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The game of tennis turns 100 this year, a solemn age indeed for a sport that was pretty stuffy to begin with, but look what they're wearing to the parties! Crochets and knits and body suits, wraparound skirts and the layered look, terry cloth and sequins (not together; that will take another 100 years or, with any luck, longer) and, for the first time at Forest Hills, pastels. Consider the possibilities: "The curtain rises. Lady Jane enters stage right, impeccably clad in tennis lavenders...."
It is about time, Teddy Tinting will be observing. Ten years ago Britain's dean of sportswear designers was adding colored trim to his Wimbledon stars' all-white tennis dresses, but not since Gussie Moran's lace panties had the Wimbledon Committee been so outraged and it was back to the white Swiss embroidery. Five years later, however, Teddy was still hanging in there, predicting, with the advent of color television, what The Guardian described as "a creeping riot of color to stun the traditionalists and delight the men who care about viewing figures." Tinting added, "I foresee colored tennis balls and rackets, color in clothing, and look forward to purple plastic grass."
It was pretty good foreseeing. Wilson is already making pink and yellow tennis rackets and another firm is about to introduce rackets in red; yellow tennis balls are increasingly in use because they are much easier to see, for players and especially for TV audiences; and Adidas is busy testing a brand-new colored shoe.
As for purple plastic grass, Larry King of TennisAmerica points out that there are already 19 blue FlintKoted courts in California, Nevada and Washington. When asked, "Why blue?" he said, "Our first blue court was at our tennis ranch at Lake Tahoe. We looked at the sky and at Lake Tahoe's blue water and found there was nothing more peaceful or beautiful." Right on, blue tennis courts. (There was also that Polyturf in the Orange Bowl that turned blue: Teddy Tinling might have enjoyed it, but Miami's city fathers did not.)
The new tennis clothes being served up with all this riot of color are not fantasies of designers off in ivory towers somewhere. The people who make them play the game themselves and know the requirements of the sport. A large firm like Head Ski and Sports Wear has a tennis advisory board backing up Designer Wilma Hoyer—Billie Jean King, for example, works with her at least five times a year, and other board members such as Ceci Martinez, Esme Emanuel, Eliza Pande, Kristy Pigeon and Dennis Ralston will visit while the line is being designed. They criticize it, discuss the merits of new fabrics, check the playing fit. Because there's—or preferably there isn't—the rub; the clothes are to be played in. When tournament player Janie Albert Willens (daughter of onetime Stanford Quarterback Frankie Albert) looked at the knit tennis dress she is trying out on page 51, she admitted wondering if it wouldn't be warm. "I really sweat when I play," she said. "I need clothes that are comfortable, cool and the kind that I hope will still look great after many washings." To her delight the St. John's knit met all her requirements, and when she left the court her first remark was, "Where can I get one?"
The ribbed synthetic knit jump suit and warmup sweater on the facing page were designed by a new Los Angeles firm, Elke and Joianna Originals, Elke being Actress Elke Sommer and Joianna, Joianna Ogner, once described (SI, March 8, 1971) as the Perle Mesta of tennis. Joianna is a mother of five children who manages to find time to be an avid tennis player and design all her own tennis clothes. Four years ago she designed some things for her friend Elke: in June 1971 they went into business, and in no time they were "not only in business, but with our clothes in more than 500 stores!"
The most important things about their designs, says Joianna are, "First, function. Second, making clothes attractive to all ages, sizes and figures—we work at trying to make every woman look slimmer. Even if a woman is size two, she always thinks she isn't slim enough." Elke and Joianna have many outfits with names rather than numbers—there is an Elke, of course, and a Gussie Moran, a Janet Leigh, a Pilar Wayne and a Dinah Shore. The Dinah Shore, for instance, was originated when Miss Shore complained that she could never find a tennis outfit with a high neckline and long sleeves and Joianna whipped up a stretchy long-sleeved white body suit with a little skirt to slip over it. Elke-Joianna Originals works almost entirely with the new synthetic knitted fabrics and Joianna would have anticipated Janie Willens' interest in how a knit dress would wash—it is the first question her customers ask, she reports, adding that starting this month, all clothing, at least in the state of California, will be required to carry woven labels with washing instructions.
In September at Forest Hills Elke Sommer will be modeling some new pastel dresses from Elke-Joianna. They may be brightening up the courts there, but if he has his way, Teddy Tinling will still be far ahead. He has designed a dress for Fran�oise Durr to wear at Wimbledon this summer featuring a tight bodice of sparkly stretch fabric with a skirt of—are you ready? Is the committee ready?—cranberry and gold satin and metallic ribbon ruffles. Fran�oise, queried as to what she thinks the chances are of getting away with this, replied, "I don't know about the dress, but they may not like my red lace panties. If they don't like them," she smiles, "maybe I won't wear any."
That would be a sensation, all right—the first for which Teddy Tinling could not honestly take the credit.
More about what they're wearing—and where to buy it