What is a Tennis Skirt?

G. Wiesen

A tennis skirt is an article of clothing intended for, and often worn by, women during tennis matches. They are often designed as a fairly plain or only lightly patterned skirt with small vertical pleats running around the entirety of the garment. While the name certainly indicates one intended use, due to the comfortable and often visually appealing nature of the garment, some women wear tennis skirts for other athletic activities or for purely fashionable reasons. Though not always a traditional part of tennis apparel for women, these garments are referred to as tennis skirts due to their prominence on the tennis court.

Many women wear tennis skirts when they play tennis.
Many women wear tennis skirts when they play tennis.

In the late 1800s, when women began playing tennis in recognized tournaments such as Wimbledon, common tennis fashion included full dresses made from heavy materials, stockings, hats, and even furs. As women continued to play tennis, the fashions they wore changed to fit their needs for comfort and the ability to play for extended periods of time. The dresses worn became white, as colored fabrics showed sweat more easily than white garments, the hem began to rise and reveal the player’s ankles, and furs and hats were removed. Throughout the 20th century, the various sporting garments continued to change for both men and women, and soon women had completely replaced the heavy dress with a separate tennis shirt and skirt or shorts.

Some tennis skirts come in white, the traditional color at Wimbledon and other events.
Some tennis skirts come in white, the traditional color at Wimbledon and other events.

The preferred tennis skirt worn by many women is lightweight, breathable, and moves with the woman as she plays a match. These skirts are often pleated to allow for more movement and to create an appealing look during play. Elastic waistbands are common for a better and more comfortable fit, though some fashionable styles of tennis skirt may feature a vertical zipper on one side. Some skirts are not pleated, but instead are flat and smooth, and other styles even incorporate brief short leggings beneath the tennis skirt to create a “skort” or combination of skirt and shorts.

Though perhaps intended for wear on a tennis court, these types of garments have become popular for fashionable uses as well. Since a tennis skirt is typically tailored to allow comfortable movement while still providing a flattering shape, many women enjoy wearing these types of skirts during other sporting activities or simply for daily wear. Though the popularity of such garments as fashion accessories may fluctuate like any other garment as styles change, a number of different designers have utilized one type of tennis skirt or another in their collections.

Tennis skirts are often worn by younger players of the sport, as well as adults.
Tennis skirts are often worn by younger players of the sport, as well as adults.

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Discussion Comments


When I was in high school we had to order new tennis uniforms every year- unlike most sports, we got to pick what they looked like, or rather the captains did. Despite all of the tennis clothing out there, one year we ended up with this elastic-waist skirt that really was not a tennis skirt at all- it wasn't stretchy and was a thick polyester material. Another year we got something that was definitely a ladies tennis skirt, but was not pleated and was a lot less classic-looking. In general, a lot of these uniforms were pretty poorly fitting. I would have loved just a really basic, traditional pleated tennis skirt and plain white top.


@behaviourism- I do like the traditional look of skirts on players in the professional tournaments. However, I am also glad that people like me who just play for fun can wear pretty much whatever we want. I wouldn't want to wear a tennis skirt or dress every time I play.


I like that tennis and lacrosse are two sports where it is still acceptable to wear a skirt. I wouldn't want to go running in one, even though there are 'workout skirts' in lots of stores these days, but they're fun for these activities. It makes it seem a little more classy, even if you're only playing on the court in the municipal part, with weeds and cracks in the middle of the court.

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