Monday Outfit: Tennis (or Badminton) Whites

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Good morning! Despite the rain, we powered through with our Fourth of July barbecue, and it was a jolly good time. We pitched in with the neighbors for a community ping pong table, which was a big hit at the party as expected.

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So today, I’m sharing an entirely self-drafted tennis dress I’ve been plotting for a while. K is starting tennis camp this week, and it seemed imperative that I make an appropriate outfit. Tennis holds a very special spot in my heart; about five billion years ago as a high schooler, I remember inexplicably wanting to join the tennis team the summer after my sophomore year. It didn’t matter that I’d never played the sport before — when I set my mind to do something, I don’t give up easily. One of my best friends had just made it onto the boys’ varsity tennis team, so I talked him into practicing with me. Almost every day, in the sweltering, smog-filled summer air of Los Angeles, he volleyed with me, patiently teaching me how to serve, how to slice the ball with my backhand, how to strategize. Thanks entirely to him, I aced the tryouts and made it onto the girls’ varsity team.

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I loved tennis. But my serves were so forceful and erratic that my doubles partner would step off to the side of the court so as not to get hit by the balls that were so frequently off-the-mark. I’ve pummeled many a partner in the hindquarters, which as you can imagine didn’t make me a very popular partner.

Propelled by my obsession with the sport, my first long-term job in high school was at a tennis store near my school, where the unconventional owner decided that a sixteen-year-old should be the manager of the clothing department (that would be me). It was there that I expressed a surprising rebellion. The store uniform was to wear classic white tennis skirts — you know, the super short kind. That was not okayΒ with me, though it had less to do with feminism and more with self-consciousness. Part of the job entailed climbing frighteningly high, rickety ladders to access tennis shoes stored at the topmost area near the ceiling, andΒ I didn’t want people (especially the cute guys stringing the rackets) ogling up my skirt. I refused to wear the skirt but conceded to wear denim Agassi shorts like the boys. No other female employee had ever refused, so I was quite pleased with my trailblazing ways.

There was also that time when the owner tasked me with depositing a boatload of cash and told me to take his jeep. I’d only just gotten my driver’s permit and didn’t know exactly how to drive a stick shift, but I figured, “How hard can it be?” It was a nightmare, and I still shake my head in disbelief that the owner let me take his car without adult supervision and that I somehow managed to drive the thing like a bucking horse to the bank and back. But I digress.

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The point is that in addition to the dress, I had to make matching shorts to wear underneath. These were self-drafted as well. I wanted K to use her actual tennis racket as a prop, but it was so huge that it threw off the proportions of things too much, so I switched it out with the daintier badminton racket.

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The fabric is a french terry from here (it doesn’t seem to be available online), and I didn’t realize that the fabric was in a tube until I started drafting my pattern. I used a 7-inch yellow zipper and the binding is more of the denim knit that I used for last week’s top. I had cut up a bunch of bias tapes for future use, and I’m glad I did.

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K likes it a lot, though she was puzzled by the zipper in the front. She insisted that it should be in the back:

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For an extra clean and neat finish, I hand-stitched the bias binding, and I think the accent color really pops. It took forever, but I stitched while watching Orphan Black—Β a reader suggestion and now I’m completely hooked (thank you Deana!) — so time went quickly. The show is so so good! Unlike K, I’m loving the sporty look of the exposed zipper in the front, and you’d think that by now, I would have this whole exposed zipper action down. I’d promised Asmita a tutorial, and surprise surprise, I discovered that I’m doing it all wrong, so I’m including a couple of video tutorials done right here and here. These two excellent tutorials will yield a much more professional-looking finish than my method, which is slapdash at best. To speed things up, you could do away with the interfacing, since I haven’t used interfacing and the zippers have been fine on the sturdier fabrics.

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So happy. This dress came out exactly the way I envisioned it, and that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Hooray! K’s now all ready for tennis camp, and she’s pumped!

28 thoughts on “Monday Outfit: Tennis (or Badminton) Whites

    1. I don’t think there were very many cute tennis outfits available when I was little, though nowadays it seems like anything goes! πŸ™‚

  1. This is such a cute outfit and K. looks beautiful. I am with K on this one though… I think the zipper looks better in the back. This would be easier to put on by yourself with zip in the front, non? I can’t wear back zip dresses myself.

    1. Since it’s made out of knit, the dress can easily slip on and off without undoing the zip, so it’s almost purely decorative (though it’s fully functional). I like it both ways! K did say that it was less comfortable with the zip in the back because the back neckline is higher…Thanks, Max!

  2. The outfit is really cute and very tennis-esque. I just ended up watching both the Wimbeldon finals over the weekend (the only sport that I seem to be interested in), and this outfit is far cooler than anything that the girls (or boys) wore.

    And, THANK YOU Sanae for the zipper tutorial videos. I already went through the first one, and it looks very good. Now all I need to find the kind of dress I want to make with the exposed zipper. N is super into zips these days–having realised that her mother has just managed this new technique so I think she’ll like one with a pretty pretty zipper you sent.

    1. Oh good, I hope those tutorials come in handy, Asmita! K loves zips too, so I’m always scheming of ways to add one but I’m not very good at it, so I end up bypassing it way too often ;-).

  3. Simple yet classy. As a beginner level sewer, I intentionally bypass those zips at the store. But I’m super stimulated by this tennis dress and the tank you made for yourself with a zip at the back. Never knew zips could play such a role on garments. I know my 4-year-old is going to have a blast wearing something with a zip, up and down, up and down…..

    1. Kids LOVE zippers, Jing! I made K a top with zip pockets ages ago, and it’s one of her favorites. She still tries to wear it even though it’s too small (hmmm, I should clean out her closet, obviously…).

    1. Thank you, Rhoda! How cool would that be if something I designed was part of Wimbledon — unthinkable! πŸ™‚

  4. I love the yellow zipper and the front position! Your photos always look professional- are you a photographer?

    1. Oh, thanks so much, Linda! That makes me so happy that you think I’m a professional photographer! Nope, I’m just an enthusiast, though I’d love to get to a professional level one day πŸ™‚

  5. don’t you just love it on the (rare) occasion when the stars align and a project comes together just how you envisioned it – or even better? So happy for you that this project was satisfying and loved by both you and K. Great design – love the pop of color in the zipper and denim bindings.
    And another great job story – I’m convinced you have the best employment stories of anyone I know:)

    1. Thanks, Lucinda! I’m very drawn to unique and odd jobs so I do have a million of these types of anecdotes πŸ™‚ If nothing else, my work history is interesting!

    1. The shorts were a last minute add-on and I thought they might be too big under the skirt but they turned out alright πŸ™‚ Thanks, Traveller!

    1. Oh, the agony I went through on deciding the color, Marjie! Mint? Orange? Aqua? The yellow looked the best, I think. πŸ™‚

    1. We finished day one, and let’s just say it wasn’t a rip roaring success…:-( Camp can be hard sometimes, you know?

  6. Great dress Sanae. I’m a bit on-the-fence when it comes to exposed zipper son dresses, but this is EXACTLY how they should be used. Perfect. K looks like a real pro!
    – my first employer was a golfer and on quiet days he’d take me to the park over the road to hit buckets of balls. He declared me to be “a cack-handed spastic with a lot of natural power”. I was just glad I never broke any of the neighbours windows.

    1. What a fun boss! I had a golf-loving boss too, though he never took me with him and seemed to disappear at the most inconvenient times…:-)

  7. Oh dear, this is adorable!! I love that zipper, and I totally get why K likes it turned backwards- the high neckline is so sweet. πŸ™‚ I did tennis camp when I was little too, and while I certainly had a desire to do well, my gangly arms just couldn’t keep up. Tennis faded into the dust along with gymnastics and ballet!

    1. Yeah, ballet didn’t go over too well either, and though she liked gymnastics, she didn’t like doing it without friends and coordinating with other families got a little crazy. It’s so funny, I never got to try any of these out when I was little so I’ve exposed her to everything imaginable, and I sometimes think I overdid it. Ah well…

  8. What a fabulous dress! I love the yellow zipper and the blue binding. There is something so satisfying about hand-stitching bias binding. Hope that day two of tennis camp is more of a hit!

    1. Hand-stitched bias binding really looks so professional, it’s great. K wore the dress to camp today (she got a stain on it right after the photoshoot so it was in the wash yesterday) , and someone asked where I bought the dress. A proud moment!

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