PARIS (AP) — Well before Andre Agassi caused a stir with his stone-washed denim shorts at the French Open, the clay courts at Roland Garros were a sporting catwalk for fashion experimentation.
From the corset-less dress worn by "La Divine" Suzanne Lenglen and designed by French creator Jean Patou to the revealing black-and-red outfit that Venus Williams exhibited five years ago, the tennis stadium located in the chic western district of the French capital has always been a fashion hotspot.
"Players want to show their personality through their clothes," former player Tatiana Golovin told The Associated Press at the launch of an exhibition recounting the links between fashion and tennis at the Roland Garros museum.
The exhibit, called "Game, Set and Fashion," has more than 60 pieces of women's and men's clothing on display, some that have never been shown before, as well as pictures, posters and a focus on the fashion designers who made tennis fashion.
There are dresses and shorts — some dating back to 1890 — a lavish male tennis coat, autographed outfits by the likes of Steffi Graf and Williams, and a collection of tennis shoes.
The 27-year-old Golovin, who ended her playing career early because of back problems, is the exhibition ambassador. She says she enjoyed wearing pretty clothes when she was on court, although she never dared sporting Venus' burlesque see-through black lace skirt and red bustier that got more attention than her play at the 2010 French Open.
"I was a pundit for TV at the time, and I remember the lacy dress well," Golovin said. "Her small shorty and that black-and-red dress were a main talking point. It was very provocative, but she was ready to assume it, she designed it herself."
Golovin is a fan of the tennis fashion from the 1960s, a period when British designer Ted Tinling created dresses with innovative shapes, frills and furbelows.
"The tennis fashion in the 60's was really audacious," Golovin said. "The dresses were already very short, there were lace shorts. There was elegance, but it was risque at the same time. Outfits are less feminine today, more sporty."
The French Open is due to start on Sunday, May 24.