The Fashion History of Wimbledon
Being the oldest and most prestigious of the four tennis Grand Slam Tournaments, The Wimbledon Championships is awash in long lasting features and traditions. From titling the men’s and women’s competitions “Gentlemen’s” and “Ladies” to maintaining the iconic advertisement-free Centre Court, the event prides itself on its heritage.
Arguably, the most notable aspect of the highly anticipated event is the all-white dress code for players. While it has been a part of Wimbledon for well over a century, the all-white dress code hasn’t always been popular with its participants. The most extreme case of this was when superstar Andre Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon for two years because the dress code prevented him from wearing the flashy clothing that he was most comfortable and known for wearing. So, if the players do not agree, why does the tournament specify an all-white dress code? Simply put, when the code was written by The All England Club in the early 1880s, sweat stains were considered so improper and unsightly that it was decided that white should be worn to minimize their visibility. From then on, tennis whites were considered the standard attire for well-heeled tennis players. Being a tournament based on tradition, the code has not changed. In fact, the rules have only got stricter in recent years, with new classifications of white and the measurements for patterns.
As we embark on Wimbledon 2017, we take a look back at some of the most memorable outfits showcased at the Championships and how they have changed through time.
Let’s start with the first ladies Championship in 1884. Maud Watson defeated her sister Lilian in the inaugural ladies championship final wearing a white corset and petticoat – now that takes some skill.
In 1905 May Sutton, the first American to win Wimbledon, caused quite the shock when she rolled the sleeves of her dress up to reveal her forearms. This was merely for practical reasons as Suttons sleeves were ‘too long and too hot.’
We couldn't do a Wimbledon round-up without including Gussie Moran, the first lady to flash her underwear at Wimbledon. In 1945, when Gussie revealed her lace-trimmed knickers on centre court, she caused quite an uproar. Accused of ‘putting sin and vulgarity into tennis’ the All England Club was most concerned about the effect on the Royal Family.
Gussie paved the way for others, with our tennis presenting hero, Sue Barker being the next ‘naughty’ lady to shock Centre Court. Barkers most notable number was her floral thigh skimming dress in 1976; however people slowly got used to her risqué style soon after.
One of the most controversial outfits worn at Wimbledon comes from Anna White’s cat suit. Completely unaware of the controversy it would cause, Anna said “I had no idea it would be so controversial. It wasn’t my intention, as I took my tracksuit off, for anyone to spill their strawberries and cream. ” Her match with Pam Shriver was suspended overnight and she was politely asked to wear something else.
Opting to wear red underwear, officials got their knickers in a twist over Tatiana Golovin’s outfit in 2007. Tatiana came under attack for breaching the ‘predominantly white’ rules. A spokesman for the All England Club, however, said that the pants were permitted as they did not go below the hemline.
Serena Williams takes her Wimbledon outfits very seriously and the 2008 warmup trench coat paid homage to this. The player said: “I live in Florida and I probably have more coats than anybody. “I just love coats and I’m always buying them. I don’t know why as I live in Florida – it just doesn’t add up.”
Roger Federer is no stranger to controversy and in 2009 he did not disappoint. The white army style jacket and gold lame waistcoat were inspired by a military uniform; he teamed this with a white t-shirt emblazoned with his initials in gold, even his trainers had a gold Nike swoosh.
Referred to as the Lady Gaga of tennis, Bethanie Mattek-Sands baffled fans in 2011 when she stepped out onto court showcasing black war-like paint beneath her eyes and a white bomber jacket with spray painted white tennis balls chopped in half. When she removed the jacket, her white dress only had one sleeve.
And finally, the controversy even carried in to last year’s Championship’s where Eugenie Bouchard’s Nike dress was recalled for alterations due to the dress showing too much skin.
Not only do we have our focus on the players performance this year but we’ll also be keeping a close eye on their attire at all times. Watch this space....