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Tennis Loses Its First Fashion Icon

Gussie Moran, who made waves on and off the court at Wimbledon in 1949, has passed away at the age of 89.

Published January 30, 2013 03:21

Tennis Loses Its First Fashion Icon
Gussie Moran

Gussie Moran, the former US Open semifinalist who died aged 89 at her Los Angeles home two weeks ago, will be remembered not just for her accomplishments on the court but also her role as a fashion trailblazer.

Gertrude Agusta Moran was born in Santa Monica, California on September 8, 1923, and started playing tennis at the local high school. Upon leaving school, she went to work for the Douglas Aircraft Company, helping to assemble aircraft for the war effort.

However, her passion for tennis remained and having triumphed at several amateur tournaments, in early 1949 she won the triple crown - singles, doubles and mixed - at the US Indoor Championships, earning her a national ranking of No.4.

These performances booked her a place at Wimbledon that summer where she raised eyebrows - and pulses - with her tennis and daring choice of attire.

Originally refused permission by Wimbledon officials to wear a colored outfit, "Gorgeous Gussie", as she was soon to be known, gained revenge by commissioning the British tennis player turned fashion designer Teddy Tinling to come up with an outfit that conformed to the strict all-white rules but would still make a splash.

Her shorter-than-usual skirt caused uproar at the usually-staid All-England Club, and saw Moran emerge as an unlikely global fashion icon.

Yet, Moran's tennis, and in particular her forehand, was just as striking as her style; despite making an early exit in the singles, she went on to reach the final of the doubles at Wimbledon that year and in 1950 reached the semifinals of the US Open in singles. Moran left the amateur ranks to turn professional in 1951, playing on Bobby Riggs and Jack Kramer's pan-American tour alongside players such as Pauline Betz and Sarah Palfrey Cooke.

After retiring, Moran dabbled in a number of fields, including stints as a radio and television sports commentator in Los Angeles and New York. Having had a brother killed in the Second World War, she was also eager to help out with the United Service Organizations in Vietnam, and was injured when riding in a helicopter that was shot down.

Her final years were spent in Hollywood, Los Angeles. According to her close circle of friends, right up until her death, she remained as sharp-witted and provocative as ever, and also retained a close interest in the modern tennis circuit.

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