Black women in the United States die from childbirth complications 3 to 4 times as often as white women do. Serena Williams almost joined that tragic statistic after the birth of her child. Thankfully, she came through her complications, but now that she and her medical team knew blood clots were a potential issue for the athlete, some things had to change.
With that in mind, the team came together to design a compression suit that would help her blood move safely through her body and keep her safer from clots. The suit, which some people came to call Black Panther, was a simple sleek black compression garment consisting of long pants and what looked, basically, like a t-shirt. It bore a bold red stripe across the middle.
You’ve probably seen it. She shared it on her Instagram page when she started wearing it, along with an encouraging message to mothers everywhere who struggled with recovery like she did.
She wore the specially designed suit often – as that’s kind of the point of a garment designed with your medical needs in mind. Here she is wearing it while playing alongside her sister.
One place she wouldn’t be allowed to wear it, though, would be competing during the French Open. French Open president, Bernard Giudicelli , singled Serena’s catsuit out as no longer acceptable because it was not conservative enough. Although Serena is more covered than most players on the court, Guidicelli implied that it was disrespectful.
I believe we have sometimes gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.
The outfit ended up officially banned, with no real reason given.
Serena was bothered, but she assured her fans via Instagram that she would keep fighting. Then she kept quiet about what was coming next.
For fans of tennis, Serena Williams, the art of the clap back, and generally seeing people stand up to unfair and probably misogynistic rulings – her next move was an unforgettable power play.
As she debuted at the U.S. Open, she rolled up in a tutu, a leather jacket, and compression fishnets.
Serena Williams wearing a tutu for her first U.S. Open match is everything. pic.twitter.com/HpZSWpkg0B
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 29, 2018
And her fans absolutely loved it.
… that could be how she lures competitors into believing they have a chance!
— Brenden (@0youngbs) August 29, 2018
— Denice M. Iglesias (@denicita) August 28, 2018
— Karen Tyrell (@KarenATyrell) August 29, 2018
Serena’s U.S. open outfit is everything pic.twitter.com/mDS21SSEkd
— Black Girl Culture (@blkgirlculture) August 28, 2018
Serena Williams stayed silent and unproblematic when the French Open banned her black catsuit
….and showed up in a mutherfudging TUTU!!
I stan an I'll-be-damned-if-I'm-compliant queen pic.twitter.com/UX1hC93xO8
— Lydia (@LydiaNgoma) August 28, 2018
Fishnets?! I'm dying! She is THE QUEEN!
— Rachel Piermarini (@RachelPiermari1) August 28, 2018
I love it. I love love love love love it. I also love that Louis Vuitton and Nike were both like, “You want petty? We got you Serena.”
— Houndstooth Armstrong (@timswar) August 28, 2018
She wasn’t just aimlessly petty, though. The elite athlete worked with a full team to be sure the outfit was attractive, aerodynamic, breathable, addressed her health concerns, etc. After all, her name was going to be on it as it was part of her collection. According to Serena, it was “easy to play in” but we’re not sure if she means play on the court or play her part as the new reigning Queen of “Petty with a purpose.”
Probably both, and we couldn’t be happier about it.