Every year one of the tennis world’s biggest questions is: what will the stars be wearing? Not the celebrities in the audience, mind you. The fashion of the female superstars on the court has gone through incredible change through the years. From the days of fur coats on the clay to the more colorful fashion trends of the 1990s, here’s how women’s tennis fashion has evolved over the years.
1914: Tennis’ Super Conservative Fashion Origins
Photo Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
This picture of Dorothea Lambert was taken at Wimbledon in 1914. Would you believe she won the women’s bracket at Wimbledon seven times wearing this incredibly conservative outfit? Honestly, she looks like she’s on her way to school to teach the kids English or math.
Lambert loved tennis fashion at the time, even publishing a guide for women to follow titled Tennis for Ladies. The book was published in 1910 and includes this gem, “white is undoubtedly the best to wear. It washes well and does not fade, and looks very much neater on the court than a material.”
Pleated Skirts Were The New Normal In The 1920s
Photo Credit: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
When the 1920s rolled around, fashion was slightly more relaxed, and pleated skirts were touted as an athletic breakthrough. The skirts may seem impractical now but were considered proper athletic wear at the time for women.
Of course, playing a game of tennis in the 1920s wasn’t just about the competition. Women were able to show off their incredible skills as well as their lavish fashion sense. Speaking of lavish, our next trend features a classic Hollywood accessory you’ll never guess!
Lili De Alvarez Wore Fur Coats in the 1920s
Photo Credit: G. Adams/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Not only was Lili De Alvarez one of the best tennis players of her era, but she also loved wearing fur on the court. She didn’t play her matches decked out in the heat-trapping outerwear; she just wore it after defeating her opponents.
This particular fur coat was adorned in 1926 after Alvarez beat Molla Mallory to win the lawn tennis single ladies championships at Beckenham. Mallory, not pictured above, was known for her chic headbands to protect her face from sweat.
Mid-1920s: Shorter Skirts Come Into Play
Photo Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images
By the middle of the 1920s, women were finally allowed to show their ankles on the court. You can see above skirts still fell well below the knees. Still, female athletes complained of not having enough mobility. We would too!
In the picture, you see the United States and English teams, who competed against each other for dominance yearly in the Wightman Cup. The tournament was held from 1923 until 1989. England won ten times. Next, do you know who the first fashion icon in tennis was?
Kay Stammers Was A Fashion Icon in the 1930s
Photo Credit: J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Kay Stammers reinvented tennis fashion in the 1930s. Here she is in 1939 (on the right) walking into Wimbledon before a match. She lost to Alice Marble (on the left) in the finals, but won best dressed in our hearts.
Stammers was iconic for her fashion taste and had a line of tennis wear. Whether ladies wanted to wear skirts or shorts, she had it all for a reasonable price. At her peak of popularity, she screen tested for acting roles in Hollywood and dated John F. Kennedy.
1939: How Much Skin In Too Much Skin?
Photo Credit: A. Hudson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Women started pushing the boundaries of tennis fashion by the 1940s. Martha Barnett started the trend, shocking everyone with a short skirt and revealing neckline at Wimbledon in 1939. Fans were appalled with how much skin was shown, although it became normal shortly after. The above picture was taken in 1940.
With fashion changing quickly in tennis, it wouldn’t be long before the archaic dress code was overhauled. Sometimes a little leg is a good thing, just ask Gertrude Moran, our next star!
Gertrude Moran Made Her Own Rules in 1949
Photo Credit: George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Gertrude Moran changed the tennis fashion game in 1949 wearing a skirt short enough to show her underwear. Wimbledon declared her outfit was vulgar, although she hadn’t broken any rules so they had to let her compete.
Because of the backlash, Moran stuck with short shorts for future tournaments, but still found ways to make headlines. During a match against Pauline Betz in 1950, she wore leopard print shorts. Our next athlete didn’t like shorts, she preferred tutus!
Lea Pericoli’s Tutu in 1964
Photo Credit: Keystone/Getty Images
Lea Pericoli became so well-known for her on-court fashion she wouldn’t let anyone see her until she got on the court. One of her most famous outfits was the tutu seen above. She debuted the Teddy Tinling designed outfit in 1964.
One year later Pericoli chose her outfit herself, wearing a rose trimmed skirt also designed by Tinling. After her tennis career ended, she became a popular television presenter in Italy. She’s also worked as a journalist and fashion critic.
Large Collars Swept The Tennis World In The 1970s
Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
The 1970s are known as one of the most exciting decades for fashion. Martina Navratilova had no problem going against the norm with her preference for oversized and pointed collars. She also stretched the limit of how much leg was acceptable to show.
As a player, few tennis stars are as decorated as Navratilova. This picture is from the 1970s; she retired from tennis 2006. Along the way, she won 31 Grand Slam titles and 354 total titles. You can’t say she didn’t look good doing it, either. Billie Jean King liked big collars too, and something else you have to keep reading to learn about.
’70s Floral Patterns Were All The Rage For Billie Jean King
Photo Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport via Getty Images
The 1970s brought more to the tennis world than oversized collars and incredibly short shorts. When Billie Jean King won her Wimbledon Title in 1975, she was wearing a white outfit with a blue floral pattern on the bottom. The matching sweater brings the entire outfit together.
King’s most famous match came against one of the boys. Eager to prove that women were just as good as men she played a match against Bobby Riggs and won. Her victory was immortalized in the movie Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone playing her.
1980s: From The Farm To The Tennis Court
Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images
Tracy Austin had no problems buying into her “girly” image in the 1980s. This famous red outfit with pigtails made the world take notice. She wasn’t so sweet on the court though, winning three Grand Slam titles during her 17-year career.
At 16-years-old Austin won the U.S. Open, making her the youngest player ever to do so. To celebrate her incredible achievement, the Associate Press name her the Female Athlete of the Year in 1979. She retired in 1994 after a string of injuries cost her too many games. As Austin left the game, fashion evolved in a big way.
Tennis Fashion Was Not Saved By The Bell In The ’90s
Photo Credit: PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images
With the turn of the decade, the 1990s brought short skirts and baggy blouses into fashion. Tennis, always on the frontline of fashion trends, bought into the hype. Steffi Graf, one of the stars of the era, is seen here at Wimbledon in an exceptionally breathable shirt and skirt that allow full mobility.
Not seen in this photo is the matching headband. The 1990s were all about color, and even though Wimbledon was big on white, stars snuck in plenty of blues and reds when they could.
Hair Beads Also Happened In The 1990s
Photo Credit: GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Here’s a fashion trend we had nearly forgotten about: hair beads! When Venus and Serena Williams made waves in the tennis world in the late 1990s, they never hit the court without color in their hair. Never scared to stand out in a crowd, these two sisters continue to make fashion waves today.
In 2002 the iconic sisters were the top two ranked female tennis players in the world. In competition against each other, Serena has defeated her sister 17 times and Venus has won bragging rights 12 times. Our next star pushed the limits of how much skin could be shown on the court!
The “How Much Skin Is Too Much Skin?” Debate Raged On Into The 2000s
Photo Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
When Anna Kournikova entered the land of tennis at the turn of the century, she brought an old debate with her. Known for her looks more than her skill, Kournikova was considered scandalous for how much skin she showed on the court. The picture above might seem innocent but rarely had a tennis star wore shirts that showed their midriff.
Despite being one of the most popular players of all time, Kournikova has never won a major title. She hasn’t played a match since 2010, and might not ever again because of injuries.
Sometimes, The Dress Matches The Court
Photo Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
We’re fairly confident Elena Dementieva didn’t mean to match the court when she put on her outfit for the Australian Open in 2005. Of course, her look also matches the style at the time. While Anna Kournikova wore two-piece outfits, most stars at the time wore athletic dresses.
She lost this particular match to Maria Sharapova, another tennis fashionista. If you’re interested in Sharapova’s on-court style, the next slide will tell you everything you need to know. Up ahead, learn how Maria Sharapova shaped tennis fashion in 2006.
Maria Sharapova’s Ballerina-Inspired Outfit in 2006
Photo Credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
Maria Sharapova wore this ballerina-inspired outfit during the 2006 French Open. Already a star at the time, she quickly became a fashion icon in the tennis industry. In 2010 she launched a fashion line with Nike. The collection features dresses she designed for several major tournaments.
To go along with her growing fashion empire, Sharapova started a candy line in 2013 called “Sugarpova.” The sweets can be found at candy stores nationwide, and a percentage of the profits go to charity.
This Dress Brings New Meaning To Floral Pattern
Photo Credit: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images
Gallina Voskoboeva caught everyone’s attention with her rose covered dress at the French Open in 2008. Roses were not very lucky for her, though, losing the match to Maria Sharapova after winning the first set.
Voskoboeva got her revenge in Sharapova in 2011, eliminating the star from the Rogers Cup. One year later she reached the highest ranking of her career, being named the 26th best tennis player in the world. Patterns are popular, from roses to leopard print.
Feisty Leopard Print in 2007
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Bethanie Mattek-Sands looked like she stepped out of the jungle in 2007 when she played at the U.S. Open in this leopard print outfit. We give her credit for going bold. At the time she wasn’t the most recognizable face in the tennis world. In a few years all that would change.
In 2011, Mattek-Sands defeated Francesca Schiavone; the number seven ranked player in the world. Her rise to superstardom continued, and by 2017 Mattek-Sands was the number one ranked player in the world!
Leopard Print Isn’t Going Anywhere
Photo Credit: Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Serena Williams embraced her inner leopard with this bold dress in 2014. Unlike Mattek-Sands seven years before, Williams had her one-piece covered in the black and orange spots. While wearing it, she defeated Taylor Townsend in the first round.
The fierce outfit paid off on the court. Williams was in top form, winning the women’s singles bracket. To make her year even better, she was announced as the Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
Modern Retro Defines 2018
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Coming into 2018 no one was sure where tennis fashion would go. It turns out everything that was old is new again! Andrea Petkovic set the tone for the new year with this modern retro dress at the French Open.
The tennis star didn’t win the tournament, but she did win best dressed. Over the course of her career, she has won 18 titles. Her best year was 2011 when she reached a world ranking of nine. A series of injuries and illnesses set her back in 2015, but she’s healthy now and ready to impress with more than just her style!