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Tennis Apron 1880 - 1900 (1947.1239)
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1920-1930 silk tennis dress (1984.218/2)

The sport of tennis has a long history, dating back to the time of Henry VIII who built a tennis court at Hampton Court in 1530 which still survives today. Women took no part in the game however in England until the last third of the nineteenth century when the Lawn Tennis Association was founded which encouraged the sport as a respectable middle class diversion. Most amateur female players wore ordinary summer outdoor outfits, playing an unstrenuous game before afternoon tea. The only specific garments to aid play were aprons like this example to hold the tennis balls and to protect the dress below from grass stains, although occasionally a ball pocket would be incorporated into an over-tunic. Straw boater-style hats, as worn on the coast or for yatching, were the preferred headwear, although bonnets and hats were also chosen.

By the 1890s, tennis was such a craze that women's magazines provided specific fashion plates in the summer months, showing the most interesting new outfits. As Tailer and Cutter magazine commented in 1893, on tennis for men and women, "this is now such a popular game in garden and other parties as to render it imperative that one of our Plates during the Season should be devoted to a suitable dress.."

Full item descriptions:

"tennis apron" [1947.1239]
"tennis dress" [1984.218/2]

Related Themes:

Sports and Leisure
19th Century Women's Fashion
Victorian Photographs: Sporting