Decoding the Country Club Dress Code

Bustier: Plenty by Tracy Reese (Anthropologie, circa 2008) | Skirt: Rag & Bone (Consignment) | Blue Braided Belt: Artist & Fleas (Williamsburg) | Soes: Missoni (Consignment) | Handbag: Desmo (DSW, circa 2005) | Denim Jacket: Zara | "Pocket Square:" Christian Dior (Vintage) | Hat: Genie by Eugenia Kim (Lord & Taylor) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmasters
Bustier: Plenty by Tracy Reese (Anthropologie, circa 2008) | Skirt: Rag & Bone (Consignment) | Blue Braided Belt: Artist & Fleas (Williamsburg) | Soes: Missoni (Consignment) | Handbag: Desmo (DSW, circa 2005) | Denim Jacket: Zara | "Pocket Square:" Christian Dior (Vintage) | Hat: Genie by Eugenia Kim (Lord & Taylor) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmasters
Bustier: Plenty by Tracy Reese (Anthropologie, circa 2008) | Skirt: Rag & Bone (Consignment) | Blue Braided Belt: Artists & Fleas (Williamsburg) | Shoes: Missoni (Consignment) | Handbag: Desmo (DSW, circa 2005) | Denim Jacket: Zara | “Pocket Square:” Christian Dior (Vintage) | Hat: Genie by Eugenia Kim (Lord & Taylor) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmasters

In a world where 7-11 patrons need reminding that shoes and shirts are required for entry, it’s no surprise that most strict dress codes are relics of the past.

But in certain situations, protocol trumps comfort, and codes of closet conduct still rule. There will always be hats at royal weddings. Shoes will always be removed before entering a mosque or Hindu temple.

And during my visit to Westchester over the weekend, I was reminded of another set of sartorial rules: The country club dress code. That meant NO jeans on the golf course, NO shorts at dinner and NO flip flops anywhere.

My inspiration.
My bustier’s inspiration.

Country club dress codes can seem nitpicky — especially to non-members. The club I visited over the weekend is more than 100 years old, and the rules are particularly rigid. (And not just for clothes: I tried to check my e-mail and was told phones weren’t allowed outside the locker room — whoops!)

Personally, I find the formality to be charming. Dress codes also serve a great challenge to be as creative as possible without ever actually breaking the rules. (I got plenty of practice when I had a school uniform.)

The inspiration for my outfit came from a bustier-skirt combination I saw several years ago on “Sex and the City.” While a bustier never works for an office, it’s perfectly acceptable for lunch on a golf course, especially when you can quickly cover your shoulders with a denim jacket. (Jeans may be verboten, but denim jackets are a total loophole, especially when paired with a preppy pocket square.)

By the time dinner rolled around, both the dress code and temperature had changed (more formal; more freezing). So, I swapped the bustier for a sequined tunic that easily tucked into the skirt’s elastic waist. (I crammed the hat into my bag at the dinner table.)

 

White Tunic on Right: Maeve (Anthropologie)
The outfit quickly transitions between lunch and dinner. White Tunic on Right: Maeve (Anthropologie)

Unfortunately, the men in our group did not plan ahead for the dress code. One shorts-wearing friend was forced to buy pants in the golf gift shop. And two in our party were not allowed to eat on the patio unless they borrowed old dinner jackets left behind by other patrons. My husband wound up in a mauve WOMEN’S jacket. (I’ve been laughing ever since.) Another friend was offered what looked like an enormous trench coat. (The jokes comparing him to the flashers selling counterfeit Rolexes in Times Square? Gleefully rampant.)

This is what happens when you ignore the dress code.
This is what happens when you ignore the dress code.

I’m just grateful the bartender allowed me to bend the “no-cellphones” rule to snap this photo:

Let this be a potent reminder: Dress codes may seem old-fashioned, they may seem persnickety, and they may seem optional. But it is always better to be prepared… or you may end up in another man’s monkey suit.