Tennis Players

Do Female Tennis Players Have To Wear Skirts?

Tennis whites and pleated skirts have long been a staple of women’s tennis attire, hearkening back to the early origins of the sport. But in recent decades, there has been much debate around whether female players should still be required to wear skirts and dresses on the court.

This article will explore the history and evolution of women’s tennis fashion, examine the current rules and flexibility around uniforms, look at the reasons behind the prevalence of skirts, discuss arguments on both sides of the debate, and highlight notable moments in the push for modernization.

Do Female Tennis Players Have to Wear Skirts?

No, female tennis players are not required to wear skirts. The rules simply state that women must wear acceptable tennis attire, which can include skirts, dresses, shorts, or other athletic apparel. Women have the option to wear skirts if they choose, but skirts are not compulsory. The focus is on wearing suitable athletic clothing for tennis. Ultimately, female players can select shorts, skirts or dresses – whatever they feel most comfortable competing in.

A Brief Background on Women’s Tennis Fashion


Women first began competing in tennis during the late 1800s, though competitive tournaments for female players didn’t really take off until the 20th century. In the early years, due to societal norms and expected gender dress codes of the era, female tennis players wore traditional, conservative tennis attire.

Outfits typically consisted of long skirts, blouses with long sleeves and high necks, and corsets or tight waist cinchers. This restrictive clothing was simply considered standard athletic wear for women at the time. Can you imagine running around the court while cinched into a corset? Talk about uncomfortable!

Over the decades, especially once the corset went out of fashion in the 1920s, tennis attire gradually became looser and more suited for athletic movement. Skirts got shorter, necklines lower and sleeves shorter. By the 1960s and 70s, higher hemlines, sleeveless dresses, and short shorts were commonplace. Fashion statements and individual style also became more pronounced in players’ outfit choices.

However, even with all these changes, the classic tennis skirt has endured into the 21st century as the dominant look for female players. Some argue it’s tradition, while others insist skirts provide better mobility and airflow. But should they still be required? Let’s look at what the official rules state.

Current Uniform Rules and Flexibility for Female Players

According to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) official rulebook, which governs professional women’s tennis, players are free to wear “attire that is appropriate for tennis play and is clean and customarily acceptable.” Basically, very open-ended guidelines.

The rules do not actually mandate that women must wear skirts or dresses. Players have the flexibility to wear shorts or skirts, single-piece outfits like catsuits, or any clothing fit for athletic competition. The days of forcing women into restrictive corsets thankfully ended long ago!

That said, conventional skirts and dresses are still the norm, likely due to tradition, sponsor expectations, and player preferences. Some top players like Serena Williams have talked about enjoying the feminine look of dresses for big matches.

But others argue they should have the option for shorts without judgment. In 2015, Wimbledon finally lifted its archaic requirement that female players wear all-white dresses, another sign of loosening traditions. So progressive change toward comfort and choice has been happening, if slowly.

Behind the Ongoing Popularity of Skirts for Female Players

With full freedom to wear shorts, why do almost all top female tennis pros still sport skirts or dresses on the court? There are likely a few factors at play:

  • Tradition and expectations: Skirts have been part of tennis since the first female players. So both organizers and spectators are just accustomed to ladies wearing skirts as part of the classic tennis look.
  • Sponsorship deals: Many players represent big athletic brands like Nike who design custom tennis lines. Sponsors may encourage skirts for popular female players as part of brand image and product lines.
  • Media coverage: Perhaps unfairly, some argue commentators pay more attention to players perceived as “stylish.” Shorts over skirts may receive less media buzz.
  • Player preference: Some women simply feel more athletic or graceful in skirts and dresses, so opt for them. Others prioritize fashion and style choices.
  • Functionalfactors: Skirts and dresses may provide advantages like airflow to lower body skin and freedom of leg movement. Shorts can ride up and cause chafing.

So in many cases, there are defendable rationales beyond forcing outdated traditions on female players. But it’s reasonable for women to want options too.

Related Article: Why Do Female Tennis Players Wear Skirts?

Arguments Around Requiring Skirts for Female Players

Despite the reasons above, some still argue it’s unjust that women feel pressured to wear skirts on the court, while men are free to wear shorts in cooler fabrics like Dri-Fit. Here are some key viewpoints on both sides of the debate:


Arguments Against Requiring Skirts:

  • Unfair double standard compared to men’s options
  • Pressure based on sponsor deals or media
  • Hinders freedom of movement vs shorts
  • Deprecates women as only feminine or pretty
  • Upholds old-fashioned traditions

Arguments Supporting Status Quo:

  • Skirts don’t limit mobility with modern materials
  • Important to respect players who prefer skirts
  • Women should be free to express femininity
  • Change takes time with long traditions
  • Don’t want to lose cultural identity of sport

Valid points exist on both sides. But momentum seems to be moving toward modernization and choice. The days of forcing women into restrictive, uncomfortable clothing are over.

Read Also: Top 22 Best Young Tennis Players To Watch

Notable Steps Toward Updated, Inclusive Tennis Fashion

Here are some key moments in the gradual transition toward more equitable, comfortable tennis fashions:

  • 1933: Fashion designer Teddy Tinling introduces short skirts and tennis dresses with partial lacy sleeves, outraging officials. But women players love the freedom of movement.
  • 1949: “New Look” is born when player Gussie Moran wears a short skirt with lace panties at Wimbledon. Causes uproar but becomes a hit.
  • 1960s: Hemlines rise as dresses get shorter. Stylish athletic wear becomes trendy, pioneered by player Althea Gibson.
  • 2003: Serena Williams wears bold black Puma catsuit at U.S. Open. Nike later designs iconic “Serena Dress.”
  • 2018: Anne White wears first full-length catsuit at Wimbledon. Others follow suit, embracing modern fabrics.
  • 2021: Australian Open allows women to wear compression shorts under skirts to enable choice.
  • 2023: Wimbledon and French Open finally allow women to wear shorts. Greater diversity in styles emerges.

So over many years, barriers have slowly been breaking as women push for both comfort and self-expression. While most still wear dresses, female players now have greater options. But work remains to shift ingrained traditions and achieve full equality around inclusive fashions. The skirts aren’t going away anytime soon—but importantly, neither are the women pushing for progress.

In closing, while mandatory skirts have not been enforced for decades, there is still expectation and pressure on female tennis players to wear them. But thanks to brave women pushing boundaries, like Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, uniforms have trended toward more functionality and choice. But it’s still an open debate whether skirts should be an optional fashion choice versus a presumed requirement. Regardless, athletic wear should empower all players to compete at their highest level—and look good doing it!

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