Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about tennis and whether they are true or false.
TENNIS URBAN LEGEND: A Wimbledon official (and past Wimbledon competitor) was asked to resign over his design of a female tennis player’s underwear.
When Ted Tingling was 13, a bad case of asthma forced his parents to send him from their home in England to the French Riviera. It was there that he began playing tennis and began a friendship with Suzanne Lenglen, one of the most popular players in the world at the time.
Tingling actually played doubles at Wimbledon four times himself!
However, he was more adept at being friendly than he was at playing tennis, and soon, Wimbledon asked the 17-year-old Tingling if he could work as a sort of liaison between the Wimbledon tournament committee and the players. Soon, Tingling was effectively the master of ceremonies for Wimbledon, a position he would hold from the late 20s until the late 40s, and a position he would eventually be asked to resign at the height of a scandal that basically boiled down to a protest for color.
As you might imagine, being the emcee at Wimbledon is not a full-time occupation, so at 21 years of age (in 1931), Tingling began what would be his life-long career – he became a dressmaker.
After a burgeoning career where he debuted a number of dress lines, Tingling’s career was interrupted when World War II began. During the war, Tingling worked as a spy and an Intelligence officer. When he returned to his profession at war’s end, Tingling turned his design skills to a fairly new aspect of fashion – sportswear.
He designed his first Wimbledon dress in 1947 when he came up with a dress for Joy Gannon that had a small colored border on the hem. That, oddly enough, outraged people, as Wimbledon outfits were almost always entirely white.
In 1948, a similar design by Tingling for Betty Hilton (which she wore as she WON the Wightman Cup) was considered so outrageous that the Wimbledon Committee actually added a new rule – all Wimbledon dresses had to be all white.
Tingling anticipated such a move, so when Gertrude “Gorgeous Gussy” Moran wrote to him from California asking him to design her an outfit, he was prepared with a little protest.
Moran’s outfit was white, all right, but that did not mean that her panties couldn’t be a different color!
So Tingling made her purple lace panties that were fairly obvious every time Moran made a move…
Moran’s outfit drew worldwide attention, and in retaliation for his actions, Tingling was asked to resign from the Wimbledon Committee.
He went back to dress-making, making the dresses for basically all the major female tennis stars of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
In 1982, he was asked to return and he did so, and he continued in his old role as Master of Ceremonies until his death in 1990.
Even Wimbledon, over time, can appreciate a good dressmaker!
The legend is…
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