Battle of the Sexes and Tennis Fashion

The Women’s Tennis Association founding as recreated in c. 1972 in the film

We saw Battle of the Sexes last night – the film about Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King’s 1973 tennis match – an event I remember well the first time around. The film is very entertaining and remains pretty true to the facts, although some liberties are taken with the timeline (Everything is set in 1972-73 rather than the actual September 1970 – September 1973 time frame.)

The costuming by Mary Zophres is good. I have always contended that recreating recent pasts for films is actually harder than distant periods because your audience will know what’s wrong. I remember 1973 well, and Zophres captured the feeling in all its pastel poly pant suit glory. There are a few pieces here and there I didn’t love on extras but you have to look hard.

The Women’s Tennis Association founding in 1970

One of the characters in the film, played by Alan Cummings, is Ted Tinling. He was an interesting character with a lot of influence in the world of tennis fashion. When Tinling was a teenager he spent winters in the French Riviera playing tennis. He learned to become an umpire for tennis matches, and as his status grew, doors opened for him at Wimbledon. Tinling became a tennis historian, consultant, chief of protocol, and also tennis dress fashion designer for the International Tennis Federation. He was responsible for breaking the rules about all-white tennis dresses.

Tinling passed away in 1990 at the age of 80. It was only after his death that it was learned, rather surprisingly, that the 6’7″ effete Tinling, who was known for his extremely fashionable clothes, had also served as a British Intelligence spy during the World War II.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.

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