Class of 1986
Contributions to Tennis
In a crowd, Ted Tinling wasn’t hard to miss. He stood 6-foot-7, had a gleaming bald head and was always fashionably adorned. Until Tinling arrived on the scene, women’s tennis fashion was as interesting as a worn out tennis ball. While Helen Hull Jacobs made her own statement by wearing man-tailored shorts, it was Tinling’s controversial pair of lace tennis undershorts worn underneath a short dress by Gussy Moran at Wimbledon in 1949 that changed the way women dressed for the game. It also led him to become a fashion designer extraordinaire whose outfits were often eye-catching. Moran’s ruffled undershorts were considered “racy” and “naughty,” and the outfit earned Tinling a harsh penalty from the provincial Wimbledon establishment: Even though he had served as an official Wimbledon host for 23 years, he was banned from the tournament for 33 years. It wasn’t until 1982 that he was invited back on the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Tinling designed dresses for a slew of the greatest tennis players in history, including Maureen Connolly, Maria Bueno, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, and Martina Navratilova, to name a few. His tennis apparel adorned female players throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and his dresses were worn by the Wimbledon ladies' champion in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1979. Perhaps his most famous outfit was displayed by King in her famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973. It was a menthol-green and sky blue dress with a color scheme that was a tribute to the Virginia Slims women’s tour. “It felt absolutely perfect when I put it on,” King said.
Tinling’s creations were alluring and colorful and revolutionary. They ranged from the Technicolor outfits sported by Bueno to the glittery models worn by King to the black three pieces of Rosie Casals. “Confidence is probably what makes the difference between a victory and a defeat,” Tinling said. “If a woman feels that she is prettier or better dressed than her opponent, nothing can stop her.”
Bueno and Moran, in particular, took Tinling’s designs to new, visual heights. Moran’s shortened skirt, showing off her undershorts in the 1949 Ladies Doubles final with Patricia Todd against Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne duPont, led many to remember her outfit more than who won the match (Brough and duPont). Bueno wore a crafted rainbow outfit (heavy on pink undershorts) in 1962 and in 1965 an outfit featuring 14 rows of lace undershorts that clearly ruffled the Wimbledon establishment.
As a teenager, Tinling used to spend winters in the French Riviera, playing tennis at the Nice Tennis Club. It was the home practice court of French star Suzanne Lenglen. Tinling caught the eye of Lenglen’s father, who asked him to umpire one of his daughter’s upcoming matches. It was a fortuitous meeting, as Tinling became Lenglen’s personal referee for two years, a position that opened doors to him at Wimbledon. Tinling’s status at Wimbledon was ever-present, serving as Master of Ceremonies and escorting players onto court for their matches.
Tinling was a brilliant tennis historian, umpire, consultant, confidant, and chief of protocol. He had as distinguished and all-encompassing career as anyone in history. Tinling also became the revered Chief of Protocol for the International Tennis Federation and a Director of International Liaison for the women’s pro tour.
Tinling authored two books on tennis, the most notable being, Love and Faults: Personalities Who Have Changed the History of Tennis. He was burdened with respiratory problems throughout the 1980s and passed away in May 1990. According to published reports after his death, it was learned Tinling had been a British Intelligence spy during World War II.