*Wimbledon.com uses cookies.Find out more
CONTINUE > We use simple text files called cookies, saved on your computer, to help us deliver the best experience for you. Click continue to acknowledge that you are happy to receive cookies from Wimbledon.com.

In memory of 'gorgeous' Gussie Moran

Gussie Moran
by Mark Hodgkinson
Wednesday 30 January 2013

Ten things about 'Gorgeous' Gussie Moran - who died in January at the age of 89 - and how her lace scandalised Britain.

1. She was, according to Jack Kramer, "the Anna Kournikova of her time - Gussie was a beautiful woman with a beautiful body. If Gussie had played in the era of television, no telling what would have happened. Because, besides everything else, Gussie could play." Wearing a controversial pair of knickers was not all she achieved during her playing career - she was also a singles semi-finalist at the US Open and a doubles finalist at Wimbledon. 

2. It was a British designer, Ted Tinling, who created the short dress and lace-trimmed knickers which she wore for the 1949 Wimbledon Championships. "As Wimbledon rules forbade us to use colour, I thought a little lace trimming might look nice. It was nothing special. In fact it was nothing more than what my mother would have called kitchen lace," Tinling recalled.

3. Moran's lace-trimmed knickers had the photographers lying on the grass by the side of the court to get the angle they wanted. As Tinling recalled, "the situation snowballed out of all proportion". "Gussie was inundated with requests for personal appearances - hospitals, garden fetes and beauty contests. The Marx Brothers, in London at the time, invited her to join their act. A racehorse, an aircraft and a restaurant's special sauce were named after her. She was voted the best dressed sportswoman by the US Fashion Academy. The whole thing was staggering." 

4. Not everyone was impressed. The then chairman of the All England Club accused Tinling of "having drawn attention to the sexual area". It was said that Moran's underwear had "put sin and vulgarity into tennis". The All England Club were concerned about the effect that Moran's pants were having on the Royal Family. Questions were asked in Parliament.  

5. Moran also performed a striptease behind an opaque screen in the press room. But she didn't always like the attention which the pants brought her. "I was embarrassed, because they were putting so much adulation on the character, 'Gorgeous Gussie'. You know, I was really nothing to write home about. I was a plain girl. But Life magazine ran a picture calling me 'Gorgeous Gussie' and the British picked it up and did a real job with it. Then people would see me and I'd hear them say, 'I've seen better-looking waitresses at the hot-dog stand'. I just went to pieces. Emotionally, I couldn't handle it." 

6. Moran once said she was pleased that Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and others wanted to be glamorous on court: "What's wrong with having a good time with your clothes and your body?" 

7. Moran struggled after retirement. Once a tennis celebrity, she became, among other things, a saleswoman in the gift shop of a Los Angeles zoo. She was also reported to be "living on social security in a dingy rented apartment in a crumbling quarter of Hollywood, supported by the goodwill of well-wishers and occasional eBay sales of signed undergarments". 

8. As a child she had been friends with Charlie Chaplin's children, and Greta Garbo had watched her play (the connections were made through her father, a sound technician at Universal Studios). 

9. Moran married three times. Two of the marriages ended in divorce, the other was annulled, and she had no children.

10. Moran, according to the Associated Press, "always said she wanted red carpet in her house, loving the glamour it invoked". She died a week after a red carpet was laid in her home.

Find out more about other famous figures from Wimbledon's history

Back to news

Latest Photos

Buy Wimbledon Merchandise from The Shop

Live Blog

20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...

20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."

View all