The energy at the U.S. Open in New York City is unparalleled—which is why it's no surprise that Venus Williams designed a new dress for the tournament that's "perfect for feeling like you own the world." U.S. Open sponsor American Express gave me the opportunity to chat with the seven-time Grand Slam champion ahead of the tournament, which kicks off on August 27, so I had to get the scoop on her latest on-court look. While not everyone's day job involves playing in front of 20,000 fans, I also asked Williams about her off-duty attire when she's training, in the hopes that we mere mortals could pick up some workout style tips.
Despite training in Florida's notoriously hot, sticky weather, Williams is adamant about working out in long-sleeve pieces. "When I'm on the court, it's all about sun protection, so I tend to wear long-sleeve tops from EleVen. All of our products have UPF," she told Who What Wear of her activewear brand. "A lot of times I'll wear white if I'm outside. For leggings, I'll wear long pants as well. In Florida, it's super hot, but I make that sacrifice [for the sun protection]. And a hat too. We make a lot of fun printed visors."
Read on for my full chat with Williams, including her thoughts on New York City style, how she's partnering with American Express, and more.
Williams's go-to workout outfit: long white sleeves and leggings in fabrics with built-in sun protection (aka UPF).
This is my third year working with American Express, so it's a long-standing partnership. Amex does a great job working with me both professionally and personally, so I'm really happy to partner with them, especially this time of year for the U.S. Open. It's obviously such a huge event not just for tennis players but for the whole world. So this year we partnered to create lots of benefits for card members, including the Amex Band. It's a compact wristband, and it allows card members to pay for purchases and to unlock unique benefits. I also got to be a part of an amazing augmented reality game. They had one last year, but the technology is completely new. It's another way Amex really backs up the cardholders and everyone going to the Open.
What will you be wearing for the U.S. Open this year?
I'm going to be wearing our new Prima Donna collection at EleVen. It has fun colors: We have a beautiful navy, bright pink, and lime green. It's probably my favorite collection. I've had my family come into the office, and they're like, Oh my god, I love this. I can't wait to wear it.
Why is it perfect for New York specifically?
It's perfect for New York right now because we're still in summer, so it has bright colors. The dress I'm wearing to the U.S. Open is actually a dress you can wear out anywhere. I've gotten a lot of compliments on the dress, like, Oh, I can wear this out. It's perfect for being on the center court just feeling like you own the world.
What does NYC style mean to you?
It's a lot of different things. It can be sleek, it can be serious, indie, bohemian. I think it's a place where so many different kinds of people meet. It's just about being yourself and bringing more color to the city.
How do you approach designing your U.S. Open outfits differently than the other majors?
I definitely think I design it by feel. When you're in New York, you definitely want to be in that awesome little dress, awesome little matching kit—to be stylish and sporty at the same time. So this time, I definitely have some cool ruching and mesh details, which makes it something super easy to wear [off court].
How many hours a week do you train and what's your routine?
It varies. Sometimes I can be on the court for a few hours, but the process is very different; you just don't know. During the week, I spend as much time in the gym as I do on the court. I'll hop on the court for a couple hours, the gym a couple hours. You also have to recover and be in physical therapy for a couple hours. A lot of people love to get massages, and I'm like, ugh, that reminds me of work. I don't want to be on the table unless I have to be. My life is a great big workout; I love it.
What is your go-to workout outfit for training?
When I'm on the court, it's all about sun protection, so I tend to wear long-sleeve tops from EleVen—all of our products have UPF. A lot of times I'll wear white if I'm outside. For leggings, I'll wear long pants as well. In Florida, it's super hot, but I make that sacrifice [for the sun protection]. And a hat too. We make a lot of fun printed visors.
Williams told us her most controversial Grand Slam outfit ever: the nude shorts she wore under this lacy dress at the French Open in 2010.
What was your most daring Grand Slam outfit of all time—the one you got the most questions about?
I had the idea of wearing lace on the court [at the French Open in 2010, above], and I wore nude undershorts [that looked invisible]. It was quite a stir. It wasn't my intention; I just wanted it to look like lace on skin. But I was definitely wearing undershorts!
You're pretty fearless when it comes to your personal style. What's your advice to women who are afraid to try certain trends?
It's all about being comfortable and confident. If you don't feel good in it, then you can't really carry it, because you're not confident. But it's not an excuse to not try new things; I think the worse thing is getting stuck in the same style. It's always important to update and be a part of what's current, but in a way you feel confident in, give it your own twist.
Serena just debuted her Virgil Abloh collab. How would you describe the difference between Serena's and your on-court style?
I would wear pretty much anything she would if it's cool. I think her style is sleeker and sportier, and mine is more eclectic.