LONDON (Reuters Life!) - When the Wimbledon tennis championships got under way at the All England Club in the 1900s, refined-looking competitors wore boater hats, long sleeves, neatly pressed trousers and floor length dressers.
While it remains the most traditional tournament, as the only grand slam requiring players to wear white, the outfits on display at Wimbledon have become a little more outlandish.
Five-times champion Venus Williams raised eyebrows when she took to the court for her first round match in an all-in-one lace outfit, featuring a zip up the front and a cut-out back which the American deemed “a peek-a-boo.”
“It’s just kind of like a trendy dress, it’s a jumper, jumpers are very now, as is lace,” she said of her creation, which appeared to put the quest for style before practicality.
“The shoulders have a lot of draping, which is also in at the moment, it’s fun. I‘m really into zippers, so it has like a focal point of a zipper in the front.”
While Wimbledon’s organizers are not oblivious to fashion, choosing Polo Ralph Lauren to design outfits for its umpires, line judges, ball boys and girls, elegance is the order of the day with court officials dressed in clean-cut navy blazers, cream trousers and flat caps.
Defending champion Serena Williams favored this more reserved approach when picking her outfit for this year’s tournament, despite accessorizing with big jewelry and long glittery purple nails.
“The inspiration was to be classic. So I kind of took classic lines and brought it to tennis with a cardigan as well as the dress,” she told reporters.
“It reminded me of something you would have seen in like the ‘60s. I love it. It’s so feminine. It’s almost like a little baby doll. I really think it’s cute.”
Wimbledon’s decree on clothing color is a relatively recent one, introduced in 1963 when it decided that except for a cardigan, pullover or headwear, competitors must be dressed “predominantly in white,” updated in 1995 to “almost entirely white.”
In a nod to this classic tennis look, Kate Middleton donned a layered white knee-length Alice Temperley dress for her appearance in the Royal Box with husband Prince William, an outfit which would have looked less out of place on court than that of self-proclaimed Lady Gaga of tennis, Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
With menacing black face paint daubed under her eyes, Mattek-Sands arrived for her match in a fringed biker jacket adorned with white tennis balls, teemed with knee-high socks and a one-sleeved dress.
The jacket, a collaboration with British designer Alex Noble who has also worked with Gaga, ensured the number 30 seed made her mark on the tournament despite crashing out in the first round.
While less daring, the men’s game is not without its own fashionistas. Style conscious six-times champion Roger Federer regularly sports clothing and a racket bag embellished with his own gold “RF” insignia.
But players who try to push the boundaries too far risk putting style before sport.
“Any competitor who appears on court dressed in a manner deemed unsuitable by the committee will be liable to be defaulted,” the club states in its rules.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, editing by Paul Casciato