TINLING, Ted





British designer

Born: Eastbourne, 23 June 1910. Military Service: Served in the British Army, 1939-47, Lieutenant Colonel. Career: Designed custom dresses and sportswear, London, 1931-39 and 1947-75; liaison

Ted Tinling, 1966 collection: dacron souffle tennis catsuit with a vinyl miniskirt decorated in a racquet motif. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Ted Tinling, 1966 collection: dacron souffle tennis catsuit with a vinyl miniskirt decorated in a racquet motif.
© AP/Wide World Photos.
committee member, Wimbledon Tennis Association, London, 1927-49, 1982-90; chief of protocol, International Tennis Federation, 1973; immigrated to the U.S., 1975; designer, Virginia Slims Tournament, 1971-78. Awards: British Clothing Institute Designer of the Year award, 1971; International Tennis Hall of Fame award, 1986. Collections: International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, Rhode Island. Died: 23 May 1990 in Cambridge, England.

P UBLICATIONS

By TINLING:

Books

White Ladies, London, 1963.

Love and Faults, London, 1979.

Sixty Years in Tennis, London, 1983.

Articles

Numerous columns for British Lawn Tennis.

Ted Tinling, 1967 collection: tennis ensembles with racquet motif. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Ted Tinling, 1967 collection: tennis ensembles with racquet motif.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

"From Bustles to Bodysuits," with Camille Peri, in Women's Sports

& Fitness (Boulder, Colorado), U.S. Open special advertising section, September 1986.

"Stay Back to Get Ahead," in World Tennis (New York), June 1987.

"The Goddess and the American Girl," [book review] in Tennis (New York), April 1988.

"Tennis Idol of the Twenties," [book review] in Tennis, April 1988.

"Who's the Best Ever?" in World Tennis, March 1989.

On TINLING:

Books

Glyn, Prudence, In Fashion: Dress in the 20th Century, New York, 1978.

Wade, Virginia, Ladies of the Court, London, 1984.

Articles

"An Interview with Teddy Tinling," in World Tennis, December 1954.

Glynn, Prudence, "That Tinling Feeling," in the Times (London), 11 June 1971.

Cox, Sue, "Teddy Tinling: The Go-Between," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 26 June 1983.

Flink, Steve, "The Professor of His Profession," in World Tennis, June 1985.

——, "You Must Remember This," in World Tennis, February 1986.

Bodo, Peter, "Why Tinling Worries About the Women," in Tennis, May 1986.

Griggs, Barbara, "Wimbledon's Other Champion," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 19 June 1986.

Ciampa, Gail, "Tinling's Shocking Tennis Togs Now Tame Stuff," in the Providence Journal Bulletin (Rhode Island), 23 July 1987.

Rothlein, Lewis, "Combining Form with Fashion," in Women's Sports & Fitness (Boulder, Colorado), August 1988.

Thomas, Robert, "Ted Tinling, Designer, Dies at 79; A Combiner of Tennis and Lace," in the New York Times, 24 May 1990.

Cullman, Joseph F., "Tinling: Patrician Sage for the World of Tennis," in the New York Times, 27 May 1990.

Bodo, Peter, "Ted Tinling, the Doyen of Women's Tennis," in Tennis, June 1990.

"Died, Ted Tinling," in Time, 4 June 1990.

Finn, Robin, "Ted Tinling, Couturier and Critic, is Remembered at Service," in the New York Times, 25 June 1990.

Pignon, Laurie, "Ted Tinling: 1910-1990," in Women's Tennis (New York), July 1990.

Flink, Steve, "He Left Them Tinling," in World Tennis, August 1990.

***

Teddy Tinling was a major presence in the world of international tennis from the late 1920s until his death at the age of 79 in 1990. Among the roles he filled were player, umpire, announcer, ombudsman, raconteur, historian, and designer to generations of champions.

Tinling's entrance into the professional side of tennis came about wholly by chance. In the absence of a club official, he was asked to referee a match in Nice starring the legendary Suzanne Lenglen when he was only 13 years old. The unlikely combination of smitten teenager and temperamental tennis star gelled and Tinling accompanied Lenglen to Wimbledon. In 1927 he became Wimbledon's official liaison between the tournament's players and its committee members. He held the position until 1949.

At the age of 21, Tinling decided on dressmaking as a profession, setting himself up in South Kensington, London. His first collection was shown in 1931, and by 1939 Tinling had moved to Mayfair where a staff of 100 worked on the wedding gowns and evening dresses that were his specialty. After serving in World War II, Tinling sought to resume his business yet postwar utility regulations combined with a shortage of raw materials prevented him from creating luxurious gowns for the carriage trade. Tinling turned instead to the new phenomenon, sportswear. Standard wear at the time for women on the tennis court was a blouse or jersey and a pair of culottes, an outfit which Tinling thought utterly lacking in femininity or style. His heroine Suzanne Lenglen always looked glamorous on or off the court, always dressed as the star she was. Tinling determined to bring these qualities to women's tennis clothes.

His designs were controversial from the outset—Tinling's first commission, for Joy Gannon's Wimbledon debut in 1947, was a dress with a small colored border at the hem. A similar design the following year for champion Betty Hilton's Wightman Cup match so outraged Hazel Wightman she threatened to ban color—if not Tinling—from future Wimbledon games. Into this brewing storm blew Gertrude "gorgeous Gussy" Moran. Could Ted, she wrote from California, design her a dress for Wimbledon? A very colorful dress?

Tinling correctly predicted that an all-white rule would prevail for the 1949 games and so he designed instead a dress in proper white of satin-trimmed rayon, which shimmered, he said, as did Moran herself. Came the fitting, it was apparent that a pair of panties would be required to complete the ensemble. As legend has it, Tinling finished off the pants with a bit of lace edging and with this act inadvertently secured his place in fashion history. Moran was besieged by the press; photographers crawled behind her on their stomachs to achieve the most advantageous camera angle. Tinling was accused of introducing sin and vulgarity to a gentleman's game and was banned from Wimbledon for the next 33 years.

Tinling's clothes, however, were not banned, and they continued to provoke Wimbledon officialdom as they continued to bring a sense of flair and glamour to center court. Tinling had an easy rapport with the stars of the game. He designed to suit the playing style and personality of the players he came to know so well, matching fabric, trim, and cut to the individual. Between 1952 and 1961 every female champion at Wimbledon and most winners of the U.S. Women's Open wore Tinling's dresses. In 1973 he dressed the winners of every major international tournament.

Tinling continued to subvert the all-white regulations, which he felt led to clothing lacking spectator appeal and contributing nothing to a player's individuality. In 1950 he conceived a shirt and shorts ensemble of broderie anglaise which the United Press dubbed the "peekaboo" suit, thus assuring its later success in the retail market. A few years later Lea Pericoli sported a pink petticoat under her dress for the 1955 Wimbledon games. In 1962 Tinling's designs for Maria Bueno proved too provocative to escape censure—Bueno's Wimbledon costumes were enhanced with colored diamond-shaped petals which appeared in a sunburst pattern on her skirt lining and across her panties. One costume came suspiciously close to the official tournament colors; Bueno's semifinal match was lost amidst outbursts of temper and flashes of hot pink. The committee closed ranks and banned color for a second time.

From 1971 to 1978 Tinling was the official designer for the Virginia Slims circuit. It was here that he was able to introduce color to the game in a significant way. For the Slims circuit Tinling might design 100 dresses per season, each unique to the player, with color as the unifying factor. When the occasion called for it, Tinling could bring a sense of drama and flamboyance to the game. For Rosie Casals, he created a three-piece ensemble in, of all things, black velvet. Billie Jean King's "battle of the sexes" match against Bobby Riggs was fought in a sequined dress which perfectly suited the frivolity of the event, even as it made sure she would be visible to spectators at the top of Houston's vast Astrodome.

Largely because of the Virginia Slims tournament and owing to the efforts of the women themselves, women's tennis in the late 1970s became popular enough for sportswear manufacturers to offer lucrative endorsement contracts to the players. Unfortunately for Tinling, this ended his career as a custom designer for the women's tennis circuit.

Within the profession Tinling was respected as the supreme arbiter who represented players to management in an official capacity not only at Wimbledon, where he was reinstated in 1982, but at the other three Grand Slam events as well as on the Slims tour. His encyclopedic knowledge of tennis and tennis players made him an oral historian of the game, and keeper of its traditions. For six decades Ted Tinling and tennis were synonymous.

—Whitney Blausen

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