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

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

U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, the last remaining ATP World Tour-level tournament in the country still played on clay courts, returned to River Oaks Country Club this week following a three-year, pandemic induced hiatus.

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The week-long event, which lasts for a week, is commonly referred to simply as “tennis.” Between Sunday book-ends, 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 more tables. More special touches. More of everything.

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As guests made dramatic entrances down the back staircase, an electric violinist entertained them with Top 40 remixes. 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 Styrofoam cups containing the double rum-pear concoction are always in high demand.

Headpieces are also very popular. 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 little more 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. Many floral looks were displayed on a winding catwalk in keeping with the secret garden theme. A mix of familiar brands like Oscar de la Renta or Carolina Herrera was used to create newer labels like Staud and Libertine, Zimmermann, and Aje. A few of the attendees wore the same look-ups that were featured in the fashion show. Highlights were the white Valentino and silk mini dresses in silk taffeta in tangerine, or other shades of pink.

Fady Armanious, Tootsies creative Director, and Donna Lewis, the store owners, invited attendees into another pop-up to shop the runway. Tenenbaum Jewelers was a sponsor and sent male models carrying trays containing jewelry to the crowd. The young gents proved nearly as popular as Planter’s Punch. The young gents reminded guests that they were offering complimentary tokens at each location. They could be used to win shopping credits, or a Tenenbaum Tent watch.

Jewellers rushed to see if they were in the right place. True sports fans made the trek to the stadium to watch tournament matches. It’s not required, but some come to Clay Court for tennis the verb, not the noun.

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