German Gymnasts to Norwegian Athletes: How Women Took Charge of Sporting Outfits

Here's how women are standing up against the uniform-related discomfort & taking control of their sporting outfits.

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Athletes are now coming forward and calling out the outdated uniform regulations. Here are some examples.</p></div>

Women athletes' dress codes is always 'expected' to fit right with the notions of being 'feminine' or 'traditional' enough. While some countries want women to cover themselves in scorching heat and play, there are some who fine sportswomen for 'improper clothing' when they do not adhere to set rules.

Earlier in July, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined for “improper clothing." Here, improper clothing was that they were playing in shorts instead of bikini bottoms, when the men's team has been playing in shorts all along. Whether it is about covering the entire body or baring it all – it is not athletics or logic but the preconceived notion of beauty standards and 'aesthetic' that governs decisions about their attire. There is no right to choose. There is no flexibility. And in most cases, there are contrasting dress codes for men and women with no concrete basis.

The story of sportswomen performing with discomfort isn’t something new. But for how long?

Here's a list of all the times women took charge of their sporting outfits, and broke the so-called norm.


Tokyo 2020: German Gymnasts' Full-Length Body Suits

The German women's gymnastics team decided to wear full-length body suits at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, 25 July, instead of traditional leotards. This was the first time any team in the Olympics has done this.

The suits, which the team wore in their qualifications at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, covered their legs to the ankle, in stark contrast to the high-cut leotards worn by many other female gymnasts at the Olympics.

"It's about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear," German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz told The Guardian.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>German gymnastics team at Tokyo 2020</p></div>

German gymnastics team at Tokyo 2020

(Photo courtesy: Instagram/@pauline_schaefer)

<div class="paragraphs"><p>German women's gymnastics team at Toyko 2020.</p></div>

German women's gymnastics team at Toyko 2020.

(Photo courtesy: Instagram/@pauline_schaefer)

Euro 2021: Norwegian Handball Team Wore Shorts

Recently, the Norwegian women's beach handball team decided to wear shorts instead of bikini bottoms for a tournament at the sport's Euro 2021 tournament.

The team was later fined by the European Handball Federation (EFH) for 'improper clothing'.

According to the International Handball Federation guidelines, women are required to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottoms must be no more than 4 inches. Whereas, men can wear shorts as long as 4 inches above their knees.

The Norway handball federation came forward in the support of their team and said, "We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules for clothing so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Norwegian women's beach handball team fined for wearing shorts</p></div>

Norwegian women's beach handball team fined for wearing shorts

(Picture courtesy: Instagram/@handballandslagene)


French Open 2018: The Famous Catsuit Worn By Serena Williams

Serena Williams wore a custom-made black catsuit during the 2018 French Open. The outfit was criticised by the president of the French Tennis Federation Bernard Giudicelli, who said that the outfit “wouldn’t be back.” It “went too far,” he continued. "The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”

Williams, in a conference, stated, "I've had a lot of problems with my blood clots, God I don't know how many I've had in the past 12 months. I've been wearing pants, in general, a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going." And the outfit she wore was dedicated to "all the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Serena Williams at French Opens 2018</p></div>

Serena Williams at French Opens 2018

(Photo Courtesy: @Deadspin/Twitter)

German Beach Volleyball Players' Boycott of Qatar Tournament Over Bikini Ban

Germany's beach volleyball players Karla Borger and Julia Sude decided to boycott a tournament in Qatar in March 2021 for its strict clothing rules.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) asked the female players at the FIVB tournament to wear shirts and long trousers rather than the usual bikinis "out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country."

In an interview with radio station Deutschlandfunk, Borger said that they would normally be happy to "adapt to any country," but that the extreme heat in Doha meant that bikinis were necessary.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Karla Borger and Julia Sude.</p></div>

Karla Borger and Julia Sude.

(Photo Courtesy: Instagram/@karlaborger)


US Open 2018: Court Violation for ‘Unsportsmanlike’ Conduct

During a match at US Open 2018, Alizé Cornet was returning from her break between sets when she changed her top quickly. According to the officials, when Cornet realised her shirt was backward and turned it around at the back of the court, she temporarily exposed her sports bra.

This behaviour was deemed as ‘unsportsmanlike’ by the empire and she received a court violation for the same.

Sania Mirza Being Called 'Un-Islamic'

Sania Mirza, the multiple Grand Slam winner has often been a victim of such sexism. From religious leaders to people on social media, time and again many have objected to Mirza's way of dressing.

"Do you think Sania Mirza’s attire is legal? Is it legal? It is sexual and hence, un-Islamic," said a religious leader during a TV show in 2017.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Sania Mirza via her Instagram</p></div>

Sania Mirza via her Instagram

(Photo Courtesty: Instagram/@mirzasaniar)

Athletes are now coming forward and calling out the outdated uniform regulations and demanding athleticism over aesthetics. Will the international sporting bodies take note?

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