Dress from 'cheeky' Tennis Girl poster to be auctioned

A white summer dress made famous in the iconic Tennis Girl poster of the 1970s is to be auctioned.

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.

Ms Butler, then 18 years old, was captured in a cheeky pose walking away from the camera, with her right hand grasping a tennis racquet and her left resting on her backside.

The then-unknown commercial photographer Mr Elliott sold the image licence to be re-printed in the 1977 Athena poster, and it went on to sell more than two million copies worldwide.

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

Ms Butler’s pose has been imitated by many over the years including pop star Kylie Minogue, comedians Frank Skinner and Ricky Gervais, as well as ITV1’s Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden, who was photographed in her tennis whites earlier this month.

The dress was made by Ms Butler’s friend Carol Knotts.

Ms Knotts, now a barrister, said: “I used to get a monthly allowance from my parents and in order to make it stretch that little bit further, I made my own clothes.

“As I played tennis at the local club in Stourbridge, I bought a ’Simplicity’ pattern and made my own dress, complete with lace trim.

“Fiona was a friend and one day asked if she could borrow my dress and racquet.

“When she returned them, she gave me a big box of chocolates as a thank you.

“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 was made famous by the picture, split with Ms Butler three years after taking the shot.

She was never paid for the photo, but Mr Elliott always said “I looked after her” – he died in 2010.

Now 55, Ms Butler has since married and lives in Worcestershire.

Mr Davies said: “There’s a generation of people who will remember this poster very well, so it’s a good time to put it up for auction.”

The dress, tennis racquet and two posters go under the hammer at Fieldings Auctioneers in Stourbridge, West Midlands, from 10am on Saturday July 5 – the day of the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final.

The lot is estimated to fetch between £1,000-£2,000 (€1,200-€2,400).

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