The GOAT's fashion evolution is all bangers, no skips.
You don't become one of the world's most famous athletes without taking a few risks, and the same can be said of earning fashion icon status. Serena Williams has done both throughout her career. Her iconic fashion looks, worn both on and off the court, are a testament to her individuality and a celebration of her body.
Serena Williams' best outfits defy convention, much like the athlete herself. It's no secret that detractors once considered her body, technique, attitude, and, yes, even her 'fits a bit too much. Williams has spent over a decade keeping her chin up despite this othering, defying the tennis whites standard (applicable in more ways than one) with bold prints, bright colors, and layers of tulle. On the red carpet, Williams keeps the grand slams coming. She was named 2023's CFDA Fashion Icon Award winner, and one glance at her daring Thom Browne red carpet look shows that the award was well-earned.
Williams takes risks, goes hard, and experiments on the red carpet, whether attending the Vanity Fair Oscar party—she's been a guest for years and never once stopped serving A+ style — or the Met Gala. Williams' tennis outfits and red carpet looks are so consistently iconic that it was difficult to narrow our list of Serena Williams' best outfits to a mere 20 gowns, tennis two-piece sets, and decadent dresses, but we, like Williams, are always down to serve.
Serena Williams in Thom Browne at the 2023 CFDA Fashion Awards
Say it with us: iconic. To accept the 2023 Fashion Icon Award, Williams wore a sequined Thom Browne gown with oversized sheer satin puff sleeves and a long train. Her stylist, Kesha McLeod, accessorized the look with David Yurman jewelry, including a spiky floral collar necklace fit for a queen.
Serena Williams in Gucci at the 2023 Met Gala
There were lots of pearls and black velvet at the 2023 Met Gala celebrating designer Karl Lagerfeld, but Williams' custom Gucci gown stood out thanks, in part, to its seamless blending of menswear and eveningwear details. Aside from the gorgeous gown and Tiffany & Co. jewelry, the night was a special one for Williams: the tennis camp cheekily announced that she and husband Alexis Ohanian were expecting their second child in the caption of her Met Gala Instagram post.
Serena Williams in Brandon Blackwood at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards
For the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Williams donned a custom Brandon Blackwood velvet gown with a thigh-skimming side-slit and dramatic train.
Serena Williams in Versace at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Williams loves a gown but also seems to adore a mini dress red carpet moment. For the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, the A-lister wore a silver sculptural Versace mini dress that served up a sensual celebration of her curves while evoking the strength and power of medieval armor. Styled by Jason Boldman, the showstopping look was accessorized with silver jewelry that leaned into the liquid metal of it all.
Serena Williams in Gucci at the 94th Annual Academy Awards
Both Williams sisters served as producers on the Oscar-winning film King Richard, and Serena delivered old Hollywood glamour on the Academy Awards red carpet for the big night. The floral appliqué on Williams' plunging custom Gucci gown was echoed in the lace pattern on her sheer black gloves. A gown like this one can hold its own on a red carpet with minimal accessories. Williams opted for minimal jewelry with just two cocktail rings and a pair of stud earrings from her own jewelry line.
Serena Williams in Balmain at Paris Fashion Week in 2022
Only the very best looks will do if you're sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week, and Williams certainly got the memo. The A-lister attended the Balmain Fall/Winter '22/'23 show in a two-piece rich velvet set that accentuated her shape with quilting and pleating.
Serena Williams in Sheer Black Sparkles at the 2022 US Open
No shade to standard tennis skirts, but Williams prefers a bit of sparkle in her competition looks designed by Nike. On Day Three of the 2022 US Open, Williams wore an inky black tennis dress with a swirling skirt, rhinestone-embellished bodice, and sheer long sleeves. The 'fit, accessorized with a matching headband, said "star power" loud enough for every spectator to hear.
Serena Williams in Green Ombre at the 2021 French Open
On day eight of the 2021 French Open, Williams opted for ombre. Her tennis dress, sweatbands, and sneakers were a masterclass in monochromatic styling, incorporating cool-toned shades of sage, lime, and mint.
Serena Williams' Color Block Unitard at the 2021 Australian Open
For her Women's Singles Quarterfinals match at the 2021 Australian Open, Williams swapped out a flouncy silhouette in favor of a stream-lined asymmetrical unitard. While the look served all the vibrancy fans have come to expect from Williams, it also came with a tribute to another major athlete. The tennis star's bold look paid tribute to Florence Griffith Joyner, track star, record breaker, and one of Williams' childhood heroes.
"I was inspired by Flo-Jo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete, when I was growing up," Williams told The Guardian at the time. Hinting at the connection between sports and sartorial arts and perhaps her own taste in experimental activewear, Williams added that "[Flo-Jo's fashion] was always changing. Her outfits were always amazing."
Serena Williams in Flouncy Purple at the 2020 Australian Open
On day five of the 2020 Australian Open, Williams combined two of her favorite tennis outfit details: prints and a healthy dose of feminine flounce. For her Women's Singles third-round match, she wore a tennis dress with a tiered ruffle skirt in a pale watercolor palette with a not-quite animal print navy pattern.
Serena Williams In All Red at the 2020 US Open
In a word, this look was fire. At the 2020 US Open, Williams opted for a rich crimson monochromatic look. Her Nike tank and flouncy tennis skirt perfectly matched her accessories. Williams' sneakers featured subtle color-blocking to keep the look from feeling flat.
Serena Williams in Versace at the 2019 Met Gala
The 2019 Met Gala theme was tricky, and not all the celebs in attendance quite nailed the concept of "Celebrating Camp." Serena Williams, however, got an A+ in our book. One of that year's co-chairs, Williams looked stunning in a vivid yellow Atelier Versace gown adorned with leafy appliqués. The best part? Williams' perfectly matched Off-White x Nike sneakers.
Serena Williams in a Bold Print at the 2019 French Open
Williams knows how to spice up a look, even if it features a relatively simple silhouette. Case in point: The powerful abstract print on the two-piece 'fit she wore on day two of the 2019 French Open.
Serena Williams in Giambattista Valli at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Williams' love of tulle can be spotted on and off the tennis court. The Giambattista Valli gown she wore for the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar party was plucked from the fashion house's 2019 Spring Couture collection.
Serena Williams in Periwinkle Tulle at the 2018 US Open
Like any boundary-breaker, Serena Williams has haters, many of whom critique tennis's uncontested GOAT for being too strong, too powerful, and not feminine enough. This style of thinly veiled racism has followed Williams throughout her career, which makes every tutu-inspired tennis look she wears feel even more powerful. The three-tiered tulle skirt on the asymmetrical tennis Dress Williams wore on day seven of the 2018 US Open is softness incarnate from its dreamy periwinkle color to the light and airy way it moved on the courts.
Serena Williams in Galia Lahav at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Williams looked angelic for the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in a form-fitting white lace mermaid gown designed by Galia Lahav. Despite extra-long sleeves, yards and yards of lace, and inescapable bridal energy, this look still managed to serve a healthy dose of sensuality.
Serena Williams in Neon Yellow at the 2016 Australian Open
It's a joy to look back at Williams' tennis looks throughout the years and see her subverting fashion tropes as she did on Day 13 of the 2016 Australian Open. While her skirt and tee ensemble delivered the classic pleats and silhouette one would expect from standard tennis whites, Williams opted for a brilliant neon highlighter hue that cemented her as a fashion force to watch on the courts.
Serena Williams in a Caped Gown at the 2015 Wimbledon Champions Dinner
Williams' fashion risk-taking ranges from bold color choices to unexpected silhouettes. While the pale blush shade, empire waist, and crystal-embellished bodice on the gown Williams wore to the 2015 Wimbledon Champions Dinner were relatively subdued, its winged cap added substantial fashion impact.
Serena Williams in Ines Di Santo at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscars Party
Williams' most iconic looks consider every fashion element from fabric to fit. For the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar party, the tennis star wore a sumptuous satin Ines Di Santo gown with a high-slit and masterful pleating.
Serena Williams in Gladiator Pleats at the 2004 US Open
Five years after her US Open debut, Williams' skills and style were already becoming the stuff of legend. For her match against Tatiana Golovin, Williams wore a Nike outfit that transformed the court into a coliseum with its major gladiator energy. A large part of the look's anachronistic point of view came courtesy of Williams' calf-hugging zip-up shoe covers and the silver hardware on her button-up pleated tennis dress.
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