Was there ever a summer without a tennis fashion scandal?

When tennis really was a fashionable, social game…

This year the big tennis fashion todo is over Serena Williams’ black catsuit at the French Open. I think she made a mistake by suggesting it was for health reasons since there are plenty of options for loose clothing and compression tights that would have been within tournament rules that were also suitable attire for avoiding blood clots.

Serena and her sister Venus have a history of shocking attire on the courts, wearing outfits of non-traditional colours and patterns. The controversy over the catsuit shouldn’t have come as a surprise since there was already precedence set by Wimbledon when it banned catsuits in 1985 after Anne White wore one, even though it was white, in compliance with Wimbledon’s all-white clothing rule. However, next to shorts and a polo top, Williams’ catsuit was a practical choice and, in black, looked far better on Serena than the long-johns look of the white catsuit worn by Anne White.

This sport has a history of fashion controversy: Baby doll dresses, logos and branding, coloured outfits, lace trimmed panties, nude coloured panties, no bras, flag sweatbands, flashy jackets or bags, jewellery, skirts cut too high, tops cut too low – it’s always something.

With catsuits now banned, Serena opted yesterday to wear a tutu instead…

Messy Nessy had an interesting photo essay about the history of tennis fashions:

From Corsets to Culottes: The Women who Dared to Change Wimbledon

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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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