Sports

Wimbledon: Protest to ditch all-white dress code over period concerns

Wimbledon organisers have come under pressure to abandon their strict all-white dress code for women players who are menstruating.

A group of female activists held a protest outside the main gates at the All England Club ahead of Saturday’s ladies’ singles final between Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina on Centre Court.

They held up placards reading ‘About Bloody time,’, ‘Address the dress code,’ ‘Wanted: Ball in our court’ and ‘You can do it, Ian Hewitt’ in a direct plea to the Wimbledon chairman.

The protestors wore white tops with custom-made skirts with a ‘red blood’ skort underlayer.

‘These archaic rules were written years ago by men and they’ve gotten stricter and stricter over the years. It’s about time they were rewritten with menstruation in mind,’ Gabriella Holmes, 26, one of the co-founders of the ‘Address The Dress Code’ campaign said.

‘We’re not asking for drastic changes. Maybe the Wimbledon board can sit down and make a couple of amendments that consider the fact that women are competing on their period and it’s adding to their pressure when they’re performing at this level.’

A group of protestors called on Wimbledon organisers to abandon their all-white dress code for women players who are menstruating 

The 'Address the Dress Code' campaigners gathered outside the gates at the All England Club ahead of Saturday's ladies' singles final on Centre Court

The ‘Address the Dress Code’ campaigners gathered outside the gates at the All England Club ahead of Saturday’s ladies’ singles final on Centre Court

They called on Wimbledon chairman Ian Hewitt to amend the dress rules to allow female players to wear a coloured underlayer

They called on Wimbledon chairman Ian Hewitt to amend the dress rules to allow female players to wear a coloured underlayer 

Several tennis players have called on Wimbledon to make changes to the all-white dress rule

Several tennis players have called on Wimbledon to make changes to the all-white dress rule

One amendment Holmes would welcome is Wimbledon allowing women to wear the All England Club’s official colours of green and purple under their white attire.

In light of the news, a Wimbledon spokesperson said: ‘Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.

‘It is an issue we have got to think carefully about. It is easy to jump to conclusions about how you might solve a problem, while not considering how you could create a different problem. We’re very concerned about making sure this is something we don’t do.’

The female activist highlighted the issues faced by women competing while on their periods

The female activist highlighted the issues faced by women competing while on their periods

The protesters will be wore custom-made skirts with a 'red blood' skort underlayer

The protesters will be wore custom-made skirts with a ‘red blood’ skort underlayer

Great Britain's Alicia Barnett has opened up about the stress of wearing whites at Wimbledon

Great Britain’s Alicia Barnett has opened up about the stress of wearing whites at Wimbledon

Great Britain’s Alicia Barnett, 28, recently opened up about the stress of wearing whites while being on her period and how the symptoms affected her game in the run up to Wimbledon. 

Could other sports change their women’s kit to be more period-friendly? 

CRICKET 

England Women’s cricket 

RUGBY

England women’s rugby

Wales women’s rugby (white shorts, red top)

Scotland women’s rugby (white shorts, blue top)

Ireland women’s rugby (white shorts, green top)

RUGBY LEAGUE

England women’s rugby league

WOMEN’S FOOTBALL CLUBS WHO WEAR WHITE SHORTS

Arsenal Women’s FC 

Birmingham City 

Bristol City

Manchester City 

Manchester United 

Reading 

West Ham UTD  

‘During the pre-qualifying, I was on my period and the first few days were really heavy, and I was a bit stressed about that,’ she said. 

Asked whether it affected her ability to play, she said ‘Definitely. Your body feels looser, your tendons get looser, sometimes you feel like you’re a lot more fatigued.

‘Sometimes your co-ordination just feels really off, and for me I feel really down and it’s hard to get that motivation.

‘Obviously, you’re trying to play world-class tennis but it’s really hard when you’re PMS-ing and you feel bloated and tired.

‘Why do we need to be shy about talking about it? ‘I know men aren’t shy about talking about a lot of things.’

When asked whether the all-white dress code should be amended to alleviate stress on female players, she said: ‘I do think some traditions could be changed.

‘I, for one, am a massive advocate for women’s rights and I think having this discussion is just amazing, that people are now talking about it.

‘Personally, I love the tradition of all-whites and I think we will handle it pretty well.

‘I think being on your period on the tour is hard enough, but to wear whites as well isn’t easy. 

It comes as the Football Association confirmed they would not be changing the colours of the England team’s shorts from white during the ongoing European Championship. 

England began their Euro 2022 campaign on Wednesday evening in the best possible way, beating Austria 1-0 in front of a sold-out Old Trafford, all while wearing their white kit.

However, according to the Telegraph, the design is causing anxiety among players and discussions have taken place with the FA and their official kit manufacturer over the possibility of switching up the bottom half of the design.

The Athletic reported, however, that no change would be made during the tournament but Nike would ‘take the matter into consideration for future designs.’

And the topic has gained traction among social media commenters in recent weeks too, with sports fans branding all-white dress codes ‘sexist’ and ‘archaic’. 

Why MUST players wear white at Wimbledon? The All England Club’s VERY strict dress code explained 

The white clothing has been a Wimbledon tradition since the beginning, with lawn tennis being predominantly played in whites since the beginning of the game towards the end of the 19th century.

As the sport became more popular and more active, the obscuring of sweat by wearing white became a priority.

However, while wearing whites was always the convention, the code became stricter in response to Ted Tinling’s women’s tennis dresses.

Tinling, a tennis player turned fashion designer, made waves when he designed a dress for Gertrude Moran in 1949 that revealed her silk underwear beneath the short skirt.

He also added trims of colour to the dresses of Joy Gannon and Betty Hilton, which ultimately led to the Wimbledon committee to order competitors to ‘wear all-white clothing’.

Tinling and Wimbledon tussled again in 1962, when he outfitted Brazilian player Maria Bueno with a dress that featured shocking pink lining.

The following year, Wimbledon ordered all players to wear clothing that was ‘predominantly white throughout’.

In the 1970s, when the US Open became the first international tournament to allow coloured clothes, Wimbledon dress codes relaxed enough to see champions such as Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert add splashes of colour to their kits.

But over the next few decades, the dress codes have reverted to its original strictness, with the All England Lawn Tennis Club saying in 2017: ‘To us, the all-white rule isn’t about fashion, it’s about letting the players and the tennis stand out.

‘Everyone who steps on a Wimbledon court, from a reigning champion through to qualifier does so wearing white.

‘That’s a great leveller. If a player wants to get noticed, they must do so through their play. That’s a tradition we’re proud of.’

Three Wimbledon junior players were forced to change their underwear in 2017 because they fell foul of the regulations.

The rules state that medical supports and equipment should also be white ‘if possible’.   

 

‘It’s not practical when it’s the time of the month’: England star Beth Mead reveals the team have discussed scrapping white shorts with manufacturers Nike due to concerns over playing during periods 

England stars have spoken to Nike about scrapping white shorts from their kit over concerns of playing on their periods.

According to the Telegraph, the team’s all-white kit design is causing anxiety among players and discussions have taken place with the FA and their official kit manufacturer over the possibility of switching up the bottom half of the design.

‘It’s something we’ve fed back to Nike,’ said Wednesday’s goalscoring hero Beth Mead. ‘Hopefully they’re going to change that [the colour]. 

‘It’s very nice to have an all-white kit but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month. We deal with it as best we can. We’ve discussed it as a team and we’ve fed that back to Nike.’ 

Asked if there was any preference on which colour could be brought in, Mead explained: ‘I’m pretty easy, I’m pretty laid back to be fair. As long as I’m playing for my country, I don’t mind what I wear.’

Beth Mead says it is ‘not practical’ for England stars to wear white shorts on their period

There is an understanding from players that moving away from the traditional England colour scheme of all white is a tough call. 

Georgia Stanway also spoke on the subject on Wednesday evening and admitted that it was far from a straightforward decision.

‘It’s difficult, because we associate England with white,’ said Stanway, who was named player of the match at Old Trafford. 

‘The home kit is unbelievable, it looks really nice. I think that’s something that we can speak about as a full squad, as a group of girls.

‘I think next year there is potentially a colour change going in. I think it’s hard, because once you’re on the grass, nothing else matters. 

‘I think we have a good doctor who likes to look after us. As soon as the adrenaline comes in, you could be naked and nobody cares. That’s what happens when you’re on the pitch, you forget about everything.’

Football is not the only sport where the issue has been raised. Women who participate at Wimbledon are still obliged to the rules that all competitors must where all-white uniforms while on court at SW19. 

England stars revealed discussions have been held over changing the colour of their shorts

England stars revealed discussions have been held over changing the colour of their shorts

A host of tennis players have spoken out about the strict dress code, with British player Heather Watson telling The Times: ‘I have come off court and I’ve looked and gone: ‘Oh my God. I hope you can’t see that in any pictures.”

Watson’s worries come despite her becoming an ambassador for Always period products in 2018.

Starring in an advert for the sanitary pads’ Platinum range, Watson is filmed wearing all-white and playing on grass.

She says: ‘Watch me put up a fight when I need to’, as she serves for a point, while no marks from her period can be seen.

 

Meanwhile social media users have also been campaigning for a change to the dress code, with one tweeting: ‘I love Wimbledon. But as a former athlete who prayed ahead of every major swim meet that I wouldn’t have my period that day, I’ve always wondered how female tennis players felt about being forced to wear white (with limited bathroom breaks). 

While another wrote: ‘Wimbledon dress code tradition is actually wild when you think about it. Making the girlies rock white? What must happen when they’re on their period?

‘The constant anxiety you’d have about a potential leak. Free the girlies from wearing white please.’ 

A third added: ‘Why the f*** does Wimbledon still make female tennis players wear all white, regardless if the female is on her period?’

Rennae Stubbs told The Telegraph that the conversation had come up in the locker room on multiple occasions, saying: ‘At Wimbledon, you’re very cognizant of making sure that everything’s ‘good to go’ the moment you walk on the court – making sure that you have a tampon.

‘A lot of women have pads on top of that, or making sure that you have an extra-large tampon before you go on the court.

‘I think it might have been the one time that I actually left the court at Wimbledon, when I did have my period.’

British player Heather Watson recalled how she has come off court at Wimbledon and feared her period may have leaked onto her white clothing

British player Heather Watson recalled how she has come off court at Wimbledon and feared her period may have leaked onto her white clothing

Meanwhile she also revealed how she had once had to tell a rival their period was leaking, quietly pulling them to one side to say ‘you should probably go to the bathroom.’

She told The Times: ‘You are so paranoid that it could happen to you.’ 

Meanwhile former Russian-born French player Tatiana Golovin said she prefers to wear ‘something darker’, adding: ‘For an athlete, it’s very tricky to wear white because you have the photographers, you have pictures everywhere, you’re sliding on the court, you’re falling, you’re playing, your skirt’s flying up.’  

Three Wimbledon junior players were forced to change their underwear in 2017 because they fell foul of the regulations.

The rules state that medical supports and equipment should also be white ‘if possible’.


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