Angel Reese and the Best-Dressed at the W.N.B.A. Draft

The next class of basketball stars are ready for their close-ups. Finally, fashion is paying attention.

Angel Reese of L.S.U., Caitlin Clark of Iowa and Cameron Brink of Stanford before the W.N.B.A. draft on Monday.Credit…Adam Hunger/Associated Press

When it comes to peacocks, it’s hard to beat male athletes. Their tunnel walks have been painstakingly documented; their fits have dominated the draft day conversations for the N.B.A. and the N.F.L.; their love of Vuitton and Hermès has been parlayed into brands of their own.

But on Monday evening at the W.N.B.A. draft, following the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history and the most-watched basketball game at any level since 2019, that all changed. Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Cameron Brink, among others, saw that style marker and raised it one.

Well, they are elite competitors — in image-making as on the court. Fashion, it seems, has finally figured that out. Stylists and brands are waking up and reaching out.

“People are seeing us for who we are now,” said Rickea Jackson, the No. 4 pick of the night, who is going to the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Iowa guard, whose long-range shots have made a stir online, is one of the most electrifying players in college basketball.

When a Star Comes to Town: A Caitlin Clark appearance causes huge jumps in attendance on the road, sometimes drawing twice as many fans as the next best attended game.
Endless Range, Boundless SwaggerHer fiery competitiveness, no-look passes and 3-point bombs have made for must-see basketball in Iowa. What happens when she leaves?
Caitlin Clark Is Everywhere: Last year, we tracked Clark’s well-balanced attack during Iowa’s victory over Colorado, when she scored merely 31, including long 3-pointers, layups and jumpers from all over the floor.
The Money Shot: Clark perfected her form in her driveway. But even when she abandons that form, she can hit game-winners from nearly halfcourt.
Her Own (Fast) Pace: Clark says the game slows down for her, and it shows: She leads Division I women’s basketball in points and assists.

It started with Ms. Clark, the No. 1 pick, who is going to the Indiana Fever and continued her record-breaking streak by becoming the first basketball player, man or woman, to be fully decked out by Prada for the draft.

She wore a white satin miniskirt and oversize shirt with rhinestone buttons and a cropped rhinestone top, tinted aviators and black sling-backs, and she carried a small patent leather Prada bag. The net effect was very “future of my sport.” Prada had approached her, she said, or at least her styling team, which is a coronation of a different sort.

She wasn’t the only one to go haute. Ms. Reese, the seventh pick, going to the Chicago Sky, worked with Naomi Elizée, the Vogue fashion editor who had styled her for her draft declaration in that magazine, and looked as if she had taken a side road on her way to the Met Gala. See her backless Bronx and Banco silver knit dress with a plunging V-neck and hood and coordinating Christian Louboutin pumps, which she duly name-checked in her strut down the orange carpet.

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“I wanted something that was going to pop,” Ms. Reese said of her dress. And she wanted to seize the moment. “I don’t want to just be a great basketball player,” she said. “I want to leave my impact. I want to be a model. I can cook. I can do hair. I can do nails. I can do it all.”

The W.N.B.A. draftees on Monday.Credit…Sarah Stier/Getty Images

That is, in the end, why all of this matters. Fashion is the fastest route to personal branding, which leads to influence, which leads to an even bigger stage. Not to mention endorsements, no small consideration given the continuing salary disparities between men and women in professional basketball. (Ms. Clark’s starting salary will be $76,535.)

So there was Ms. Brink, chosen second and going to the Los Angeles Sparks, in a black and white asymmetric Balmain gown with a slit to the upper thigh and a rose on one shoulder. She found the dress with the help of the stylist for the actress and Sweet July founder Ayesha Curry (her husband, Steph Curry, being Ms. Brink’s godbrother).

And there was Alissa Pili, of Samaoan and Indigenous Alaskan descent, who was chosen by the Minnesota Lynx, and who worked with the designer Jason Wu to make a dress that, she said, paid honor to her heritage and the people who got her to the draft. Hence the gold Polynesian print on the skirt and a silhouette cut to showcase the tribal tattoos on her leg and shoulder and, she said, “to represent them on the biggest stage.”

There was a lot of white, not just on Ms. Clark but also on Aaliyah Edwards (No. 6, Washington Mystics), who carried a crystal handbag shaped like a basketball, because, she said, “I always have a ball in my hand,” and Celeste Taylor (No. 15, Indiana Fever).

Also red, on Kamilla Cardoso, the No. 3 pick, going to the Chicago Sky, who wore a sharply tailored suit, and Ms. Jackson, who, taking a page from the Oscar red carpet, swapped the crimson bustier and trousers she had worn on the orange carpet with some Cartier crystal sunglasses for a sparkling silver suit when she took the draft stage.

The looks “gave two different vibes, so I said, ‘Why not?’” Ms. Jackson said. She found them with the help of Tasha Hartzog, a stylist who had messaged her on Instagram. “The first was Detroit fierce, and I am from Detroit, and the second was more glitz and glam,” Ms. Jackson said. “I know that where I’m going I am going to want to style it. And I want to be big.”

The point, she continued, is “the bigger you get, the more people that brings, the more eyes, the more money.”

“We are people outside of basketball,” she said. “You have your own brand.” Even if she and her draft mates are only at the beginning of their careers.

“One day, the ball is going to stop bouncing,” she said. “So you want to have things in place for what’s next.”

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