Tennis, like many other sports, has always been more than just about the action on the court. Its fashion, for instance, is often a talking point among the sports and fashion circles, especially during Wimbledon.
Since its inception in 1877, the historic tournament has maintained a strict all-white wardrobe policy. Over the years, however, players have put on display their own version of the tennis outfit while playing for the top spot.
Take the distinguished tennis skirt, for instance. Popular for its pleats and short hemline, it can be traced all the way back to the Victorian era. Female players used to pair it with a tight corset and a hat, an outfit that had little to do with athleticism. Think characters from a Jane Austen novel or something in line with Bridgeton's game of Pall Mall in the second season's episode 3.
A skirt above the feet-grazing length was enough to cause a scandal. It took a long time for the tennis skirt to reach the skin-baring hemline. 1919, to be exact, when French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen made her Wimbledon debut in a lightweight, short-sleeved and low-neck dress with a calf-length skirt. Without a petticoat and a corset, Lenglen had not only paved the way for the hallmarked skirt, but also established, in a sense, a trend of receding skirt hemline.
Of course, in a world of athleisure today, the tennis skirt is not only an on-court uniform but a summer essential. Modern designers find in its pleats a muse, while fast fashion brands capitalise on the trend season after season. A quick scroll through the skirt options on Zara and H&M apps is enough to learn how popular the tennis skirt is. And remember Miu Miu’s tennis-themed autumn/winter 2022 collection?
The reason for its growing popularity is that it offers a mix of sporty and girly, plus the flattering silhouette and the comfortable fit. In a world where activewear brands have turned the sporty look into stylish streetwear, it isn't surprising that the tennis skirt has become an all-occasion staple.
You can pair it with strappy sandals, a mini bag and a crop top, and you've got yourself the Gen Z it-girl starter pack. Bonus: it gels well with the Y2K fashion vibe, a current favourite of fas.
Beyond the skirt
Over the years, iterations of the tennis outfit have made headlines. Moving beyond the skirt, athletes, especially women, have sported outfits of comfort. Serena Williams, for example, wore a black catsuit in 2018 French Open. Her sister, Venus Williams, too, once donned a jumpsuit on court.
The Wimbledon tournament, in particular, has maintained its ubiquitous cultural and fashion currency over the years. Doused in different variations of whites, the courtside fashion at Wimbledon (the 135th edition is underway) is a perfect harmony of summer-friendly hues, designer labels and chic silhouettes. The spectators aren't behind either. The late Princess Diana’s trench dresses and suits in the 80s and 90s had a perennial charm of their own--a legacy that Kate Middleton has inherited rather naturally. Be it her Alexander McQueen numbers in the royal box or monochrome outfits, the Duchess of Cambridge manages to make a strong style statement. Much like Victoria Beckham and Anna Wintour, who make an au courant appearance. In all accord, Wimbledon becomes a touchstone for fashion moments.