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How Wimbledon could set an example for everyone by ditching the all-white dress code

Style has changed over the history of Wimbledon but one constant has remained: the all-white dress code. (Getty Images: Dennis Oulds/Bob Martin/Bongarts/TPN)

Is white still right at Wimbledon?

Yes, it's a conversation that seems to reignite most years at the Championships, like when someone dares to bare a flash of colour.

But this year, the discussion has taken a different turn. It's not about fashion or breaking free from traditions.

It's about periods.

Several former and current women players have spoken about the stress of menstruating while adhering to the strict all-white dress code.

Professor Clare Hanlon is the Susan Alberti Women in Sport Chair at Victoria University (VU).

She says both women and men should be empowered to make their own choices.

"The dress code dates back to the 1880s, and that's when sweaty stains were considered improper and unsightly," she told ABC Sport.

"I think we're beyond those times, and we really need to make sure that we put the players first.

Why flexible uniform policies help all girls and women in sport

While Wimbledon is currently in the spotlight, plenty of other sports must reckon with their own uniform policies.

Richmond captain Katie Brennan (c) says white shorts can also be problematic for AFLW players.  (Getty Images: Kelly Defina)

Richmond AFLW captain Katie Brennan previously told ABC News she'd like to have darker shorts as an option.

And elite athletes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to those anxieties.

VU conducted a national study to find out what girls want in sports uniforms.

It was prompted by the large number of girls that drop out of organised/team sports once they hit adolescence.

The study found more than 60 per cent of girls wanted to wear dark-coloured bottoms while playing sport.

Students Imogen Waite (left) and Lucinda Hulbert (right), with Professor Clare Hanlon and AFLW star Katie Brennan, agree that comfort is key for sports uniforms. (ABC News: Kyle Harley)

One of the participants said: "I have white shorts now and every month I get really concerned about leaking and that people can see too much."

Another added: "We used to wear white pants for cricket which was awkward and embarrassing if you got your period. Now we can choose to wear black pants, which makes me feel much better to have that choice."

Freedom of choice drives greater participation

Professor Hanlon says the main feedback from girls was that they wanted flexibility.

"Then they could determine what fit them, and not one style fits all. So, enabling that choice is so important," she said.

VU then followed up the initial study with organisations that implemented flexible uniform policies, including Swimming Australia, Netball Victoria and Cricket Victoria.

"What we found was that half the girls and women who had experienced changing their uniform — it actually encouraged them to stay in sport," Professor Hanlon said.

"We also had nearly half agree that it removed one of the barriers they had associated with enjoying sport.

And if getting more girls and women participating in sport is the aim of the game, then it doesn't pay to be black and white.

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