Sunday 1 February 2015

Iconic 'Tennis Girl' dress nets €19,500 at auction

Richard Vernalls

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Undated file handout photo issued by Fieldings Auctioneers Ltd of the white summer dress made famous in the Tennis Girl poster from the 1970s which has fetched £15,500 at  Fieldings Auctioneers, which offered the dress today as a part of a lot which also included the tennis racquet from the image. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday July 5, 2014. See PA story SALE Tennis. Photo credit should read: Fieldings Auctioneers Ltd/PA Wire 

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
MATCH POINT: The handmade ‘Tennis Girl’ dress, which featured in more than two million posters, has been sold at auction in England along with the racket featured in the famous image

A white summer dress made famous in the iconic Tennis Girl poster of the 1970s has fetched £15,500 (€19,500) at auctio

The unique handmade dress with lace trim was made famous in a photograph taken by the late Martin Elliott, featuring his then-girlfriend Fiona Butler.

Fieldings Auctioneers, which offered the dress as part of a lot which included the tennis racket from the image, confirmed the dress had smashed its £2,000 estimate.

The then-18-year-old Ms Butler was immortalised in the cheeky pose walking away from the camera, with her right hand grasping a tennis racket and the left resting on her backside.

Behind the camera was unknown commercial photographer Mr Elliott, who sold the image licence to be reprinted in the 1977 Athena poster. It went on to sell more than two million copies worldwide.

The identity of the female model was unknown until Ms Butler — who later married to become Mrs Walker — came forward a few years ago.

Before the auction, in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands, Nick Davies, director at Fieldings, said he expected the memorable dress, photographed on a Birmingham University tennis court in 1976, to have wide appeal.

The lot went under the gavel on the day of the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final.

Mrs Walker’s pose has been imitated by many over the years — including pop star Kylie Minogue, comedians Frank Skinner and Ricky ­Gervais, as well as Britain’s Got Talen t judge Amanda Holden, who was photographed in her tennis whites last month.

The dress was made by Ms Butler’s friend Carol Knotts, who said: “I’ve had the dress tucked away in a cupboard for all those years. It’s a little piece of tennis history and I hope someone might find it an interesting novelty item to buy.”

Mr Elliott, who made his name off the back of the picture’s global success, split with his girlfriend three years after taking the shot.

Although Mrs Walker, now 55 and living in Worcestershire, was never paid for the photo, Mr Elliott always said “I looked after her”. He died in 2010.

The dress and tennis racket went under the hammer along with two copies of the iconic poster.

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