Monday, June 24, 2013

Highlights: Women of Wimbledon

Prabal Gurung designs clothes for the strong, assured woman. For a woman to feel comfortable and confident in her femininity is a principle that lies at the heart of the brand.

With Wimbledon opening today we wanted to pay tribute to the endless stream of inspiring female athletes who year after year take the Ladies' Singles titles at the championships. Wimbledon was the first championship that allowed women to compete. The Ladies' Singles was added in 1984, seven years after the championship opened in 1877. Ever since, ladies tennis has been an ongoing campaign for women's rights.

Upon winning the fifth of her six Wimbledon singles titles, Billie Jean King, feeling intense frustration at sexism and inequality in the sport began a successful lifelong campaign for the rights of female athletes. She was particularly angered by a tournament in Los Angeles where the women’s champion earned a sixth of the prize money of the men. King was part of the first women's professional tennis tour and signed a $1 contract to play in it, clearing the way for women's professional tennis as we know it today. In 1971 she became the first female athlete to win over $100,000 in a year.

In 1972 she challenged male tennis champion Bobby Riggs – who claimed the women’s tennis game was inferior - to a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match. The match was played before a television audience of 50 million, and King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

As women have gained rights and equal privileges in society, fashion in tennis has played a crucial supporting role. King could never have achieved what she did, and made her point without the forward thinking progression of female athletic attire. Initially, conservative blouses and skirts hampered movement. At the beginning of the 20th century, women began to make small changes to their tennis attire – and were admonished for exposing wrists and ankles. Hems began to rise, and sleeves were rolled up. Shortly after WW1 female tennis players pushed for a focus on practicality and style. In 1949 Gertrud Moran wore a white dress to play at Wimbledon, as was the tournament’s rule, but scandalized authorities by exposing lace-trimmed panties underneath. In 1985 Anne White wore an all-white, skin-tight bodysuit to play. She lost the match – but made her point.

Something to think about as we follow favorite Serena William's progress and sartorial choices through the 2013 championships..