Sunday, October 17, 2010

A feast of Tennis Fashion - 1950s - 1980s.

Forgive my indulgence, but i've been looking at some of the images in my collection and online and have these gorgeously beautiful examples of tennis fashion. It's not comprehensive in any way, and the criteria for choice is my own . But I hope you'll see that ladies tennis was once not the corporate controled buisness it is today but many of the top ranked players attracted the attentions of some of the best designers around. If any of the images shown here are to your knowledge an infringement of a known copyrite law, I shall very happily remove them or credit the owner.

I've written about her before, but here (above) is the famous 'Gorgeous' Gussie Moran.American famed mainly not for her game but the attentions of photographers who gathered in their hoards to photograph her then incredible daringly short skirt and lace trimmed panties. The whole ensemble was the brainchild of Ted or otherwise known as 'Teddy Tinling.  During WWll, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Intelligence Corps in Algiers and Germany.But it was his links to tennis and an interest in fashion that eventually lead him to design outfits for all the leading players of the day including Chris Evert, Virginia Wade, Anne Jones, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals and Evonne Goolagong to name but a few! Below you can see him posing with some of his 'Ladies in white' as he referred to them as.
Well known for his use of newly discovered man made fibres such as Dacron, his designs made use of intricate cut outs, Rhine stone,lace, flowers and even feathers.He often lined his creations with brightly contrasting silks which would only be seen when the player in question was playing.

Below you can see some lovely shots of Brazilian Maria Bueno..I'll leave the statistics to those who know them, but Maria was a top flight player of incredible athleticism. Fairly classically cut dresses were often embellished with embroidery all hand sewn.

 Throwing the ball at to serve, she would open like a cross between a Lily and a ballet dancer as her skirts and lace spread out like the petals of a delicate flower.
 But non can compare to the absolute grace and achievement of Chris Evert(below) an interview she told the reporter that the girls on the circuit would each compete for the most ruffles on their butts! Chrissie wins every time! But the beautifully cut edging to her dress is wonderful too with small cut out details...I used this edging for the tennis grace in my last picture!
Teenager Tracey Austin burst onto the circuit in the late 1970's. Famously wearing pigtailed hair and braces on her teeth, her dresses were provocatively innocent to begin with..You can see below an example of red gingham!
But as she began to win more and more, the dresses became ever more detailed. I love the examples seen below here variously coloured diamante and applicate flowers.

 Finally, a couple of wonderfully over the top creations. Left is Britain's Virginia Wade, and on the right, Italian Lea Pericolli whose eccentric style saw her wearing baskets of flowers, feathers and brightly coloured linings!

I don't think there has ever been two diametrically opposed things as the sweat and physicality of a professional sport, and the dainty feminine lace and embroidery of high fashion. But the evidence is here for you to see.Of course, new fibres have been developed, fabrics have become easier to produce...styles have become sadly more functional as the decades have worn on and the dictates of sports wear manufacturers and endorsements have frozen out  individuality .

Modern day female players still have dresses made for them by their sponsors..but are you still talking about the dress Jalena Jankovic wore to Wimbledon last year?..the dress Venus Williams wore at the US Open?...I thought not.there will always be a special place in my affections for that gorkey bald ex army designer whose deft touch and craft made beauty and femininity run hand in hand with professional Tennis.

I now need to decide wheather to make my tennis girls as individual as the players I've loved for so long, or not...either way, i hope you've enjoyed my little guide to a long lost style!