Tennis dresses and skirts remain the dominant piece in women’s tennis attire. While other women’s sports like soccer and basketball require shorts, women’s tennis continues with the more traditionally feminine dresses and skirts.
While the rules of tennis allow the option of wearing pants and shorts for tennis outfits, it’s clear that most women tennis players prefer to wear skirts and dresses. This speaks to the role of tradition in the world of women’s tennis fashion. Millennial women tennis players such as Kate Fuller of the University of Georgia prefer sophisticated tennis dresses that enhance their femininity. “We like them because they're also feminine. Dresses and skirts are unique to tennis and we really embrace that. It's a thing we really like about our sport.”
Women’s tennis dresses have ebbed and flowed in length and color in parallel to broader society’s tastes. The first tennis dress to show ankle and some leg occurred in the 1920’s, spurred by socialite Suzanne Lenglen. In that age of sensual Jazz and Wall Street’s Roaring 20’s, a minor shortening of the tennis dress length was permitted.
Contrarily, one constant through the 20th century was the color white, as in all fabric being white. No matter the decade, tennis outfits remained all white, from toe to head (band).
That constant changed dramatically in the 2000’s when player such as Maria Sharapova and the Williams Sisters began donning pastel skirts and vibrant prints for their tennis attire. In 2015 bright colors and tight fitting tennis dresses remain the norm on the pro circuit.
Yet for those that enjoy tennis socially and free from the pressures of corporate sponsors, the trend is towards versatile women’s athleisure wear. Women love being able to select one tennis dress to wear to run errands before playing a match with friends. They can look “cute casual” while transitioning throughout their day. We are in a time in which there is a divergence in taste between professionals and social players regarding tennis fashion.