Anarchists of Style: Suzanne Lenglen (snapshot)

Suzanne Lenglen, tennis phenomena and patron of Patou—true, but like saying Elizabeth Taylor “was married.” The real truth is in the details. A six-time Wimbledon winner, Lenglen was the first woman to train in the aggressive style of men. In seven years (1919-1926), she lost only one match. But it was her injection of the new woman, the insouciant flapper, into the still-patrician world of tennis that fueled her fame.

Lenglen won her first match wearing a short skirt, rolled silk stockings and baring her arms; her competitor was demurely, and traditionally, clad in a long-sleeved, ankle-length tennis costume. She sucked on cognac-soaked sugar cubes as she played. Once in the spotlight there was no giving it up, on or off the court: “she drank, she danced, she smoked, she swore… she had lovers.” No matter the weather, she wore fur coats to the court, where she was also inevitably accessorized by an adoring posse of handsome young men. She claimed “the fox-trot and the shimmy were excellent training for tennis.” She conducted press interviews from bed, clad in silk nightclothes.

So here’s her real truth: “Lenglen, in the liberated style of her play—full of acrobatic, even balletic leaps and lunges—her dress and her life, introduced sex to tennis, and vice versa.”(1)

Monica and Lisa are partners in Anarchists of Style.

Reading list

1) Pigelli, S.”The lady in the white silk dress.” Sports Illustrated. September 13, 1982.

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