Wimbledon Winners, Wimbledon Losers

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It’s that time of the year again, when the tennis courts across the parks of the UK are suddenly teeming with life. Two weeks ago there wasn’t a single budding Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams to be seen, now you can’t get a court for love nor money. Yes, it’s Wimbledon fortnight.

Outfit-wise, anything goes on the average municipal court, which is a far cry from where it all started way back in 1884 when Maud Watson took on her sister to contest the first ever Wimbledon ladies singles final.

We’re not sure exactly what they wore on court as we weren’t around then (obviously), but the pictures show Maud clutching her racquet whilst wearing a high-necked, long-sleeved, ankle-skimming dress with yards of fabric, and topped off with a jaunty boater-style hat. It even looks as though she’s wearing a corset. You cannot be serious.

Since then, women players have been revealing more flesh by stealth. They didn’t always get away with it: one top player at the turn of the century caused outrage because she rolled up her sleeves, showing her wrists. How daring is that? Then in 1949 a few people were really rather upset when top player and determined fashionista “Gorgeous Gussie” went in for a challenging volley only to reveal a pair of lacy pants under her skirt.

Fashion has always played a big part on court, with somewhat mixed results.  Bearing in mind that the whole idea of a good tennis kit is that it doesn’t get in the way of the performance (it’s the same as any uniform in that respect), there have been some unusual decisions, from tops that result in the player showing more front than they bargained for, to a Venus Williams basque that looks a little like it fell off the shelves of Ann Summers. We’ve put together some of our favourite fashion disasters and triumphs on our Pinterest page. Check it out here.

But the big thing that has come into the game in recent years is sponsorship.  It started with the occasional tidy logo, maybe on a sleeve or a hem. Now, it feels that the sponsors are driving the style and determining what players should wear rather than the other way round. The latest and, if you ask us, slightly prurient twist is that sponsors are slapping logos right on the breasts of the players. Like Gorgeous Gussie, perhaps it’s time for the ladies to take a stand and reclaim their style.

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