The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wimbledon relaxes its all-white dress code for female players

Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan won the women's singles final at Wimbledon this summer. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
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The All England Club announced Thursday that it will allow female competitors at Wimbledon to wear dark undershorts, easing its requirement for all-white clothing amid concerns for players who are menstruating.

“We are committed to supporting the players and listening to their feedback as to how they can perform at their best,” All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said in a statement. “I’m pleased to confirm that, following consultation with players and representatives of several stakeholder groups, the Committee of Management has taken the decision to update the white clothing rule at Wimbledon. This means that from next year, women and girls competing at The Championships will have the option of wearing coloured undershorts if they choose. It is our hope that this rule adjustment will help players focus purely on their performance by relieving a potential source of anxiety.”

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Wimbledon’s long-standing dress code required players to wear all-white attire on match courts during the Grand Slam tournament, but that policy has faced continued criticism from various corners of the tennis world.

During this summer’s tournament, a group of protesters wearing white skirts and red undershorts urged Wimbledon organizers to change the policy. Vexed by the belief that the policy had become stricter in recent years, protest organizer Gabriella Holmes told the Guardian their protest outfits were inspired by Russian-born French player Tatiana Golovin, whose 2007 decision to wear red underwear during her Wimbledon matches provoked international headlines and the post-match news conference question, “Can I ask you about your knickers?”

More recently, the policy was also criticized by tennis great Billie Jean King and Judy Murray, a tennis coach and the mother of British star Andy Murray.

“If you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing, I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that,” Murray told the Daily Mail. “When all matches are televised and streamed now, it is something that needs to be considered. ... However, it’s really important, too, that we have lots of women on the decision-making panel, because they understand what that’s like to have menstrual cycles and they understand the fear of that happening while playing.”

In its statement Thursday, the All England Club said “requirements for other clothing, accessories and equipment remain unchanged.”