athletes · fashion

Prom dress rugby and lingerie football: what’s the difference?

I love prom dress rugby. It makes me grin.

I like rugby more than football. I have a teenage son who plays both sports, rugby at the provincial level and football on his high school team. Over the years of watching both games I’ve developed a pretty strong preference for rugby. Now that might just be my British heritage, combined with a small streak of anti-Americanism, showing but rugby seems to me to be a much more athletic game.

I also love prom dress rugby and hate lingerie football. The picture above is from UCLA’s prom dress rugby match, a fundraiser for breast cancer research. Sorry, no photos of lingerie football here. This is our sandbox. But there’s loads of lingerie football photos everywhere else on the web.

It seems to me there are important differences between the two sports though beyond my simple preference for rugby over football. (Rugby is the sport I would have played if I’d been an athletic child and if rugby for girls had been an option in the 70s and 80s. You can read about my regrets here.) Both prom dress rugby and lingerie football play on the clash between traditional notions of feminine beauty and and the rugged, traditionally masculine nature of the sports involved. It’s the juxtaposition of frills and lace and tackling that makes me grin. Both get humour value from, and take pleasure in, playing the game in non-traditional attire.

But here it seems to me the similarities end.

What are the differences?

  • Most importantly girls and women play rugby in regular uniforms 99% of the time. Prom dress rugby is annual event, a one-off thing, put on in the spirit of fun.
  • Prom dress rugby events are usually fun events put on by the teams as fundraisers for charity and to draw attention to the non-prom dress version of the sport. Of course, the teams themselves belong to amateur or community leagues or more commonly to high school and university athletic associations. Lingerie Football is a for profit sport. That by itself doesn’t make it better or worse but it does make it different.
  • There’s a punky DIY ethos to prom dress rugby. As a friend said, it reminds him of the other tough women of amateur athletics, roller derby girls. Some women play in hideous bridesmaid dresses they’ve been required to wear, others in their own actual prom dresses, and many scout thrift stores for prom dresses–the flouncier the better–worth trashing.

Lingerie Football used to be just an American thing, but like Hooters, it’s made its way North. Toronto even has its own Lingerie Football League team, the Toronto Triumphs.

Arguably as the game goes international, with Canadian and Australian leagues, its tone is changing too. There’s even been a re-branding. In a press release issued last Wednesday the owner and founder of the LFL Mitchell Mortaza announced its new name, the Legends Football League rather than Lingerie. So still the LFL.

“While the Lingerie Football League name has drawn great media attention allowing us to showcase the sport to millions, we have now reached a crossroad of gaining credibility as a sport or continuing to be viewed as a gimmick,” writes Mortaza in the press release.

And the press release promises sports attire rather than lingerie although frankly the performance attire looks like they’ve upgraded to skimpy beach wear instead of bedroom attire. No more garters, no more chokers, and no more strappy lacy things. Think Baywatch, rather than Victoria’s Secrets.

You can watch the press conference and see the new bikinis–I mean football uniforms–here.

I also feel the need to say something about my preferences since feminists are so often misunderstood on this front. I’m a feminist but I’m also a liberal. I’m not in favor of censoring lingerie football or condemning those who enjoy playing or watching. In matters of what attracts you, what makes you grin, I’m an unrepentant liberal. What I’m doing here is explaining why I like prom dress rugby much more than I like lingerie football. It’s an invitation to see the world from my point of view, rather than an argument against yours.

There’s a great photo of prom dress rugby in Sports Illustrated Photos.

I love their tag: “We kid you not. Feast yer peepers on the Next Big Thing. Lingerie football is so, like, yesterday….”

I hope Sports Illustrated is right.

10 thoughts on “Prom dress rugby and lingerie football: what’s the difference?

  1. Clearly, you are correct in almost every regard. Prom dress rugby is almost in a way making fun of prom dresses or of women dressing so very pretty when they actually love playing a contact sport and have the killer instinct to make it work for them. It’s rebellious and fun-loving at its roots. Lingerie football is the opposite – its more like making these athletic women dress sexy for men so that they can play their sport (or like Hooters, as you say, making women dress sexy for men, so that they can work). Where you are clearly wrong, however, is in your love of rugby over American football – and to actually consider rugby to be a more athletic game than football, when obviously the opposite is true. Loyalist! 🙂

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  2. I’d say the difference between the two is the kind of gaze it engenders: lingerie football is for men to watch and be titillated by; and prom dress rugby seems more neutral and less “sexy” in the traditional sense. But, like roller derby, it’s still a spectator sport so there’s some theatrics involved.

    Also, you’re tempting me to take up rugby 🙂 It looks like fun!

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  3. Great post! (Glad I finally got around to reading it.) Prom dress rugby to me is subverting the ideals of femininity in a way that doesn’t pander to the male gaze. One could make the argument that lingerie football is subversive in its own way, as it pairs a garment of aggressive femininity with one of the most aggressively masculine sports, but I don’t really buy that, especially since the sport was pretty much designed to be j.o. material for a certain kind of man.

    All that intellectualizing aside, I love how you write about prom dress rugby and its punky DIY ethos. That kind of aesthetic/ethic is super-appealing to me, and I tend to gravitate toward things like that rather than things that have a top-down corporate-gloss thing going on.

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