From Bright Colors To Banned Catsuits: 7 Times Serena Williams Used Fashion To Tear Down Tennis’ Elitist Ways

Serena Williams has been slaying on the tennis court since the mid-’90s. While the sports star is considered a fashion icon today, the tennis world wasn’t always as kind during her career. Williams has faced sexism, racism, and criticism of everything from her hair to her outfit choices for decades.

Despite this pressure, Williams has always been fearless and powerful on and off the court. Her fashion choices follow suit, incorporating bold colors and edgier aesthetics. This courageously flies in the face of the “tennis whites” tradition of only wearing white on the court.

Moreover, the sport itself is predominately made up of white players. Williams made waves just by being a Black woman in the sport. She elevated a sport often forgotten by the mainstream and brought in a new fanbase. Williams also brought attention to the rigid elitism of the tennis world, opening the door for young girls of color to explore a once exclusionary sport.

27 years after her first professional match, Williams has skyrocketed to global icondom. Indeed, she’s an inspiration to athletes, mothers, and women alike. And frankly, no one has ever made smashing records and making tennis history look this good.

Serena Stuns On The Tennis Courts

Serena Williams in her infamous catsuit at the 2018 French Open.
(Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

First up is Serena’s infamous catsuit. While the look is stunning, Williams wore this bodysuit to the 2018 French Open for health reasons. The tennis star has a history of blood clots and had developed a pulmonary embolism after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. The bodysuit encouraged blood flow during her matches.

Despite this, the French Tennis Federation banned the catsuit. In an interview with Tennis Magazine, federation president Bernard Giudicelli said, “you have to respect the game and the place.” But considering Williams’ long-held dedication to the game, these comments seem transparently elitist.

Serena Williams wearing "boots" at the 2004 US open
(A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

In 2004, Serena warmed up wearing knee-high “boots” and easy-to-move-in shorts at the US Open. However, she wasn’t allowed to wear the shoes during matches.

Serena Williams in a pink and white Nike dress at the 2016 US Open.
(Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Sporting a pink and white Nike dress at the US Open in 2016, Serena showcased her love of bright colors. The pleated dress was accented by pink armbands and tennis shoes. This was her “daytime” look. During her evening matches, she rocked a black dress with pink pleats.

Serena Williams in a leather jacket and white ruffled skirt at the 2018 US Open.
(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Williams’ 2018 US Open outfit is the perfect combination of elegant and edgy, just like the athlete herself. Williams wore a custom-made leather Nike jacket, lavender tutu, and matching headband to keep her curls in place.

Serena Williams in an all green ensemble at the 2021 French Open.
(Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images)

We love everything about this outfit! Williams wore this all-green ensemble to the French Open in 2021. Not only does the color look amazing on her skin tone, but it also pays homage to the Roland Garros stadium and her daughter. From the sneakers to her cropped jacket, we think this outfit is *chef’s kiss* perfection.

Serena Williams in a colorful jumpsuit at the 2021 Australian Open.
(Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Williams honored track star and fellow Black trailblazer Flo-Jo (Florence Griffith Joyner) in this color-blocked asymmetrical catsuit by Nike. She wore this eye-catching ensemble at the 2021 Australian Open, where she won her single’s third-round match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova.

Serena Williams in leggings and an active dress at the 2022 Rothesay International Eastbourne tournament.
(Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

In addition to her love of bright colors and feminine silhouettes, Williams also rocked several gorgeous patterns. At the Rothesay International Eastbourne tournament in 2022, Williams wore knee-length black leggings and an abstract printed Nike dress. She won in the doubles match alongside Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.

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