July 22, 2024


Everyday Fashion

Tootsies’ Clay Court luncheon returns with caviar and a fashion show at River Oaks Country Club


U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship returned to River Oaks Country Club this week following a three-year hiatus.

In certain circles, the week-long event is known simply as “tennis.” Between Sunday bookends, the club’s members-only white party with the athletes and championship match, is another one-name-only soiree: the “luncheon.”

Renovations to ROCC’s pool — which will become a rumored four pools upon completion — moved the 2022 Clay Court luncheon chaired by Kelly Hackett to the golf-cart adjacent members lawn. Some missed the runway that’s typically erected over the chlorine water, others did not. The grassy stretch allowed for more tables. More special touches. More everything.

An electric violinist serenaded guests with remixed Top 40 hits as they made dramatic entrances down the back staircase. Berg Hospitality chef Robert Del Grande and operating partner Sam Governale wooed arrivals with Turner’s caviar blinis, another first.

There were multiple pop-up bars this year and oh so many opportunities to order Planter’s Punch, the unofficial drink of “tennis” week. The double rum and pineapple concoction served in Styrofoam cups is always an in-demand accessory.

As are head pieces. Millinery is always popular at the luncheon, though the showing on Thursday rivaled Hermann Park Conservancy’s annual “Hats in the Park.” Clay Court fashion is more relaxed and a bit daring. Young women wore (modest) crop tops and mini-skirts, ruffled dresses with trainers, cut-outs and backless sundresses.

The outfits shown by Tootsies, the luncheon’s presenting sponsor, were nothing short of head-turning. In keeping with the secret garden theme, dozens of floral looks paraded around a winding catwalk. Familiar brands like Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera were mixed in with newer labels like Staud, Libertine, Zimmermann and Aje. A few attendees wore the same get-ups featured in the fashion show. Stand-outs included crisp white Valentino and silk taffeta mini dresses in tangerine or shades of pink.

Afterward, Tootsies creative director Fady Armanious and store owners Norm and Donna Lewis invited attendees to shop the runway at yet another pop-up. Fellow sponsor Tenenbaum Jewelers sent male models carrying trays filled with jewelry into the crowd. The young gents proved nearly as popular as Planter’s Punch. And, they reminded guests complimentary tokens at each place setting were a catch to win shopping credits or a watch in the Tenenbaum Tent.

Jewelry lovers beelined to check their odds. True sports fans ventured over to the stadium for tournament matches. It’s not required, but some come to Clay Court for tennis the verb, not the noun.

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