Tennis has been a popular activity since the 1870s and developed initially as a casual leisure activity that men and women could partake in together at social gatherings. Early tennis fashion developed out of the styles and fabrics that were already in use for other popular outdoor activities, such as cricket and croquet. Like the game itself, tennis fashion has also seen tremendous changes over the years. Just as every decade has had notable fashion tastemakers, tennis, too has had its share of trendsetters who dared to wear provocative attire on the court. Drawn from the collections at the Museum of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Courting Style: Women’s Tennis Fashion explores this intersection of tennis and fashion. Courting Style opens June 18th, 2022 at West Baton Rouge Museum and runs through August 14th, 2022.
With an emphasis on outfits worn by the great iconic players, such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin, Evonne Goolagong, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, the exhibition explores developments in tennis fashion design as well as fabrications, trends, major championships, identity, and the players themselves.
From skirt lengths to color combinations and hair accessories, tennis fashions have had broader implications in the fashion world, as they reflect concurrent social and cultural contexts. While men’s tennis fashions have changed at slower rates, women’s tennis clothes are consistently a fiercely debated topic, even in regard to the most seemingly minimal alterations. Historian and author Jaime Schultz believes that “from the moment women first picked up their rackets, their attire inspired questions of decorum, social distinction, physicality, and femininity.”
Also included in the exhibition are dresses, illustrations, and photographs from the Hall of Fame’s Ted Tinling Collection & Archive. Tinling designed dresses for a slew of the greatest tennis players from the late 1940s through the early 1980s, and his couture creations were alluring, colorful, revolutionary, and emphasized the unique personality of the player.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame preserves and promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions, thereby serving as a vital partner in the growth of tennis globally. Dating to the twelfth century and constantly evolving today, tennis has a storied history rooted in inspirational champions, impactful leaders, and great moments that have influenced history, on and off the court. The Museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame shares the narrative of tennis history from its origins through present day.