The Original Tennis Dress

The connection between women’s tennis and fashion has always existed.

The evolution of this symbiotic relationship began when women started playing lawn tennis in 1870 Victorian England. Lawn tennis was one of the few activities at the time where women were allowed to play and interact with their male counterparts. As such, it was also a viable setting in which to meet a romantic partner.

Therefore, looking good was part of the game for both men and women.

Men wore blazers and flannel trousers while women sported corsets, long kilt skirts and bustled dresses. 

Much of the early formality of women’s tennis attire was derived from the type of fashion that was worn to garden parties, the races and other leisurely, sophisticated social events–namely, white cotton or linen dresses often with dainty lace and embroidered embellishments.

Originally, women’s tennis dresses were directly borrowed from contemporary fashion of the time. There was no consideration for functionality or athletic performance; only appearance and what was considered gender appropriate of the period.


Bateman, Kristen. “A fashion history of tennis uniforms.” Allure, Allure, 29 Aug. 2016,

Kambhampaty, Anna Purna. “The Surprising-and Often Troubling-History of Tennis Clothes.” Time, Time, 5 Sept. 2019,

Matthews, Mimi. “Victorian sportswear: Tennis fashions of the late 19th century.” Mimi Matthews, 14 July 2021,