Her knickers launched a thousand quips, and photographers lay on their stomachs to get better pictures of the famous frillies which even provoked a debate in Parliament.

That's the way it was 58 years ago this week when Gertrude "Gorgeous Gussie" Moran played in the women's singles at Wimbledon, making an iconic fashion statement.

Better known for her Teddy Tinling-designed underwear than her overhead, as critics put it, Gertrude could scarcely have been more provocative in stuffy SW19 had she played topless.

She was incensed when the committee of the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club declined to relax their all-white dress code, and allow her to play in a coloured dress. She persuaded Tinling, a decent player pre-war, who had turned his hand to fashion design, to make ruffled lace-trimmed knickers which she wore twice during the opening week. They had a broad trimming of lace around the leg, like French knickers.

Though they stayed within the letter of the rules, they ripped a volley right through the spirit of them. Tinling was reportedly paid £10 for his work. Wimbledon should have paid him a bonus for the interest he generated.

Fights reportedly broke out between photographers desperate for space to lie flat on the ground in order to get the best angle of their subject on Centre Court, as she tossed the ball up to serve. Now the BBC ban cameras from sighting from below the waist.

The All-England blazeratti were blazing. One affronted buffty told Tinling: "You have put sin and vulgarity into tennis", and his job in player liaison and as master of ceremonies was forfeited.

It was reported as the first time womens' knickers had been intentionally put on public display outside the music hall or burlesque house. But Moran and Tinling proved the biggest single influence ever to hit tennis fashion. It was 1963 before the all-white Wimbledon rule was relaxed, but for over two decades, frilly knickers in Britain were regularly referred to as "Gorgeous Gussies".

Moran admitted that the furore had detracted from her performance. She adorned magazine covers worldwide. A racehorse, aircraft, and a sauce were named after her. She subsequently appeared as a tennis player in a Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn film, became a radio presenter, and also posed in her frilly kit in department stores. She was married at least three times, and was engaged to an Indian maharaja.

She is now reportedly on Social Security in California, but is helped by friends who persuaded her to autograph lace panties and balls. Tennis museums have pairs of the panties. Other items have been auctioned on eBay, with the proceeds going to Gussy.

Tinling, born 97 years ago on Saturday, subsequently designed ensembles for players including Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Martina Navratilova, and Virginia Wade. He was welcomed back to Wimbledon in 1983.

When he died in 1990, Tinling's big secret emerged. He had been a spy - a British intelligence officer during World War II.