The first words that come to mind are “No way”.
No question that the outfits exhibited at the West Baton Rouge Museum are worn by Serena and Venus Williams.
The legendary tennis siblings are muscular and powerful giants on the tennis court, aren’t they? Yet their designer outfits in the museum exhibit, “Courting Style: Women’s Tennis Fashion” are surprisingly small.
“They say television puts a weight on people,” said curator Ferin Jones. “It really changes your perspective when you see them.”
Jones not only refers to the outfits of the Williams sisters, but also those worn by superstars such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert. All are much smaller than their TV image on the Wimbledon court.
Speaking of Wimbledon, it ends on Sunday, July 10, and if you’re a fan of the oldest tennis tournament in the world, why not stop by the West Baton Rouge Museum for a personal rally before the final matches?
“It really is perfect timing,” Jones said. “And it would be a good time to visit.”
“Courting Style: Women’s Tennis Fashion” runs through Sunday, August 14. The show was organized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, and is presented by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.
The West Baton Rouge Museum presents “Courting Style: Women’s Tennis Fashion” through Sunday, August 14.
The exhibition is not just a showcase of designer tennis outfits, but a journey through tennis history, starting with the long-skirted outfits of the early 1900s.
“Some of our members have worn long skirts in some tournaments where we play in historic outfits,” said Baton Rouge Women’s Tennis Association photographer Susan Barry.
Barry plans to gather members of the association to view the exhibit, the styles of which she said influenced those worn on the Baton Rouge tennis courts.
“When we play in clubs, everyone is required to wear white,” she said. “But when it comes to styles, I’m starting to see more dresses than shirts and skirts on the court. And while none of us can hope to be Venus or Serena, they certainly had an influence on the way which our members dress.”
That’s not to say Baton Rouge tennis players wear exact copies of Serena Williams’ adventurous fashion. She, along with her sister and other superstars, has designers who dedicate their work to the tennis court.
But it says they see Serena Williams wearing dresses on the court, and they kind of want to emulate that.
And they will have the opportunity to get an idea when visiting the museum, because this show gives visitors a detailed view of these outfits, highlighting elements often invisible on television.
This includes features such as the fringe on the dress Venus Williams wore at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, the rhinestones embedded in the skirt worn by Maria Sharapova at the 2017 US Open, the rhinestones tucked into the polka dots on Billie’s outfit Jean King for the 1978 US Open and the understated “Serena” spelled out on the back sleeve of Serena Williams’ single-sleeve, tutu-skirt outfit for the 2018 US Open.
Meanwhile, Monica Seles has autographed the front of the outfit she wore to the 1995 US Open, and the gold thread of Martina Navratilova’s outfit worn at her 1978 Wimbledon Championship is prominently displayed .
Part of the show is dedicated to designer Culbert “Teddy” Collingwood Tinling, the king of tennis tailoring between 1940 and 1980. Tinling’s avant-garde paved the way for today’s designs.
The Hermès trunk in which he transported his fabrics and tools is also part of this exhibition.
And while Jones can’t help but be enchanted by the sheer elegance of the Williams sisters’ outfits, there are a few parts of the older dresses that fascinate her.
“They performed in these long skirts,” she said. “It’s just amazing to think about, but what’s even more amazing are the shoes they played in.”
A pair of these shoes, lace-up, high-heeled boots with pointed toes are included in this show. Not only do they look potentially dangerous, but their spikes must have caused toe cramps.
Still, these outfits have something in common with the Williams sisters’ clothes — they, too, are petite.
“The people who wore all the outfits on this show were petite,” Jones said. “It really changes your perspective.”