Skip to main content

Serena Williams may be the GOAT. But at the 2018 French Open, she associated herself with another animal. You may recall that she came to the tournament—her first Major since giving birth—clad in a catsuit.

Of course you recall that. It was one of the stories and enduring images of the tournament.

It wasn’t simply a bit of daring fashion inspiration.

For Serena, the attire was a mix of form and function. It was practical. As she put it at the time: "I've had a lot of problems with my blood clots, God I don't know how many I've had in the past 12 months. … I've been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going."

It was also deeply symbolic. Serena again: "I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess ... from Wakanda, maybe. I've always wanted to be a superhero, and it's kind of my way of being a superhero."

But now, in a city that prides itself on progressive fashion—at a tournament with a show court named for Suzanne Lenglen— the French Open has instituted a dress code. On the eve of the US Open—and really what better time for this announcement?—the head of the French Federation declared that Serena Williams’s catsuit would be banned at Roland-Garros. So much for, Wakanda Forever.

Pick an “ist” — sexist, elitist, racist— and you could make a strong case that this qualifies. But this is also another “ist:” self – defeatist. Why prevent players from self-expression? Why deny players outfits that help their circulation and, thus, their performance? Why antagonize so unnecessarily tennis’ grande dame—and her army of fans?

There’s a French expression "Se perdre les chèvres"

Literally, it means: to lose your goats.

Figuratively it means: to lose the plot.

In one clumsy announcement last week, The French Federation did both.

Bernard Giudicelli, the FFT head, defended the catsuit ban by saying, “I think that sometimes we've gone too far."

Someone has, anyway.