Back in the 19th century, almost the only available physical exercise for women was shopping, which they selflessly indulged in in the enormity of department stores that filled European and North American cities.
Sport used to have masculine connotations, but the gender division was very clear: what was allowed for men was not always allowed for women. Going in for sports was considered contrary to female nature. For example, in 1797, Scottish physician John Gregory wrote in:
“A Father's Instruction to Daughters”: “We naturally associate the idea of feminine softness and fragility with the corresponding fragility of the constitution, and when a woman speaks of her great strength, her outstanding appetite, her ability to endure extreme fatigue, we feel a disgust for such a portrayal”
Being and looking athletic was seen as something vulgar, unworthy of a sophisticated female nature, and reduced the chances of a young girl for marriage. However, watching and then participating in some sports, provided the opportunity to meet potential suitors.
In the 1870s, after croquet and skating, it was time for tennis.
Historian Eduard Fuchs wrote: “If before mothers took their daughters-brides to balls, now they send them to play tennis or ski. Winter resorts began to play the role of international marriage bourses, in the summer this function is usurped by all the squares and playgrounds of big cities where tennis is played.”
Well, times have changed. So have the designs.
Nowadays tennis tournaments are just as fascinating as fashion runaways.
Maria Sharapova is the queen of tennis fashion glamour.
Naomi Osaka seems to be fiercely passionate about fashion and not just about the game. Collaborating with the Scottish accessories label Strathberry, Osaka has created a limited-edition line of bags and wallets.
For Serena, The Queen Collection was the result of a collaboration between Nike and Virgil Abloh (Off-White and recently LOUIS VUITTON), bringing these influential forces in tennis and fashion together.
And the sneakers, of course.
Those outfits are rather different from from several designs of the reformed dress that were proposed for ladies when they decided to join just few of sport activities. For example, the American suffragette Amelia Bloomer, editor of the feminist newspaper Lilia, invented bloomers in the early 1850s, a costume consisting of ankle-length Turkish trousers and a cropped dress worn with them. Quite an athleisure set, no? Nevertheless, such experiments provoked harsh criticism of conservative-minded contemporaries.
For the 2021 Australian Open Serena Williams chose a pink, red, and black asymmetric catsuit by Nike, which featured one short leg and one long one.
Following the match, Williams told reporters that her look was inspired by late Flo-Jo (Florence Griffith Joyner), an Olympic gold medalist and track star who, to this day, holds the world records in the 100- and 200-meter events (both set in 1988.).
Flo-Jo was famous for numerous fashionable looks, with her signature being one-legged tracksuits, a style she called the "one-legger." She was also known for adding jewelry and belts to her track ‘fits, and choosing unusual (for sports, at least) materials like lace. “[She] was someone who wanted to make a fashion statement, as well as do it while running so fast you could barely see the fashion.”
Colors become fashionable because they are becoming to people who play in the sun.
The outfit trends in tennis is not just a topic of conversation these days. Instead, it has developed into a full-grown trend. Most of the players are enthusiastically joining and influence its flourishing.
Let’s keep watching!
Collage: Lesya Pakharyna