Wimbledon is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments of all time; keeping not just the country, but the world gripped year after year. It generally rains and seeing the “English hope” fall at the quarter finals EVERY YEAR gets tiresome, but it still has a uniquely british charm.
Yet it is not just the games which make the headlines, but also what the players choose to wear. The courts have become more like a catwalk, stretching far beyond fashion into the realms of popular culture.
Unlike the other Grand Slams, Wimbledon is a host of traditions- from the strawberries and cream, to a Royal appearance, and of course, the grass courts. But a tradition that creates a profound impact on the fashion of the championships is the strict ‘all white’ dress code- a visual style that has long characterised the event.
The idea of players dressing in corsets and petticoats nowadays is almost laughable. But when the tournament first began this was the imposed dress code; including full length/ long sleeved dress’ for women and trousers for men. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long until these rules began to be challenged.
The first fashionista of Wimbledon was Suzanne Lenglen (1922) who not only was the first woman to wear makeup on the court, but also later appeared wearing a sleeveless, knee-length dress (the hussy!). This was fitting to the flapper style that emerged during the period, which challenged female norms. It was her bold dress sense that is an inspiration for fashion to come, and was evolving alongside the modern woman. It’s only right to pay homage to Lenglen for pushing the boundaries of style; for if it wasn’t for her we may not have the likes of Sharapova giving us an eyeful of their assets today.
This aesthetic evolution continued into the 1950s- A cheeky knicker flash is almost as traditional as the strawberries and cream today; but ‘Gorgeous Gussie’ caused quite a stir when it wasn’t her tennis prowess that made front page but those lacy French knickers. Amazingly this ensemble was deemed ‘vulgar’ by the English club committee and even caused a debate in parliament!
Yet the shrinking hemline was not just confined to the ladies. The 80s led to an influx of male tennis players with shorts that had us anticipating a sneak peak of more than just the tennis balls. John McEnroe’s iconic shorts, red headband and whiteman ’fro is a look that is still talked about today- many unoriginal people choosing it as a fancy dress outfit. Fashion often has a way of repeating itself, lets hope this is one trend that stays in the decade it came from!
The ‘all white’ dress code means that even the most outlandish outfits sported by the likes of the Williams sisters are toned down; making it particularly challenging to make a fashion statement. Yet when there’s a will there’s a way; as proven by Anne White in 1985 who although still complied with the official rules by wearing all white, she left little to the imagination by wearing an all in one spandex suit. Spectators were shocked when the American stepped on court, and the tittering from the crowd could be heard throughout the first set. Yet this was merely a one hit wonder; her game was postponed due to bad light and she was told to come back the next day wearing something ‘more appropriate’.
White’s outfit may have been somewhat revealing, but Linda Siegel’s wardrobe malfunction in 1979 revealed more than what anybody was expecting. It was her teeny tiny dress that resulted in the infamous nipple slip that ran across every front page in the country alongside the headline ‘Thanks for the Mammary’. Unfortunately for spectators, Siegel was knocked out in the 2nd round.
Nowadays the skimpy outfits of the courts couldn’t be further from the original dress code; and it still never ceases to cause debate amongst spectators about what is appropriate. But no matter how many disagree with the short shorts and fitted tops; sex sells, making it one of the easiest ways for athletes to promote themselves. If it wasn’t for Ana Kournikova’s beauty, she may never have been recognised for her skills (or lack of) on the court. The sought after prize money is something that Kournikova has failed to come close to, as she has never made is past a quarter final! But luckily for her she is a complete and utter babe, and is still one of the most googled players today-allowing her to be extremely successful in the world of modelling….Losing has never looked so good!
Kornikova may be remembered being one of the most mediocre players, but oh did she look fine- So is the desire to be remembered ultimately mean that the tennis itself get put on the sidelines?
One of the most controversial fashion choices at Wimbledon was Bethanie Mattek’s combination of football socks, war paint, and a jacket covered in tennis balls in 2006; which inevitably raised questions of taste. The designer of this particular ensemble was non other than Alex Noble who has created numerous Lady Gaga outfits. Yet unlike Gaga who backs-up her daring looks with undoubtable talent, this is where Mattek falls short; loosing 3 sets to Misuki Doi. Was this a last desperate attempt to make an impact on the sport?
But its not all about eccentricity, Maria Sharapova chose a classic and simple look in 2008 which was a hit with fashion lovers everywhere. Her tuxedo inspired outfit was bang on trend with the season.
Similarly Roger Federer was miles away from the short shorts of the 80′s; dressing for the occasion in 2009 by turning up in a suit.
But it’s not just the clothes that are a focus point of fashion, the event itself is just so on trend with a host of celebrities & royalty turning up year after year to keep the tabloid’s front pages full with the people who have little to do with the actual game. Viva fashion! Viva Wimbledon!