Saturday, 17 April 2010

That Tinling feeling

Advertisement for Teddy Tinling's salon from Vogue, 14th April 1937, page 120.  From the Gallery of Costume, Manchester. 

What a singular character Teddy Tinling was!  The opening line of the Wikipedia entry I just linked to does a great job of indicating as much, in its customary dry and succinct manner: "[Teddy Tinling] was an English tennis player, fashion designer, spy and author."  As a career resumé, that one is pretty hard to beat. Plus he was "openly gay" in the days when that was hardly a safe option.

These days people might recall the frilly knickers he created for the American tennis player Gertrude 'Gorgeous Gussie' Moran in 1949, and the kerfuffle those provocative undergarments caused in the media. 

Tinling made his name creating expertly tailored and glamorous tennis wear for many of the star players of his day, but his career in the rag trade began much earlier in 1931 when he opened a salon in South Kensington, London, specialising in wedding and evening gowns for the "carriage trade."  This was evidently successful because by 1937, when his nicely surreal advertisement (above) appeared in Vogue, he was plying his trade in the much posher environs of Mayfair. 

The Second World War interrupted his fashion career and prompted his drastic career switch to spying for the British Intelligence Corps.  I'm sure there's lots of interesting material about his wartime adventures, but sadly they don't appear to be online so I shall press on regardless. 

Shortages of luxury fabrics after the war saw the ever-pragmatic Tinling turning to the growing market of sportswear . . . actually this is all very well documented in the links I've added so I'm going to cut straight to my point and spare you the painful paraphrasing. 

Teddy's tennis wear suggests a fondness for flamboyance, which is certainly borne out in the British Pathé film archive.  The swelle life blog has a fabulous post about one of those films so I won't repeat it here (please visit that link to enjoy it, and don't miss this post about his tennis gear too). 

Here's more evidence.  He embraced rock'n'roll with some delightful garments for teenage fans:

"Clothes specially designed for Rock'n'Roll enthusiasts by Teddy Tinling, 1957."  From Frances Kennett (1983) The Collector's Book of Twentieth Century Fashion, London: Book Club Associates, pp. 88-89.  (Apologies for the book binding cutting through the picture - I'm not skilled, or indeed patient, enough to erase that). 

I'm really enjoying that print of clocks and jiving couples (no doubt a reference to Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock")

The elfin model Elizabeth Duke can also be seen modelling some "Jive Fashions" possibly from the same collection (Tinling trousers with a heart-shaped pocket printed with the immortal British rocker Tommy Steele) right here

Its clear that Teddy Tinling's gift for tailoring glamorous but practical tennis wear was readily transferable to the demands of energetically jiving rock'n'rollers.  Sadly there appears to be no film footage of his teen-rock'n'roll clothing available. 

But there's plenty more camp fashion delights to be found, especially at my favourite resort for vintage footage, British Pathé.  And this is one of the best, a 1958 film of Tinling's leisure fashions inspired by souvenirs from his holidays:   


And this short film from 1955 features both his tennis and leisure wear:


And I'm going to have to include Tinling's spectacular South Pacific fashion show, as featured in the swelle life blog, just so you don't miss it:


Teddy Tinling's exuberant style has quite won me over.  I only wish that there was more information available about his fashion adventures, rather than just his tennis wear (as admirable as it was).  If anyone can offer any further information about this I would be overjoyed.  All I can say is that I've never come across a single garment with his label on it, and live in hope that I might - someday.


Lizzie said...

Isn't it interesting how the work of some designers just never shows up? I've never seen a TT, either, except in books, but I blamed that on the fact that I'm in the US.

Good luck on the quest for more info.

TinTrunk said...

Yes, its very odd. I'm wondering exactly how well distributed Mr Tinling's non-tennis clothing was, or whether he was just a whizz at getting newsreel publicity!

I've searched the databases of the three main costume museums in the UK (V&A, Gallery of Costume Manchester and Bath) and none of them have any Tinlings at all - unless they were sold under a different label, which I don't think is likely.

I'll keep digging and if I find anything out I'll report back.