Angel Reese, Image Courtesy of the WNBA
April 16, 2024

Fashion Is The Name of the Game At This Year’s WNBA Draft 

Number #1 draft pick Caitlin Clark was fitted by Prada — a first for the house.

Only one word can describe NBA Draft fashion: audacious. Over the past 20 years, the annual event has seen the baggiest suits known to man, diamond-encrusted Louboutins, and glitter turtleneck-blazer combos. These past 20 years have also seen the Draft become a point of convergence for both capital-S Sports and capital-f Fashion. Houses like Louis Vuitton now dress prospective players; ESPN produces the NBA Draft Red Carpet Special; and even Women’s Wear Daily covers the event. But this year marks a historic change: now, we’re watching women get dressed for the WNBA Draft.

Caitlin Clark, Image Courtesy of the WNBA

College basketball firebrands — like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, LSU’s Angel Reese, and UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards — were dressed by houses and personal stylists alike for last night’s WNBA Draft. It was the perfect reagent to our cultural moment; women’s basketball, especially collegiate basketball, has been on our national mind like never before. Clark is now the NCAA Division 1 all-time leading scorer; University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, a fashion icon in her own right, led the Gamecocks to their third national championship; and that same national championship was the most-watched women’s basketball game in television history. 

Fashion in Women’s Sports

Women’s sports and women’s fashion have a fluid, complicated relationship — from the brilliance of Serena Williams upending on-court tennis dressing rules to Nike’s controversial track-and-field leotard. In public, female athletes must precariously balance between being taken as seriously as their male peers and adhering to the taste economy. Previous years have seen women dress softly professional, in pastel power suits; tasteful cocktail dresses; and office-ready jumpsuits. These outfits are not bad or even mediocre, per se, but instead reflect the temperature of the WNBA Draft’s red carpet — an event less concerned with couture and more with candor.

Rickea Jackson, Image Courtesy of the WNBA

To see the 2024 class dress as fashionably as male athletes do now — and by historic houses, no less — is a sea change in how we think of female athletes as style icons. Clark’s outfit, in particular, is epoch-making: she is the first WNBA player to be dressed by Prada for the draft, in a Miuccia-approved cream satin skirt-suit, leather slingback pumps, and acetate sunglasses. Stanford player Cameron Brink was dressed by Balmain, in a black-and-white slit dress with a rosette shoulder detail. Reese’s stunning gown, a Bronx and Banco metallic hood dress with a plunging neckline, forces us to consider the WNBA Draft as an amuse-bouche to next month’s Met Gala (she even collaborated with celebrity teeth jeweler Essense Martin). 

Looking To The Future

But what happens next? If we’re moving at the same speed as male athletes, this opens up a world of possibilities for female sports stars to make major luxury brand deals — like LeBron James with Pharrell’s Louis Vuitton, James Harden with Gucci, or Roger Federer with Rolex. Mass-market deals are being made, too; Reese has already become a Fashion Nova partner, SKIMS is now the official underwear sponsor of the NBA, and Levi’s released a 2022 collection co-designed by Naomi Osaka.

Kamilla Cardoso, Image Courtesy of the WNBA

“Sports is a tremendous source of inspiration for our Maisons,” announced Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and CEO, earlier this year. “Which will unite creative excellence and athletic performance by contributing their savoir-faire and bold innovation to this extraordinary celebration.” Let’s hope that continues with women’s sports as well.

Savannah Bradley

Savannah Eden Bradley is a writer, fashion editor, and creative consultant. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of fashion theory magazine HALOSCOPE and serves as Features Editor at The Territorie. Her work, which focuses on fashion as a critical art, business, and cross-cultural interlocutor, has appeared in Rookie, Business Insider, and i-D, among other outlets.

In 2022, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with dual degrees in English & Comparative Literature and Creative Direction. She was named YOOX NET-A-PORTER's 2020 Incredible Girl of the Future for her work in fashion media. She also works as a creative consultant for both established and burgeoning fashion brands, covering the breadth of trendspotting, branding, and marketing strategy.

(At this very moment, she is most likely either listening to Joni Mitchell or trying to find a good deal on a pair of vintage silver cowboy boots. Probably both.)

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