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Venus Serves Up Tennis and Fashion

NEW YORK — While her competitors were busy envisioning baselines, Venus Williams was talking hemlines Thursday night.<br><br>At 6 feet, 1 inch, Williams was all limbs in a Diane Von Furstenberg minidress as she delicately negotiated her perch on...

NEW YORK — While her competitors were busy envisioning baselines, Venus Williams was talking hemlines Thursday night.

At 6 feet, 1 inch, Williams was all limbs in a Diane Von Furstenberg minidress as she delicately negotiated her perch on a Barbie pink settee — the same shade as the tennis balls that decorated the designer’s town house. The occasion was the launch of Rbk by Diane Von Furstenberg, the patterned tenniswear Williams planned to wear at the U.S. Open. Ranked fourth going into the tournament, Williams withdrew unexpectedly Friday afternoon because of an abdominal muscle strain. Her sister, Serena, is sidelined from knee surgery.

At the party, Venus Williams said she still wasn’t feeling 100 percent and “it’s been hard for me to accept my limitations.”

Venus Williams postponed the opening of her interior design office because of her sister’s surgery. While the younger Williams has “gotten over” her inability to play at the U.S. Open, the pair don’t really talk about their injuries, Venus Williams said. “I still haven’t asked her about her knee,” she said.

They’re also guarded about other things — like their outfits, when it comes to evening events. “Serena and I always joke. She’ll say, ‘What are you going to wear?’ and I’ll say, ‘A brown paper bag — I’m not going.’”

Asked if there’s too much of an emphasis on fashion in women’s tennis and not enough on the sport, Williams exclaimed, “I don’t think there could be enough focus on fashion. Fashion is part of tennis, especially when you’re winning tournaments. With Serena and me, it doesn’t overshadow us. Our tennis says who we are.”

As for her collection with Von Furstenberg, Williams said it matches her personality: “strong, fast, dynamic and different.” She noted how the lines and colors are unusual for tennis.

With a pack of paparazzi lurking nearby and hundreds of partygoers sipping champagne and Chambord in the next room, Williams said, “I have not been to a lot of fashion parties. This is very different. I’ve been to everything else — a lot of premieres and, of course, awards ceremonies. It’s a lot of fun being with the people who worked on the line.”

This story first appeared in the August 25, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And clearly the duo are beginning to love fashion more and more — Venus and Serena Williams will be making the rounds during New York Fashion Week. So far, the only show Venus Williams definitely plans to attend is Von Furstenberg’s, but she said they plan to go to several others.

Last Thursday, Williams was still wearing the remnants of another fashion event. A few years back, while staying here at the Peninsula for the Vogue/VH1 Fashion Awards, Williams realized she didn’t have any jewelry to wear, so she wandered around the corner to borrow some dangling diamonds from Wempe. “These I had to keep,” she said.