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Last night, England Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps was crowned 2023’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year - the first goalie in history to do so, and the second Lioness in a row following Beth Mead’s 2022 win.

Stepping onto the red carpet and having yet another major fashion-forward moment (lest we forget her Miscreants bow-clad mini at Vogue's Forces for Change dinner), the 30-year-old wore a daring lingerie-inspired maxi dress from David Koma, featuring a lace corset-inspired bodice with a thong-esque strap across the hips, complete with a fitted black maxi skirt.

Mary’s Sports POTY recognition was a win for female football fans and fashion addicts alike, which in my case, is both.

As somebody who has always loved both football and fashion, I can truly say growing up I never saw a pathway to combining both industries: never did I imagine the women’s game being so publicly embraced, and never did I imagine being a fashion girlie who'd have the opportunity to discuss female footballers and fashion in the same breath. 

Mary Earps in black lace dress © Getty Images
Mary Earps wore a corset-inspired David Koma dress

The 2000s/2010s were turbulent years for the women's game, particularly from a sartorial standpoint. For some context, in 2004 former FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggested women would get more viewership if they adopted a “more female aesthetic” by wearing “tighter shorts,” and it was only in 2019 that kits designed for women's bodies were made by Nike and Adidas instead of men's hand-me-downs - a whole 49 years after the FA's 50-year ban on women playing football was lifted. Role models were scarce, and not because they didn't exist, but because there was a lack of public support and visibility.

Me in 2014
Me in 2014

I grew up playing football for 11 years between 2008 and 2019, a time when seeing a female footballer on primetime TV was a rare occasion - particularly one who’d embrace fashion choices as bold as Mary Earps' when in the public eye. And understandably so, as it was almost a given that they’d be subjected to ridicule from those unsupportive of the game, who’d make their outfits a focal point rather than their sporting abilities (this is not to say no unpleasant comments were floating around online about Mary's latest look).

woman wearing sheer dress © Getty Images
Mary dazzled in her lingerie-inspired dress

Fast forward to 2023, Mary Earps is wearing lingerie-inspired dresses to the BBC SPOTY, England captain Leah Williamson is becoming and fashion icon, and wearing The Row on magazine covers in shots taken at Crystal Palace Leisure Centre, Alex Scott is doing brand collaborations with Reiss and Jill Scott is presenting men's games pitchside (an achievement in itself) whilst experimenting with colour blocking and head-turning fashion.

Mary's outfit felt like a fashion 'middle finger up'. Perhaps aimed in the direction of Nike, who sold Lionesses jerseys this year after the 2023 Women's World Cup, but refused to create Mary’s goalkeeper shirt - a decision that sparked global outrage. After reversing their decision, her bright green shirt sold out within minutes... twice.

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David Koma on the red carpet is nothing unusual with the likes of Rita Ora and Jennifer Lopez avid fans of his designs that he describes as “sculptural and sensual pieces created to instil confidence and empower”, but there was something immeasurably powerful about Mary wearing an outfit so distinctive and so contrasting to her athleisure-clad off-duty style.

Though females, football and fashion have been supported from the sidelines (whether that’s designers sending models down the runway in football-clad clothing, Mia Regan sitting front row at Stella McCartney’s LFW show in an Arsenal shirt, or Kim Kardashian sporting Manchester Utd caps), it only feels like this year those on the pitch are finally being recognised for the work they’ve done, and are still doing, in the background.

Mary's award-worthy David Koma outfit was brave, daring, confidence-boosting and trailblazing: everything the Lionesses have encouraged girls and women across the globe to be in 2023.