Ace! Fashion at Wimbledon, past and present

Published, 4 years ago

Another great year at our Great British institution: but Wimbledon isn’t all white skirts and strawberries and cream. Fashion on and off the court has made the headlines for both the right and wrong reasons throughout the years.

Players and spectators push their luck with outfits year in year out, with splashes of colour becoming more common as times progress, and men getting involved just as much as women. But it’s not always been this way: the world of tennis has often been a little ‘behind the times’ when it comes to attire.


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Way back in 1949, Gussie Moran caused outrage by accidentally becoming the first woman player to flash her lace-trim knickers during play. Of course, at the time this was extremely controversial, with the all England club concerned about the affect this may have on the crowds and, most importantly, the Royal Family. Three decades later, Sue Barker wore some risqué hemlines with mini dresses and skirts, but always opted for a tailored finish and primarily white; not yet daring to challenge SW19’s one-centimetre colour rule around the neckline or cuff. Sue raised eyebrows but also a trend, with spectators and players soon following suit.

In 1985, Anne White caused controversy by not donning a dress or skirt, but rather opting to cover up in a PONY white full-length cat suit. Anne was asked to change her outfit for her next match and promptly lost… proving that you should always stand by a bold choice!

Roger Federer represented the forefront of male tennis fashion when he stepped into centre court at one of his games in a fully co-ordinated – with gold bag, gold tracksuit, gold lame jacket and even gold trainers. It was this outfit that inspired generations to come in sport to co-ordinate full outfits, no matter the lycra content.

The Williams’ sisters were the first female players to take on-court attire the most seriously and frequently work with sponsors to put together ensembles that are both functional and fashionable. Serena has played in a trench-coat, and Venus in a flapper-style layered dress and zip-up onesie. But there’s a new contender for the on-court crown. American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been known to enlist the help of Lady Gaga’s stylists to custom-create couture for Wimbledon, including a jacket with white-sprayed tennis balls cut in half and glued to it.

Fashion at Wimbledon is often more about being seen than being current, but spectators now benefit from relaxed dress codes meaning there’s more freedom than ever to experiment. As with audiences of everything, as we become less likely to shock, it takes more to court controversy.

With the fashion on court not quite living up to the controversial outfits of years past, all eyes have been on the crowd for summery yet smart ensembles and classic pieces mixed with contemporary accessories.

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