Wimbledon officials are expected to change their rules requiring women to wear white underwear before next year’s championships.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is in talks with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and kit manufacturers about changing their longstanding rule. It is expected the changes will take effect next year.
Wimbledon’s dress code calls for an “almost entirely white” outfit, including players’ undergarments, but that appears to be changing soon for the sport’s female competitors. The Times of London reports that the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the tennis championships are held, is in discussions with the Women’s Tennis Association about eliminating the requirement for white underwear, with changes expected to go into effect for next summer’s tournament. The shift is the result of pushback from women who say that when they have their periods, they don’t want to have to worry about the whole world seeing it as they’re playing.
“I have come off court and looked and gone, ‘Oh God. I hope you can’t see that in any pictures,'” Heather Watson, Britain’s former top seed, has said. Advocates also point to the effects of menstruation on younger female athletes. They note that when girls hit puberty, many stress out and avoid exercising or taking part in their sport of choice when they have their period—a 2018 poll cited by the Times puts that figure at 42%—or even stop playing altogether. Women have long lobbied for this change, showing up to demonstrate dressed in white skirts and red underwear.
In July, soccer player Holly Gordon helped organize an “Address the Dress Code” protest outside of Wimbledon’s gates, holding up signs proclaiming “It’s about bloody time,” per the Guardian. “We ultimately want it to be the women’s choice about what would … alleviate any stress or shame when it comes to competing professionally in front of the world,” she said then. Even the mom of one of the world’s top men’s players is rallying behind the modification. “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,” says Scottish tennis coach Judy Murray, mother of Andy Murray, per the Daily Mail.