La Nouvelle Mode

Vintage Tennis
Vintage Tennis

With the sunshine out, strawberry’s and cream about, it seemed only fitting to spend a few rounds talking about the dress for tennis. The fortnight of Wimbledon 2013 comes to a close tomorrow with the men’s final.

First, we must take a few steps back and do some research before the match ahead!

Tennis, when did it all begin?

Well perhaps thousand of years ago, European monks were playing for entertainment.  The game evolved from your hand hitting the ball, to the use of a leather glove. We then see a handle used for effective hitting and even to serve the ball. The first tennis balls were wooden, imagine that coming your way at high-speed, ouch!

King Henry VIII With Tennis Racket
King Henry VIII With Tennis Racket

Finally, we arrive at the 16th century and see rackets being used and the game is referred to as ‘tennis’. Even Henry VIII was a bit of a fan!

You only have to watch a few minutes of a modern-day match; here the word ‘Deuce’ to realise that perhaps there is a connection with France. During the 16th and 18th century tennis is popular in France and adopted by the royal family. They called it ‘Jeu de Paume’ (palm game).

Jeu De Paume
Jeu De Paume

What do you wear to play tennis? Shorts for men and skirts for women!

Early on men would wear similar dress to their daily wardrobe. So yes you guessed it, men with balloon-like shorts tucked into their stockings. We see the use of rubber soled shoes in 1867.

During the Victorian era there was no appropriate attire for sport.  Women would wear what society thought suitable – tight sleeves jackets, long skirts, gloves and hats. During the 1900s we see men dressed in flannel trousers and shirts. On the other hand, women are still wearing a full length skirt and dressed with bonnet-like hats.

It would seem that May Godfrey Sutton and Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen played key roles in changing the dress for tennis.

May Godfrey Sutton (1886-1947) was the first American to win the singles title at Wimbledon in 1905. May was wearing one of her father’s shirts with the cuffs rolled back, very lady like.

After WWI female tennis players began to be open-minded about dress for tennis, taking the approach of stylish and practical fashion for playing. In 1922, we see Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen (1899-1938), a French tennis player, in a short skirt and brightly coloured cardigans with a hat being replaced with a bandeau.

Gertrude Moran, American tennis player, shocked the nation with lace-trimmed panties beneath her white tennis dress in 1949. You can imagine the talk this created. But is this still in vogue today?

Gertrude Moran
Gertrude Moran

In the 1990s, we see the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus; bring sleekness to dress for tennis with colour and wearing accessories on court – earrings and beads.

Tennis and fashion inseparable? Spectators watch, the muse is in motion!

 

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