Tennis has been a popular activity since the 1870s and developed initially as a casual leisure activity that men and women could enjoy 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 seen changes through the years. 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 18 at West Baton Rouge Museum and runs through August 14.
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 debated, even 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 and 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 12th century and constantly evolving, 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.
Courting Style: Women’s Tennis Fashion is organized by International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, Rhode Island, and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.
For more information about the programs and activities associated with the exhibition call (225) 336-2422 or visit www.WestBatonRougeMuseum.org. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at 845 N. Jefferson Ave. in Port Allen.