May 17th, 2023, 12:00 PM

Why Women’s Tennis Wear Will Never Go Out of Style

By Katrina Phillips
Image credit: Katrina Phillips
Despite new fabrics, colors, and patterns, classic tennis outfits for women continue to stand the test of time.

The standard athletic skirt and top and tennis dress and shorts combos have been around for decades, demonstrating that tennis styles for women haven’t changed recently. During the 1880s and 1890s, women played tennis in long-sleeved corseted dresses. Since then, women have become more empowered in the way that they dress, allowing tennis fashion to evolve significantly, with women today sporting skirts and tops or dresses made with moveable, breathable fabrics. With the regular release of new colors and patterns by brands like Lululemon and Athleta, women’s tenniswear constantly grows in options and yet classic tennis styles remain the same, experiencing minimal shifts in look or feel. 

A recent piece from Women’s Wear Daily concurs that the long-standing tennis uniform remains iconic and popular. According to the article, these reliable garments continue to withstand time and age, much like the sport of tennis itself, by providing women with comfort, easy movement on the court, and a fashionable appearance. Women are able to look and feel good in their clothes, increasing the desire for styles to stay the same. 

In the same piece, journalists Rosemary Feitelberg and Tonya Blazio-Licorish, state that “tennis has been the only sport to stay fashionable and timely into the 21st century.” For decades, women’s tennis apparel has remained popular, and players of the sport agree that classic styles will stick around for years to come due to the comfort, practicality, and chic appearance they provide. 

Image credit: Katrina Phillips

Journalist Alice Cary also touches on the longevity of women’s tenniswear and discusses how tennis skirts are trending in an article from British Vogue. Cary shares a quote from creative director and brand owner Alex Eagle, who states, “The tennis skirt has been a design classic since the ’60s and has remained just as desirable… I think its timeless appeal comes from its simple, but elegant silhouette.” The article conveys that women desire this “timeless” style because of its fashionable and “flirty” appearance as well as its versatility, providing women with something to wear both on and off the court. 

Laura Phillips, 52, started playing tennis at the age of 10 and went on to play competitively in high school. She continues to play tennis today both competitively and leisurely. When asked how her tennis style has evolved over time, she explained that she “typically [wears] very similar tennis clothes as [she] did when [she] was a teenager,” with her tennis style hardly changing with age. She believes that “the basic outfit has remained the same” with “more color and styles of tops and court shoes” existing today. Although age is often a factor impacting how women dress, for her, tennis proves to be an exception. “Everyone, at every age, that I see playing tennis, is wearing a tennis skirt no matter their body type,” she states, attributing the ongoing popularity of basic tennis styles to the “comfort” and “practicality” that they provide for women of all ages. 

Image credit: Katrina Phillips

Varsity tennis player, Kasden Phillips, 18, began playing tennis at a young age and just wrapped up her final season of high school tennis this past fall. When asked about uniforms for high school tennis, she explained that “most players wear a plain skirt and athletic top” because “the traditional uniform of the skirt” is preferred by most players. Practicality seems to be another factor, as these skirts have built-in shorts “to keep the ball securely in place” when moving about the court. Although Phillips sometimes wears shorts when playing tennis recreationally, she prefers the look and style of skirts and believes that they have grown in popularity due to fashionable athletic wear becoming “trendy.” The rise of athleisure has only increased the desire for classic tennis attire, allowing tennis skirts, tops, and dresses to become part of mainstream fashion. Thus, athleisure’s popularity will likely further women’s preference for basic tennis staples. 

Although many women favor classic styles, tennis icon Serena Williams reveals an opportunity for more variety in clothing options to exist within the sport. From denim and studs to tutu dresses to black catsuits, Williams has changed the game forever by smashing old dress codes and amplifying fashion possibilities for women in tennis. Her fashion statements are endless, conveying the ability for tennis styles to shift and grow, empowering women to dress to their personal style, even on the court. 

At its inception, women’s tenniswear was very modest and difficult to move in. Now, over a hundred years later, women wear clothing that allows them to move freely and feel comfortable and fashionable simultaneously. These long-lasting tennis staples promote confidence in women, conveying a shift from adhering to strict dress codes to implementing personal style in choosing what to wear. Although classic staples continue to reign supreme, opportunity exists for increased innovation in women’s tenniswear, potentially furthering a sense of empowerment among women in the sport.   

While possibilities for transforming women’s tenniswear and promoting more female empowerment through sports clothing should be considered, classic tennis styles will continue to stick around, supplying women with simple, comfortable, and versatile outfits that never go out of style.