Vintage Style Inspiration: Suzanne Lenglen, Parisian Tennis Star of the 1920's

One of my favorite vintage style inspirations is Parisian tennis superstar of the 1920's Suzanne Lenglen, known as "La Divine." Suzanne was my Parisian great-grandfather's first cousin.

Trained by her father, Suzanne's tennis moves were strong and aggressive, with the grace and style of a ballet dancer. She stunned the public by exposing her forearms and ankles, and sipping brandy on the court.

She was a six-time winner of Wimbledon by the age of 26.

Photo: Getty Images


"La Divine" in Vogue

Suzanne was a muse for designer Jean Patou. He created daring ensembles for her out of white silk crepe de chine (one of my favorite fabrics!). Vogue published an editorial based on her groundbreaking, liberating style.

Suzanne Lenglen in VogueSuzanne Lenglen in Vogue Magazine, 1926

"Divine" Inspiration

I am lucky to have inherited a few items belonging to "La Divine": a wooden tennis racket (her own model), a medal, an engraved bracelet, two pages from a journal given to her by her friends filled with drawings and poetry, and a portrait painted by one of her contemporaries.

In the portrait she is wearing a green silk "headache band," as she called her colorful head scarves.

Model Caroline Barcomb poses in front of Suzanne Lenglen collectibles in the "Suzanne Room" at Candice Held's home in Palm Springs, CA. "Summer Sky" Ebony silk scarf dress. 1940's Ethan Ellan wingback chair upholstered in Candice's "Palms" print fabric and painted in white lacquer.

Suzanne was the inspiration for my original hand-drawn tennis print for cotton sundresses, and for the styling of the models in my 2006 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runway show.

My Tennis print cotton sundresses on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Culver City, CA

One-of-a-kind "Vivian" vintage scarf dress on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Culver City, CA
Vintage Scarf Dress by Candice Held at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Photos: Getty Images


Tennis player Patsy Daughters poses with Suzanne Lenglen's racquet from the 1920's

Photo: Candice Held

One of my favorite quotes:

"A little wine tones up the system just right. One cannot always be serious. There must be some sparkle too."

— Suzanne Lenglen


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