She once dominated the cover of Sports Illustrated as “the most beautiful sportswoman of 1963”, but it’s the iconic fashion of tennis which Madonna Schacht hopes is remembered.
- A collection of tennis dresses worn by Madonna Schacht have been acquired by Queensland Museum
- The dresses were designed by fashion icon Teddy Tinling for individual players
- The musuem hopes to “tell a really great Queensland tennis story”
First selected to the Australian tennis team in 1962, Ms Schacht went on to play internationally until her early retirement in 1966.
She was a Wimbledon finalist and beat Billie-Jean King in the quarter finals of the 1964 Victorian tennis championship.
“I look back to those years fondly,” Ms Schacht said.
“It was a lot of excitement and the experience was just invaluable.”
After six decades, three dresses individually tailored for Ms Schacht by fashion designer Teddy Tinling will be immortalised in Queensland Museum’s collection.
“He designed clothes for the particular players according to their personality and playing style,” Ms Schacht said.
“Each dress was unique.”
The Teddy Tinling-designed tennis dresses have been acquired by Queensland Museum. (Supplied: Queensland Museum)
‘Icon of tennis fashion’
Tinling designed sportswear for the biggest names in women’s tennis, including Billie Jean King, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong.
Incorporating lace, ribbons, braiding and even pink loveheart applique, Tinling was “an icon of tennis fashion”, according to Queensland Museum’s Judith Hickson.
Delicate heart designs are a feature of one of the dresses. (Supplied: Queensland Museum)
“He added little flourishes and touches and design details that he felt represented the personalities,” she said.
The dresses have come to be in the hands of Queensland Museum almost by accident.
Ms Schacht donated the dresses to charity “quite some time ago”, and lost track of them until a friend’s sister found them at an auction more than 10 years ago.
Friend and former state police minister Judy Spence said her sister gave the dresses to her mother where they had since been “sitting in a plastic bag”.
Close up of Madonna Schacht’s name weaved into her tennis dress. (Supplied: Queensland Museum)
“They’re very cute, short, white,” Ms Spence said.
“The individual attention to detail in them — the lace or the words Madonna written all over the dress, pink hearts.”
Ms Spence said the pair then decided to donate the dresses to Queensland Museum.
“They’re very pretty dresses, much prettier I think than what women wear today,” she said.
‘A great Queensland tennis story’
Ms Hickson said she hoped including the dresses in the museum’s collection would “tell a really great Queensland tennis story that we don’t have represented”.
“She [Ms Schacht] deliberately decided at a young age, a little bit like Ash Barty, to give up tennis,” Ms Hickson said.
“There hasn’t been a lot known about her before this.”
A magazine clipping about Madonna Schacht. (Supplied: Queensland Museum)
Reflecting on her “short-lived” tennis career 60 years after it first started, Ms Schacht said her “energy and emotional drive seemed to wager” in her mid-20s.
“It is a difficult lifestyle — always a lot of training, a lot of travel, a lot of preparation for tournaments, and a lot of stress,” she said.
Ms Schacht left her professional career behind in 1966 to become a teacher but noted how “tennis has become a very different game”.
Madonna Schacht relaxes at her Gold Coast home. (ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)
“The commercial side of the game has certainly changed,” she said.
“It’s hard yards in terms of the training, preparation and the nervous tensions that go with playing big tournaments.”