Oh La La... The French Like Change
May 28, 2010 -- Venus Williams's black lacey 'can-can' dress, as it has been characterized in the press, has disclosed more about the American than her already intense tennis game.
Take a spin around the Internet. You'll see thousands of photographs of her exposed derriere as her flounced dress takes flight in response to the #2 seed's movements. There are even a couple frontal exposures of Venus on court, the dress swinging to the beat of her arms and athleticism and the weight of the fabrics. In any hot shot, Venus shows the world her fit form from all fronts.
From the moment she removed a black jacket cover up, in her first match, the French crowds took notice of the six-foot-one international tennis star's dress. Were these approving whistles or commentary on their own surprise at the nature of the design?
Paris is home to the most famous fashion houses in the world. It was in Paris that Coco Channel first established her mark and reputation on women's fashion. Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Cardin marched many a model down the runways of seasonal shows, too.
Venus Williams's fashion company "Eleven" hasn't reached the stature of Parisienne haute couture. However, with her black lacey can-can dress she has succeeded in reaching way beyond the international tennis fan, showing those outside our great sport what they are missing as they watch soccer, football or basketball. Venus has lit up the City of Lights for real.
Dominika Cibulkova tried her best to beat Williams this bright afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier, but couldn't. She lost 63 64. However, the petite Slovakian exacerbated the current media frenzy swirling around Williams's dress. Cibulkova wore a Lacoste tennis dress that barely covered her derriere, as she walked to the baseline. Any photographer in 'the pit' could have, and probably did, snap a couple hundred shots of Cibulkova's lace trimmed tennis panties, etc.
Lacoste clothiers definitely could have shortened the dress for Cibulkova before she arrived in Paris. She is the shortest WTA player on tour -- five-foot-three. But yikes ... did they mean to go that far up?
It was the same length as dresses worn by Billie Jean King, Virginia Wade, Chris Everett and cute-as-the-dickens 17-year-old Tracy Austin. Each time these women reached for a shot... voila... lacey undies distracted fans.
Except for the Lacoste tailored appeal, Cibulkova outfit could have been an honest throw back to the 1970s women's game.
Most tennis attire is designed and marketed by firms run by men, let's face it. They certainly know how to generate income, which isn't a bad thing, and create some pretty cute clothes for the courts. However, they might want to take a lesson from Venus. Her can-can creation expresses Venus, and that notion circles outside the box for most manufacturers of women's tennis attire. She's not better than them. But, she concentrates more on personal creative ideas.
"The outfit is about illusion," Venus said after her first match last Sunday. "That's been a lot of my motif this year ... illusion. These days I just have a lot of fun with my designs and designing."
Williams has been repeatedly questioned about her dress. One French reporter took a quick fan survey early in the tournament, asking them what they thought of the dress.
"They love it," the reporter told Venus in her Wednesday post-match press conference. "They think it's very sexy and it's a bit of a change."
One man particularly enjoyed the sights, as Venus served and the flounce flew revealing nude undergarments and a well-rounded rear end. "It's good for my imagination," he said.
Venus's design was born in Australia -- a bright yellow dress that had two deep slits up the front. Underneath, she wore nude cover-ups. You could imagine people gathering around their favorite viewing machines, squinting, and asking 'is she wearing anything underneath'? Venus wanted to make a statement about the slits and the nothingness underneath.
"The design has nothing to do with the rear," she told the press in Paris. "It just so happens that I have a very well developed one. It's all genetic. If you look at my sister, you'll see the same thing."
Venus incorporated lace but went the step farther, continuing the illusion of bareness with tone-on-tone panties.
"The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful."
Suzanne Lenglen, the matriarch of the court named after her at Roland Garros, rocked the tennis world when she wore revealing dresses during her dominant days on court in the late 1920s through 1938 when she retired. She was known for choosing dresses made of sheer, flimsy fabrics that flowed with her every ballerina tennis move. She secured her hair with tulle headbands, too, which set the stage for Helen Wills Moody and her trademark white visor.
Venus Williams success on court has opened thousands of doors for her. She chose to walk through the design door. We've watched her evolve in tennis and in attire since she was 17 and beaded her hair. Now, she is again #2 in the world and will turn 30 in June.
Venus has always, or for most of her tennis career, worn a tennis dress. Reebok designed them, for a time. Diane von Furstenberg took charge of one, too, which Venus wore at Wimbledon. It criss-crossed down the back, gathering fabric along the way. It was tied right around the base of her spine. That dress was as elegant as any dress ever designed by Nike and worn by Maria Sharapova, a tour star that has done bucket loads for women's tennis attire and women's fashion.
Congrats to Venus for shaking up the establishment. We needed another wakeup call.