Tennis is an inherently elegant sport, and we happen to be in a moment when many of the clothing options look that way, too. But, of course, some of the latest pleated skirts and sleek tanks are more functional than others. And to gauge which will serve you best on the court, you need to pay attention to certain key details: Fabric choice “is the biggest factor in seeing which designers actually play tennis or not,” says Sasha Paskal, founder of weekly tennis social club Racquet Club L.A. “I also think support in the chest area is sometimes overlooked considering how much movement is involved in tennis.” And, oddly, she adds, “built-in shorts are also somehow ignored by many brands hopping on the tennis bandwagon.” To find stylish women’s tennis clothing and accessories that are also actually comfortable to play in, I spoke with pros, coaches, and other lifelong obsessives to find out what they’re wearing on the court each day.
Deciding between a one- or two-piece tennis outfit comes down to personal preference. “It’s about what’s most functional for you on court,” says tennis insider and creative consultant Erin Donnelley. “If a top is hitting you in a weird place, you would choose a tennis dress over a skirt and shirt.” In the opinion of Hastings-on-Hudson pro Olivera Veskovac: “A dress is more elegant than separates — and that boosts your confidence on the court. If I look good, I’m gonna perform good.” The ideal “look good, perform good” piece, Veskovac says, is a white Nike dress. And the best of the white Nike dresses is the Victory dress, according to recently graduated Howard University tennis player Emnet Simunyola, who’s also a Westchester-based pro. She describes the dress as “very sleek, very ‘It’ girl.” It’s clean and classic without being overly country club, and very much designed to be played in, being sleeveless and constructed from stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric.
Writer and lifelong tennis player Mel Kenny (who is also the founder of Tiny Gentle Asians) says her current favorite tennis dress is a ’00s Juicy Couture style sourced from Depop worn with Nike undershorts. But if you’re not up for trawling resale sites, she also likes this one from Copenhagen brand Palmes Tennis Society. The brand’s designs make tongue-in-cheek reference to tennis’s preppy heritage without being too costume-y — as Racquet magazine CEO Caitlin Thompson puts it, “They just look very cool and very modern.” And this dress has thoughtfully placed underarm ventilation panels, which the vintage Juicy Couture definitely lacks.
Outdoor Voices’ sporty dresses “are a staple” for Paskal, due to their functional cuts. When surveying the fashions at Wollman Rink, Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo found the brand’s dresses to be incredibly popular among pickleball-playing New Yorkers, too. They’re also a favorite of Strategist editor Maxine Builder, who likes that they’re sweat-wicking and comfortable yet happy-hour-ready. This Volley style is especially tennis-friendly, with two prominent pockets on the sides of its built-in shorts, as well as cross-back strapping for extra bust support. (Tennis-obsessed Strategist contributing editor Jessica Silvester owns it in three colors.)
Shorts and skirts
For everyday tennis practice, the players I spoke with generally preferred to wear just undershorts, only layering them underneath skirts and dresses in more formal match settings. “I like to feel less constricted in my movements, and most skirts are very flowy,” says Simunyola, with too much fabric for her taste. Both she and Kenny like Nike’s tried-and-true Pro shorts. “The fabric does that amazing ‘holding you in’ thing that makes everything look tighter and less jiggly than it in fact is,” says Kenny.
With a sculpting high waist, Donnelley says Michi’s undershorts are universally flattering: “Every time I step on the court I have women asking where I got them from.” Designed by tennis players, the shorts are also “really well made,” with stretchy fabric that provides great compression. They’re also surprisingly breathable: “You can be sweating on the court and not feel like you have to go change or anything.”
Running shorts are another practical option — although these Nike ones don’t have pockets, their built-in undershorts “hold balls really well” according to Veskovac, who owns them in multiple colors. That silky spandex also helps prevent chafing.
Stockholm-based golf brand J. Lindeberg is becoming more known in tennis circles after Swedish pros Petra Martić and Mirjam Bjorklund started wearing it. Thompson recommends these sleek pieces “to anyone who wants to wear chic and classy tennis clothes you can wear off court, but it’s also performance wear.” The brand’s shorts are slightly stretchy yet very lightweight and quick-drying, with waist drawcords for optimum fit. They have two ball pockets.
As with J. Lindeberg, Thompson wears Jupp’s pieces often because they’re so “chic and nondescript — I like the wild patterned stuff too, but these are classic and refined clothes that are really well made.” Fully pleated and pleasingly swishy, this skirt features built-in undershorts and sits high on the waist to cinch you in.
For a slightly less swishy yet similarly classic-looking white skirt, Paskal turns to TikTok-beloved brand Alo, which has also been recommended to us by Euphoria actress Chloe Cherry. Paskal pairs hers with a vintage white tennis tee sourced from eBay or Etsy, sometimes throwing on a vintage college sweater over the top for an even preppier (but not trying-too-hard) look.
Tops, tees, and tanks
Buying separate pieces of clothing gives you the freedom to mix and match that a tennis dress does not. A simple tank top that allows unrestricted arm movement is fundamental; Simunyola likes these two formfitting ones from Lululemon, which she says are of “exceptional quality” and will last for years and years. The racerback is shorter than most tanks without being overly cropped, which is ideal for anyone sick of their tennis tops bunching up or needing to be tucked into their shorts. The customized ventilation of the half-zip, meanwhile, helps regulate her body temperature on court.
Kenny agrees that “pits out is the move,” and recommends Hanes’ affordable tank tops for early-morning practice sessions. “I usually play at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. before work, so in my sleepy stupor I’ll reach for the simplest of things,” she says. While not specifically designed for tennis, they are “formfitting but not suffocating,” which makes them ideal for on-court workouts. Strategist writers Arielle Aviva and Dominique Pariso love Hanes tanks for everyday wear, too, as does model Paloma Elsesser and musician Gracie Abrams.
This high-necked tank from one of Thompson’s favorite brands, J. Lindeberg, is a little more special, and matches the shorts recommended above. It’s pretty but also high-performance, with racerback straps and substantial mesh ventilation panels.
While it’s often easier to swing a racquet in a tank top, long-sleeved tees are more ideal for sun protection. Florida-based Donnelley says that Venus Williams’s brand EleVen designs its tennis layers with this in mind. “Even though they’re long-sleeved, I’m not dying with them in the heat,” she says. “They’re light but not weighing me down.” Tested out by Williams herself, these lightweight layers are made from sweat-wicking UPF 50 knit fabric and are available in a far greater size range than most tennis brands offer. “They’ve become necessities for me as a way to protect my skin but still be able to play,” Donnelley says.
If you’re okay with laundering white tennis clothes regularly, this Jupp zip-down is Thompson’s favorite, matching the brand’s skirt above. Because the fabric is on the heavier side, and the style isn’t sleeveless, she admits that it’s better for wearing in the spring and fall as opposed to peak summer. But the zip should give you some control over your core temperature.
Simunyola says that sports-store staple Wilson “has had a really great design comeback lately” in terms of both its racquets and apparel. This neat polo looks timeless, is woven from quick-drying yarn in a loose and breathable knit pattern, and also happens to be much easier to launder than a white top.
The V-neck knit sweater has been a tennis-court staple since forever. “If you’re around tennis, you see it come into fashion year in, year out,” says Thompson. She’s a fan of this updated FILA one in particular because “it’s short-sleeved and cropped, so it looks great on most women.” Plus, given the current sweater-vest trend, it’s versatile enough that she “can wear it to warm up, on court, and off court.”
A compressive bra is essential when you’re reaching for that on-the-run forehand, and Donnelley likes this Lululemon style with weave straps, saying it’s great for women with larger breast sizes who are playing high-impact sports: “It’s another one of my go-tos.” We’re longtime fans of the brand’s bras too, especially as they’re made from high-quality sweat-wicking fabric.
Veskovac loves the affordable and stylish bras from female-founded company Beks. She says this one can be worn as a stand-alone top if you feel like it, and it supports her big busts without feeling constricting. Best of all, “it dries fast and doesn’t stick to your skin if you get sweaty.” And it looks surprisingly sexy, too.
Shoes and socks
Popularized by Roger Federer, Nike Vapors are the shoes to wear on court, Simunyola says. (The players I spoke with for the men’s version of this guide said much the same.) She advises keeping seasonality in mind when you’re making your color choice: “I used to have a pair of black-and-red Nike Air Zoom Vapor Pros, and they were probably one of my favorite pairs of shoes aesthetically — but the black on the shoe would make my feet burn in the summer.” Although they’re difficult to keep clean, she now has some all-white Air Zoom Vapors as her “good pair” of shoes: “White goes with everything, but they do get dirty fast.”
Asics are also a great choice, Donnelley says: “There’s a reason why the top players like Djokovic are wearing them — they’re so good for any kind of surface, hard or clay.”
As worn by Greek tennis phenomenon Maria Sakkari, Thompson recommends Adidas Barricades to anyone looking for a shoe that transitions well from the court to the street. “They’re cool-looking and last forever,” she says. The royal-blue and off-white colorway is particularly striking.
At first, Kenny was seduced by the classic colorway of these shoes, as someone who is, in her words, “generally into Lacoste’s tennis legacy.” But she was delighted to discover that they are also “super supportive and cushion-y, and seem to lock my lousy ankles pretty well.” For a matchy-matchy look, they also correspond perfectly with the Palmes dress above.
Simunyola says that Under Armour’s socks are made from a thinner and more breathable fabric than other brands “and don’t slip at all.” They also sit at a nice midway point on the ankle, rather than bunching at the calf. She again recommends buying them in white so that your feet don’t get too hot in summer. (Don’t be afraid to switch out your sweaty socks between sets, either, as a couple of players suggested doing.)
Donnelley prefers to wear more retro-looking tube socks on court. “The crew-sock look is really something that hits home for me,” says Donnelley. “And the ones doing it really well are Wilson and Sporty and Rich.” In addition to being fun to coordinate with your outfit, she promises that they’re also “super comfortable and functional.”
“Let it be known that no one needs designer socks to play tennis,” says Kenny. “But I did get these in both colorways when they went on sale, for both tennis and general gallivanting.”
While there’s something very Sharapova about a minimal tennis visor, the players I spoke with tended to prefer normcore Nike caps for everyday playing. “I don’t like the feeling of hair being left to the elements, and a hat just looks more clean to me,” says Simunyola. Vintage is also an option, Kenny says. “I have some dad caps from eBay that are kind of perfect for tennis — I really like this Nike one.”
When going hatless, Simunyola does “really like wearing headbands.” She’s obsessed with Nike’s versions, in particular, for the way that timeless swoosh can instantly elevate your style: “Sometimes they can pull a look together, or simply keep my hair from getting messed up after a match.”
A status Nalgene is the only way to hydrate on court. Thompson advises that you can’t go wrong with a Palmes or Reigning Champ one, though the former is nearly always sold out.
The general consensus among players I spoke with was that most tennis bags are ugly and impractical for city life. “Brands make really dorky backpacks or giant bags for 12 racquets that pros use, but there’s nothing good for everyone else,” says Thompson. She likes to haul her gear in tote bags instead, specifically this one that references former pro player (and art fan) Reilly Opelka, who was fined $10,000 for displaying its logo at the 2021 U.S. Open. “It’s a fun tennis in-joke,” she explains.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.