Subject: The Athena “Tennis Girl” Dress coming up for Auction
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Friday, 27 Jun 2014 03:06:21 +0100
To: Micaela Kemp, Liisa Kemp, Davin Kemp

I’m sending you this one simply so that I can have a little nostalgic ‘ahh’.

Athena “Tennis Girl” Poster + Dress

Athena is a British/American company that made it’s name selling countless millions of good-quality posters to young men in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including me whilst at University. They sold 2 million of the “Tennis Girl” poster above. So, Athena made a lot of money from it, as did the photographer (Martin Elliott, now deceased). The one person that made zero money from it was the model, Fiona Butler (18 at the time & also pictured below) who was the photographer’s gf & got paid nowt.

Fiona Butler, now 55, the model for the Poster when 18

Miss Butler, now 55, lives in Worcestershire, and was photographed at the University of Birmingham’s courts in 1976. The dress was made by Ms Butler’s friend, Carol Knotts.

Ms Knotts is now a barrister who lives in Gloucestershire. At the time she was living on a monthly allowance from her parents, and made her own clothes to help stretch her finances a little further. It was Ms Knotts that was the tennis player, and she made the dress--complete with lace trim--from a ‘Simplicity’ pattern. Fiona was her friend, and one day asked if she could borrow the dress & racket (Carol got a big box of chocolates as a thank you on it’s return).

Carol Knotts is clearly most astute, as she hung on to both the dress, the racket & 2 posters for all these years. That little package is going up for auction at Fieldings Auctioneers in Stourbridge on July 5 at 10am - the same moment as the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final. The guide price is between £1,000 and £2,000, but I suspect that it will reach very much more than that.

Finally, the poster became so famous that it spawned many, many copies & memes. Memorably, Pat Cash showed why men should never try to copy the look:

Pat Cash doing his own version of the “Tennis Girl”

Later Update:

The package of dress, poster, etc. sold at auction for £15,500 GBP (far above the guide price of ‘£1,000 to £2,000’).

Alex Kemp