Friday, June 19, 1998 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Women's fashion hits the courts
Old time tennis fashion: We've come a long way, baby
Long skirts, bustles, ties, hats and gloves and a Victorian lady was ready to take to the courts. Linda Spurr charts the long and frilly history of women's tennis gear.
But with the popularity of the new sport came grave concerns: What on earth should women wear?
But tennis fashions really took off after the first World War with the Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen. She brought a much-needed touch of glamour to the game, although she was called a "poser" by some, "theatrical and controversial" by others, frequently repairing her makeup on court between sets.
But mention ladies fashions and Wimbledon and most people will recall an American - Gorgeous Gussy Moran, who scandalised the established tennis world by wearing lace-trimmed panties in 1949.
It caused an uproar and Gussy was featured on the front page of the London Daily Express five times in one week. It made her an instant sensation but Gussy wasn't happy: "After the lace panties, everyone was always staring to see what I was wearing and I couldn't concentrate on tennis," she said.
The man who designed Gussy's panties was former umpire and player turned couturier, Ted Tinling. In 1948, Tinling designed a colour-trimmed dress for one of the British Wightman Cup team. But the Americans objected and Wimbledon took notice, introducing their all-white rule.
Ten years later, Tinling was at the centre of another controversy after he created gold lame panties for Karol Fagero: Wimbledon banned them before they even made it onto the court.
In the last 30 years, many people feel that the fashion and glamour has gone out of women's tennis. Chris Evert was one of the modern players who wore dresses, still designed by Ted Tinling. And fans of Gabriela Sabatini - the dark-haired beauty from South America - inevitably voted her top fashion icon.
But gradually, ladies tennis wear became totally practical - short skirts and sports shirts. The only light relief were the sponsors' logos.
More recently, the arrival of the Williams sisters - Venus and Serena - has brought the photographers flocking back for tennis fashion photos. Their beads - all-white or purple and green especially for Wimbledon - can take four hours to style.
And of course, the ultimate in ladies fashions appeared on the Centre Court during the rain-affected Championships of 1996 - a streaker!
Yes, even the hallowed grounds of the All England Club succumbed to the fad of the 1990s. A young lady working with the catering company dashed across the court, clad only in a pinafore just as the two finalists, Richard Krajicek and Malivai Washington, were posing for photos.
Wimbledon's response? "Whilst we do not wish to condone the practice, it did at least provide some light amusement for our loyal and patient supporters, who have had a trying time during the recent bad weather."
Even the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, it seems, could see the joke.