From Challengers To Apples Never Fall: Onscreen, Tenniscore Style Is A Game, Set, Match

In Apples Never Fall, tenniscore style is at the core of the limited series.  “Competition and tennis — that intensity of sports and what sports bring to someone's life — it becomes such a big part of people’s identity,” says costume designer Allyson B. Fanger. The mystery drama surrounds the disappearance of West Palm Beach matriarch Joy Delaney (Annette Bening), who cofounded the local tennis academy with her pro-turned-coach husband Stan (Sam Neill). 
When coming up with the Apples Never Fall costumes, Fanger assigned each Delaney family member a champion persona and sourced looks from athletic brands like Lululemon, Alo Yoga, and The Upside, as well as fashion labels like Tory Burch, Ciao Lucia, Sandro, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner), who prefers sailboats to serving, channels the more sartorially subversive Bjorn Borg and Andre Agassi, famed for his ’90s-era Nike acid-washed tennis jorts. Mesh polo shirt-sporting venture capital bro Troy (Jake Lacy) nods toward the rakish Roger Federer. And while free — or lost, rather — spirit Amy (Alison Brie) shed her Maria Sharapova affectations in favor of caftans years ago, the baby of the family and physical therapist, Brooke (Essie Randles), channels Anna Kournikova, with a closet full of Lacoste, Sporty & Rich, and Adidas. (Bening’s and Neill’s costumes were inspired by Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors, respectively.)
“Brooke was the closest and the most sympathetic to her father, so that’s why we kept her very sporty throughout [the show],” says Fanger, pointing out the similarity of Brooke’s zip-ups and sporty pants to Stan’s oft-worn Fila tracksuit.
Photo: Courtesy of Peacock.
Even two years into the TikTok-driven trend, tenniscore continues to rally (sorry). In the last year alone, Pinterest searches for “tennis aesthetic” increased by 37.5% and “cute tennis outfit” spiked by 69.65%, while “tennis fits” surged by 150%. Lacoste — the unofficial fifth Delaney sibling — is focusing its ambitious 2024 retail strategy on the intersection of tennis and fashion, with past partnerships including a Royal Tenenbaums-inspired collection with Goop. Sporty & Rich just released its second Tennis Drop and last year’s US Open winner Coco Gauff covers the Vogue April issue in a sparkling gold Michael Kors Collection version of an on-the-court dress. Plus, the surging popularity of pickleball calls for more opportunities to demonstrate tennis style while volleying in a more laidback environment. 
When launching Laurel Canyon Tennis Club in 2022, founders Tiger Curran and Laurie Berger wanted to infuse more “personality” into the performance market. The Los Angeles-based brand’s offerings include vibrant prints and bold colors paying homage to the counterculture spirit and fashion of the ’60s and ’70s and untraditional styles like a “tennis bikini,” featuring a supportive bralette top and high-waisted bottoms with a hidden ball pocket, and a tennis dress referencing Chris Evert’s 1972 Wimbledon circle-adorned look by couturier Ted Tinling.
“It is really fun to see a little bit more individuality on the court,” says Curran, who’s also a costume designer. “The viewers of matches appreciate that, too. Like seeing a match played between two people in the exact same outfit isn’t necessarily as interesting.”
This might explain why tennis style is having such a big moment onscreen, with the aesthetic reaching its cinematic fever pitch with the April 26 release of the Challengers featuring costumes by JW Anderson and Loewe designer Jonathan Anderson and costume designer Margaret Robbs. Following Zendaya as a pro-turned-mentor, the film’s looks include a black Adidas tank with red-trimmed athletic shorts, a white tennis dress, and a Cartier Love bracelet for court side. 
Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
But before then, in the 1969-set comedy-mystery Palm Royale (premiering on Apple TV+), irrepressible striver Maxine (Kristin Wiig) uses a tennis fit — and fashion in general — as a tool to gain acceptance into the society set. For an impromptu set of doubles, Maxine spends money she doesn’t have at the members-only club shop on a white mini-dress with orange embroidery at the neckline, which matches a floral visor and pom-pom socks. 
“Maxine is always just trying to fit in,” says Palm Royale costume designer Alix Friedberg. “Her attempts had nothing to do with actually playing the sport and more to do with looking the part.” Friedberg based Maxine’s dress on an original Fred Perry look from the period, and also looked to the sportier mod stylings of Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin.
Later, Maxine and Palm Beach golden girl Dinah (Leslie Bibb) — who wears a vintage Givenchy Sport cardigan and a coordinating pleated mini skirt and beret — hit the tennis-adjacent golf course, more interested in gossiping and quaffing cocktails than teeing off. In a deft physical comedy sequence, a sloppy Maxine exposes the delicately ruffled white undershorts component of her colorfully checked skort, a moment that brings to mind when Gertrude “Gussie” Moran scandalised Wimbledon in 1949 by wearing lace biker-style shorts under her tennis whites, also by Tinling.
Photo: Courtesy of Apple TV+.
Of course, envelope-pushing tennis style isn’t a new phenomenon. In 1921, French player Suzanne Lenglen provoked some pearl-clutching when she debuted a sleeveless, knee-length crepe de chine dress by Parisian designer Jean Patou at Wimbledon. Tinling created distinctive tennis fashion for champions from the ’50s to ’80s, including Billie Jean King’s embellished dress which she wore to play Bobby Riggs in the famous 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” (immortalised in the Emma Stone-starring 2017 movie of the same name). Three-time Vogue cover star Serena Williams continues to make fashion and political statements through her trendsetting Nike collaborations (and her red-carpet and front-row endeavors).
“[Tennis players are] the original influencers,” says Friedberg. “It’s just dialed up by a million now in modern times.”  

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