Nike’s new tennis dress a lesson in design dos, don’ts

Nike’s new women’s tennis dress, “the Premier Slam,” premiered at Wimbledon recently — but not without some skeptical reactions from players assigned to wear the outfit.

The dress “is a tiny babydoll with two big slits along each side. Just try returning a 120-mile-an-hour serve in that thing,” observed Gigi Douban, reporter for “Marketplace,” broadcast live nationally on NPR stations and available online via podcast.

“A good tennis dress doesn’t get in the way of the game,” Beth Esponnette, assistant professor in the UO’s Department of Product Design, told Douban, noting that the dress is “basically a glorified shirt” that left some players feeling a bit too exposed.

Nike sent staff members to make adjustments to the dress and some players devised their own alterations, from tucking the dress into shorts to using a headband as a belt to keep the dress from getting in the way.

The controversy “is an excellent example of how apparel is an important product that needs testing with its users,” said Kiersten Muenchinger, director of the UO’s Department of Product Design.

Women tennis fans can buy the dress at Nike retail stores for $100, and Douban quoted a tennis blogger who believes women will likely buy it. 

UO’s new master of science degree in sports product design welcomes its initial cohort of students this fall term at the Department of Product Design in Portland’s White Stag Block.