the dress — Maria Sakkari told The Times, “I think it’s a very pretty dress, and I think that it’s very feminine.”


  1. jaxkayaker says

    More like, we pay you for wearing our trademark and advertising our brand. Nike allowed other options and changes without threatening firing. Companies don’t just give money for nothing and it’s silly to expect them to do so. No one has to take Nike’s money. The players agreed to it, and presumably not under threat of violence.

  2. says

    If we say that any bad idea can be brushed aside because there’s a contract, then there’s no such thing as a bad idea anymore.

  3. jaxkayaker says

    I didn’t say any bad idea can be brushed aside because there’s a contract. I pointed out that your criticism is inaccurate because, to reiterate, Nike offered another option and permitted changes. Bad ideas are bad ideas, regardless of a contract. But contracts do exist, and exist for valid reasons. Nike wants their brand advertised, so yes, they pay people to wear their trademark. Mano assumes the reason for the design is sexuality, but maybe its intended function is to facilitate cooling by allow dispersion of body heat. That’s why I prefer loose clothes when I work or play outside. Possibly the design didn’t work well for unintended reasons, like getting in the way of swinging the racket or exposing too much body. Nike isn’t threatening the players with lawsuits for not wearing the outfits. This is making a mountain out of a molehill.

  4. doublereed says

    Those dresses look ridiculous. It’s supposed to be sportswear, not a nightgown.

  5. Menyambal says

    Saying that the dress is pretty and feminine is not saying that it’s good to play tennis in.

  6. Ollie Nanyes says

    Professional athletes are, to be blunt, entertainers. So, part of entertainment IS sex appeal.

    You see this in track and field too, where many of the women wear what amounts to small bikini bottoms to run and jump in.

  7. jaxkayaker says

    Menyabel: who said that?

    Next up: saying tight clothes on female runners is about sex appeal, and doesn’t have anything to do with reducing air resistance causing drag.

    Call me when Nike is firing women athletes from their contracts for refusing to wear peek-a-boo shirts showing their nipples and crotchless panties with the opening in the shape of the Nike swoosh. I’ll co-sign that complaint.

  8. Holms says

    Menyabel: who said that?

    It’s in the OP.

    Call me when Nike is firing women athletes from their contracts for refusing to wear peek-a-boo shirts showing their nipples and crotchless panties with the opening in the shape of the Nike swoosh. I’ll co-sign that complaint.

    Yes well so long as women are only being objectified a little bit, it’s all good and no need to ask why it is placed unevenly on the sexes. Right?

  9. John Morales says

    Mmmm. A bit either way.

    Basically, tennis players’ incomes are a combination of prize money and endorsement money, and for women players, there is a greater discrepancy. Often the prize money is significantly lesser, especially for those below the very top tier (cf. Anna Kournikova).

    But yes, there is absolutely no reason men and women couldn’t wear exactly the same outer garments (obviously, a sports bra would be a necessity for most women players).

  10. doublereed says

    I assume jax is just saving face after making such a ridiculous defense of the outfits. Just let him go.

    It’s not even about objectification, per se. It’s taking women athletes’ “femininity” to an absurd, impractical degree. It’s literally interfering with the sport.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    The fact everyone’s talking about them means the dresses worked, even if not a single player wears them. Is anyone talking about Adidas this week?

  12. Holms says

    ^ Oh I see, the purpose of a for-profit company is to produce talking points. Silly me, thinking it was to derive profit from their product!

  13. maddog1129 says

    Women tennis players can wear Nike swoosh shorts and shirts, just like the men do.

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