Style

The WNBA Has Never Been More Stylish

a group of women posing for a photo

In 2019, I wrote an article for ELLE titled, “WNBA Game-Day Fashion Deserves Recognition, Too.” It took five years to get here—but that recognition is finally pouring in. From game day to draft day, women in basketball are having a much-deserved moment in the sartorial spotlight. At the 2024 WNBA draft in Brooklyn last week, league hopefuls walked the “orange carpet” sporting Louis Vuitton and Cartier. Caitlin Clark peeked out at paparazzo from behind rose-colored Prada glasses, and Cameron Brink, the number two pick, wore a two-tone Balmain gown with a thigh-high slit that made her legs look longer than a regulation 10-foot hoop.

In short (though no one on that carpet was short): The players came to play.

The next morning, the ELLE office was abuzz with excitement about what it all means for the future of fashion in women’s sports. We spoke with the stylists behind the night’s best looks to decode the choices made by these powerhouse athletes.

Caitlin Clark

a woman in a white suit

“I always consider my clients’ personal story when working on ‘milestone looks’ in their career. Caitlin is a record-breaker in so many ways, I knew the look had to be some kind of ‘first,’ and my initial thought was Prada. I’ve worked with the brand for a couple of my male clients and had the most wonderful experience. The brand’s ethos fits Caitlin’s style: true craft and substance over showiness—plus they had never dressed anyone for the draft. The stars really aligned. The look she selected was young and fresh, but still sporty, which I loved. I’ve been working with NBA players for a long time—Caitlin is actually my first WNBA client—and I have been floored by the response.

She has such a flare and swagger when she plays, and that comes across in her style and how she carries the look she’s wearing.”

It typically takes almost five years before any brand is willing to dress an athlete, which I understand. It takes time for a player to make a name for themselves, and to stand out in a way that creates buzz and interest to the point that brands want to align and invest. I’m beyond thrilled with the response after this last draft; it was historical and groundbreaking. I hope and believe that brands now see this and we [will] experience a shift in the culture. These young women are breaking barriers themselves, and the spotlight is fully on them now. It is long awaited, much deserved, and overdue.

Caitlin is a dynamic player, who is extremely engaging and rewarding to watch. She works incredibly hard at her craft, and is inspirational. I see my role as creating a wardrobe that communicates the same image as her personality. Basketball is a naturally flashy sport. Caitlin in particular commands a wide audience, because of her captivating playing style. She has such a flare and swagger when she plays, and that comes across in her style and how she carries the look she’s wearing. Her confidence on the court translates to the red carpet or the street. She draws such a dedicated fan base, because she is the real deal. Being part of her team to continue pushing boundaries on the style side, while she shatters records and boundaries on the athletic side, is a real honor.

We are at the precipice of a moment in history where the WNBA begins to take the global stage. Athletes are still competing for brand deals and attention on a traditional backdrop that heavily favors the entertainment industry. I think it’s an ‘aha’ moment for luxury brands, which are realizing that these incredible women have immense talent, broad and engaged fan bases, and that they can really bring the same—if not more—client interest that brands will want to invest in.” —Adri Zgirdea Toth, AZSN Studio

Cameron Brink

a woman in a black and white dress

“There have always been women in basketball who care about fashion, but the attention around their fashion choices was dimmed by their male counterparts. We are starting to see a WNBA renaissance, where people who had never watched a WNBA game are suddenly superfans. WNBA players, in general, are lean and tall…there is always the challenge of finding pieces that are long enough and that showcase their physique in the best way. WNBA players are part of a league that offers a lot of opportunities to showcase personal style. In the NBA, fashion has always been on the table; the WNBA is finally getting the attention it deserves.

I see my role in spotlighting these athletes as incredibly important. Being able to highlight Cameron in a way that she deserves both professionally and personally is the ultimate goal. Finding the right look that translates with her fans and also makes her feel powerful, sexy, and beautiful is key in helping her generate authentic and long-lasting relationships with brands she likes, so that she can continue to wear them throughout her career. We are projecting her power both on and off the court.

It certainly helps having a stylist who represents you and fights for you and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Cameron has an innate sense of style, and my job is to always ensure that I’m channeling that. I’m a hustler, and so even before brands really knew who she was, I used every contact in my fashion arsenal of 15 years to make sure they knew her.

The fashion world will be the first to tell you that they need a refresh, and who better to do that with than these women who represent female empowerment better than anyone.”

I always think first about how that look can draw impact, how it will translate in photos and also how it will showcase her power and feminine energy. I also always think about who the designer is, what they stand for, and whether they are in alignment with who Cameron is as a person. A young, inspirational designer like Olivier Rousteing of Balmain was perfectly appropriate for the draft. Before we selected Balmain, we had six luxury, high-end designers ready to dress her. Melissa Kaye provided her jewelry, which was both edgy and pretty like Cameron.

Fashion in the WNBA is so important, and not just from a contract standpoint—although I do hope we will continue to see more fashion brands reaching out to players and negotiating contracts. They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. Showcasing their personal style in collaboration with big brands will be beneficial to all parties. The fashion world will be the first to tell you that they need a refresh, and who better to do that with than these women who represent female empowerment better than anyone.

I see the future of WNBA fashion continuing to grow at exponential levels. The fashion world got a little taste with this most recent draft class, but they’re just getting started. I saw comments on social media from so many people both intrigued and elated to see such impact on the orange carpet. They want more, and we all know when the people want something, brands listen. I cannot wait to watch the trajectory of fashion in the WNBA.” —Mary Gonsalves Kinney, MGK Style

Rickea Jackson

a woman in a red dress

“So many up-and-coming brands are willing to work with the players to create beautiful pieces for women of their height. Top-tier designer brands are also getting more into dressing the players, which is a beautiful thing. These talented female athletes have put in the work to prove that they are powerful forces in sports—period. My job is to help these women highlight their personal styles, which in turn makes them feel great about themselves. It could also help eventually get them deals with fashion brands.

I see the future of WNBA fashion as being more free and expressive than ever before. This is the first draft where so many players wore things that were a little bit sexy or had unique cuts. I love that. My inspiration for Rickea [at the draft] was business glam. I started researching brands with unique suiting options that were tall-girl friendly with a hint of sexiness.

I predict that fashion labels will be making big deals with WNBA players, just like they do with NBA and NFL players.”

Lots went into styling the look but some key things were fit and length, and research on brands with long inseams. Rickea became the first WNBA draftee to have an outfit change after the carpet. We wanted to make it a memorable moment.

I predict that fashion labels will be making big deals with WNBA players, just like they do with NBA and NFL players. The brands now have proof that these women are not only talented, but also fashionable and marketable. I know the top fashion houses will be reaching out to the best WNBA players. More deals equals more money, and they deserve it. —Tosha Hartzog, Tosha Hartzog

Kamilla Cardoso

a person in red pants

“You simply cannot find a suit or dress off the rack to fit a 6’7” woman, so we reached out to local Columbia, South Carolina, designer, Minh Le of 831 Minhle. Minh has created suits and separates for A’ja Wilson, Dawn Staley, and many more, so I knew she would understand the assignment. We had one fitting before the draft, and not a single alteration was needed. It was nothing short of amazing.

The 2024 draft marked the first time Prada dressed an athlete for the WNBA draft. With big-name fashion houses getting involved in women’s basketball—and it should be noted that they have been working with male players for a long time—there are a lot of new possibilities. Viewership is at an all-time high, exceeding the men’s tournaments, and designers are sitting in wait to dress the next star—or at least we hope that is the direction we are headed in.

Everyone wants to be a part of something new and something big. WNBA fashion is both.”

These athletes need designers to accommodate athletic bodies of all shapes and heights, while still allowing for femininity and sex appeal, if they choose. And, most importantly, they need clothes that allow them to tell their own stories and culture through fashion choices.

Fashion represents voice, confidence, and individuality. It represents financial freedom, and the ability to attract viewers and fill seats in arenas. We live in a world of content, and the rise of viewership of women’s basketball is causing a stir among designers. Everyone wants to be a part of something new and something big. WNBA fashion is both.” —Kim Felder, The Curated Closet

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