Nike brings wardrobe malfunctions to Wimbledon with 'airy' tennis dress

Nike has reportedly asked 20 of its sponsored players to return a tennis dress for alterations following some backlash over its "skimpy" design.

Apparently the 'light, airy' material touted by Nike is a bit too light and airy for players to jump in

Nike-sponsored Canadian athlete Genie Bouchard poses in a campaign for the brand's new Wimbledon-themed collection of tennis whites. This dress was slated to be worn on the court by several players during the tournament before a design flaw was noted. (Nike)

One of the most important annual tournaments in professional tennis started this morning in London, sparking a less important but just as predictable rush of search queries on the word "Wimbledon."

The Grand Slam event is expected to have plenty in store for Canadian sports fans this year with homegrown stars (and Wimbledon vets) like Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard in the mix, as well as some high-stakes matchups between international greats.

Will Novak Djokovic accomplish a coveted Golden Slam? Will Roger Federer's performance be hindered by recent injuries? Will Serena Williams finally tie Steffi Graf's record for most Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era?

Interesting questions, but let's instead look at how much skin some of the female athletes are showing on court — because that's what the internet seems to care most about right now.

Nike has reportedly asked 20 of its sponsored players at the tournament to return a particular style of tennis dress for alterations following some backlash over the garment's "skimpy" design.

First seen on athletes during qualifier rounds for Wimbledon last week, the NikeCourt Premier Slam Women's Tennis Dress is described on Nike's website as "ideal for layering over shorts or tights" with "an elongated back hem" that "provides more coverage."

Product photos of the white dress are about as tame as its description, showing a high-cut neck, a racer back and a flowy, pleated body.

Aside from being short (like almost every other professional tennis uniform) the garment's silhouette doesn't exactly scream scandal as it's shown on a Nike model. Many have even likened it to a woman's nightgown (among other things.)

The problem is how the dress moves when worn by a high-performance athlete on the court.

Apparently the "light, airy" material touted by Nike is a bit too light and airy — to the point where it floats above a player's waistline when she jumps, volleys or otherwise does her job.

U.S. tennis player Taylor Townsend plays against Olga Savchuk of Ukraine during the 2016 Wimbledon qualifying session on June 21. (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Controversy started brewing last week after several athletes were spotted wearing modified versions of the dress, which was said to have been approved under Wimbledon's notoriously strict all-white dress code.

Britain's Katie Boulter secured her dress with a long white hairband while competing at a qualifying event on Wednesday, effectively preventing the skirt from rising up and getting in the way of her swing.

Czech tennis player Lucie Hradecka accessorized her dress with white leggings.

And Sabine Lisicki of Germany, who holds the record for fastest serve on the WTA tour at 211 km/h, flat-out skipped the dress in favour of a skirt and top.

"I tried it on but didn't feel comfortable showing that much," she said of the choice, according to the Daily Mail. "For me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and not to think about anything, and with this I feel great."

The Daily Mail is reporting that Nike's sports marketing team emailed players who'd been given the dresses, as well as their representatives, a few days ago before the tournament began.

Players were reportedly asked to bring their dresses to an on-site Nike venue for minor alterations "per Wimbledon rules."

Nike told Yahoo Style on Monday that, contrary to some reports, the dress had not been recalled.

"We often customize products and make alterations for athletes as they compete," reads a statement from the company. "We work closely with our athletes to provide them with product that helps them perform and feel their best on the court."

Several players were spotted wearing the garment during their first rounds on Monday, although if alterations were made, they weren't very noticeable.

Croatia's Donna Vekic wore the controversially floaty Nike dress during her match against Venus Williams on Monday. (Andrew Couldridge/Reuters)

It remains to be seen if Bouchard (whom Yahoo just described as "queen of the Nike negligée") will wear the controversial dress for her first match on Tuesday – but she has shown much love for the style online since the kerfuffle bubbled up. 

Visit CBC Sports for more news on Wimbledon as it comes.

About the Author

Lauren O'Neil covers internet culture, digital trends and the social media beat for CBC News. You can get in touch with her on Twitter at @laurenonizzle.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.