Last summer at the French Open, Serena Williams and specifically what she wore to it faced much criticism. The tennis pro chose to wear a Nike catsuit for her match against Czechia’s Kristyna Pliskova, a compression garment that helped fight off the blood clots Williams was experiencing at the time, having recently given birth to her daughter, Alexis.
Her choice of dress drew an instant negative reaction: the French Tennis Federation deemed the outfit a disrespect to the game and a violation of the tournament’s dress code and, as a result, banned catsuits from future matches entirely. The backlash was viewed as a tired, sexist reaction by many; Williams, however, brushed the controversy aside, telling reporters she simply felt “like a warrior princess” and a “queen from Wakanda” in the design.
Flash forward to today, when Williams made her grand return to the French Open, winning her first round against Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko. With all eyes on her, Williams did not disappoint: She wore a custom performance outfit by Off-White’s Virgil Abloh for Nike involving a black and white two-piece with a matching cape printed with French words for “Mother, Champion, Queen, Goddess.”
It was a nontraditional look to be sure, and the fact that it championed female empowerment in French—the very words Williams has used to describe her much-maligned French Open look of 2018—was very clever indeed. It seemed to say, “I’ll take your catsuit bam and raise it.”
“It’s the second time we’ve worked together,” Williams said of collaborating with Abloh, who also designed performance wear for her at the U.S. Open. “It has words in it in French. It talks about me being a mom and me being a queen, as all women are. A champion. It’s positive reinforcement for me, and I kind of love that.” Williams will now advance to the second round of the Open—and hopefully, there will be more winning on-court fashion moments to come, too. See the style image below!