Ted Tinling, tennis fashion designer

Wimbledon Museum: Serena Williams

The Wimbledon Museum features a Fashion zone: from long white skirts and flannel trousers through frilly knickers to the contemporary style of Serena and Venus Williams. A full section is dedicated to Ted Tinling, tennis most famous fashion designer.

Wimbledon Museum: Ted Tinling

Extract from Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court :

“Born in 1910, Ted did practically every job there was in tennis, although bizarrely will be best known for a pair of lace pants. As a teenager he used to go to the French Riviera in the winter, for reasons of ill-health. While there, he umpired matches and soon shot to prominence as Suzanne Lenglen‘s favourite umpire. Although he never told me his history, he was a good tennis player himself, taking part in tournaments while in the south of France.

He became a master of ceremonies at Wimbledon, escorting the players onto court for their matches. During the war, he went off to the intelligence service, and returned to find himself horrified at the state of women’s tennis. Their attire that is. So appalled was he at the functional outfits worn by the 1940s champions Louise Brough and Margaret Osbourne that he set about designing prettier, more fashionable items.
However, the outfit that he made for Gussie Moran, which she wore in 1949, proved a step too far. The panties had half an inch of lace trim showing, and with the 84-year-old dowager Queen Mary due to attend, the All England Club committee went into a minor panic. She did not in fact attend, but the damage had been done, and Tinling was thrown into exile. He was not seen in Wimbledon for 20 years, which I think says more about the committee at the time than the pants. No pants can be that outrageous, although one committee member was said to have bellowed at Tinling:

You have put sin and vulgarity into tennis!

Pics of Gertrude ‘Gussie’ Moran (AP photo)

The furor ended his career as a master of ceremonies, but began it as a dress designer he created dresses for Maria Bueno, Billie Jean King and many other players, and was official designer to the Virginia Slims women’s circuit in the 70s.

When I met him, he was working for the Virginia Slims tour, as their chef de protocole. Given his close relationship with the female players, we asked him to be our player liaison officer, helping the Club in fostering better relations with the WTA in particular, but also players generally.
He would avise the chairman and me on how to handle certain situations. He helped us with equal prize money issues, and definitely helped calm a few ruffled feathers on both sides. The fact that we never had a WTA strike or boycott at Wimbledon was a great part down to him.

He died in 1990, having said that he would leave his body to medical science.”

Pics of outfits designed by Ted Tinling:

Wimbledon Museum: Ted Tinling

Wimbledon Museum: Ted Tinling
Leave a comment