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The never-ending debate over dress codes in women's golf is less about hemlines and more about tension between traditionalists and modernists.

 

By Sally Jenkins

Golf for Women

May/June 2006

 

Capris or Bermuda shorts? Ankle socks or roll-tops? And where, pray tell, do we stand on belly buttons?

 

The dress code issue continues to torment women's golf. For decades now, players, commentators and spectators have argued over women's garments and what they mean for the game. The difference between shorts that are two inches above the knee or four inches above the knee, I must admit, eludes me, but other people fly into tempests over those little swatches of fabric.

 

I've never paid much attention to fashion, but even I admit that clothes have their own social psychology. Have you ever glanced at what someone was reading and made sweeping judgments about their character based on the book in their hand? That's what people do with clothes. They are a public articulation of identity.

 

And they are especially loaded with meaning in women's golf at the moment, since LPGA Tour players seem to be wearing less and less of them. Whether we're talking about the length of Michelle Wie's skirt or a cropped sweater worn by a woman on the cover of this magazine, the dress code debate in golf is about exactly who female golfers think they are.

 

Historically, women's golfwear has reflected a conservative, elite, middle-aged, country-club ethic: shin-length skirts, two-toned cleats, cardigan sweaters and pearls. Or, boxy shorts and collared shirts, crisp female versions of male professionalism. Yet as women's golf goes mainstream, so will its clothing. A whole new generation of designers--Lija, J. Lindeberg, Bally, Nike and Burberry--has entered the clothing market and is tinkering with the "look" of golf.

 

The clothing debate reflects the divide within women's golf between the traditionalists and the modernists. Traditionalists worry that the new styles betray the old ethic, and that they suggest that women's golf by itself doesn't sell; that the game needs to show some skin because performance isn't enough. It's a valid point, but younger athletes don't see it that way. To them, exposing more of their bodies, on which they have worked hard in the gym and at the driving range, is the ultimate in control.

 

The American Junior Golf Association was so concerned with the trend toward revealing abdomens that beginning with the 2005 season, it banned shirts that "rise above the belt line at any time during the golf swing." The AJGA's counterpart overseas, The Ladies' Golf Union, based at St. Andrews in Scotland, refused to follow. "Showing belly buttons will have LGU approval," a spokesperson said.

 

The LPGA Tour comes down emphatically on the side of modernism. Its current dress code is expressly vague: It allows collarless shirts and imposes no limits on skirt or shorts length. It only forbids denim, cutoffs and workout clothes.

 

Back in 2002, former LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw recognized that if the tour wanted to widen its demographics, it needed to remake its frumpy image. Spectator golf is ultimately a personality-driven sport, only as popular as its star players. The old golf fashions--the 19-inch shorts, bulky collared shirts and stiff canvas visors--were like a dowdy old uniform. Votaw tried to place LPGA Tour golfers with fashion houses, but he encountered resistance. He got mail from viewers and spectators protesting that shorts were getting too short, or that sleeveless shirts didn't conform to an old dress code.

 

It's good and necessary that women's golf has a few fashion rebels opening the game to a younger audience. The penalty for an overemphasis on tradition is to risk becoming an anachronism. This is not to say that golf should abandon its good taste and customs altogether. But surely, those players who want to express their modernism through clothes should be able to do so without having their professionalism questioned. In fact, the tension between old and new is what makes golf so interesting, whether we're talking about club technology, courses, or clothes. As Robin Givhan, fashion critic for The Washington Post, has pointed out: "Fashion has always been a dialogue. Without the voices of consistency and quiet reason, the rebels would have nothing to measure themselves against."

 

And that's the real point. Not everyone has to wear the same thing. This is the problem with conformity: It's boring.

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  • 3 weeks later...
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I'll admit to being a bit old fashioned, i.e. not real hip. However, I have only seen one or two women on whom IMO cropped/capri pants looked good. It's just not a flattering line. Any objection that I have to what is being worn on golf courses or the LPGA is that the poor players look as though the material was applied in a spray booth. When involved in an active sport, it looks kinda silly to have the material across the bust or butt stretched as tightly as might be acceptable while walking down the street or dining out. Generally, wearing clothing that doesn't fit (too tight or baggy) simply begs for comments -- most of them negative. Have a women in my golf club that wears mismatched and over-sized clothing (hardly outfits) anyway, she would be a great candidate for "What Not To Wear" as would some of the LPGA players who are unaware of their true clothing size.

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I must say that I'm a traditional modernist. I like the bermuda shorts (cut above the knee), but wouldn't mind not having to wear sleeves or collar. I like the new stlyle of golf shirts: some collarless and sleeveless. What I don't like is the new style of shorts and/or skirts that have to show half your business. This is a sport. Wearing shorts that give you camel toe or are cut so high that they wedge up your butt, IMO would not be very comfortable. But that's just me.

 

Like you, Debit, I feel some women should not wear capri pants. Capri's are for women who are tall. Short women only mangage to make their legs look even stumpier. I'm sorry, that's probably not politically correct. It only manages to make them look more vertically challenged. :crazy:

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  • 4 weeks later...

OMG camel foot...is how we used to refer to it! hee hee... ahem, anyway

 

I don't mind the collars...I just wish there were more cap sleeved shirts. I like the coolmax fabric but the sleeveless leave my shoulders exposed to a LOT of sun. It's too damn hot down here to have full sleeves.

 

I like shorts. About mid-thigh. A lot of the women in my EWGA wear the skorts, but they are a LOT thinner than me. :cheesy:

 

The thing I find really interesting about the newer/younger pros are the big dangly earrings. They look pretty silly and the banging around would make me nuts.

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I always think those earrings have to be distracting, too! I can't even wear a watch when I play.

Having seen the ladies in person, I think the LPGA has to set some kind of guidelines for appropriate attire. I'm not an old fogey, but when those younger players bend over to pick up their ball, you kind of want to avert your eyes (except for the perv's, of course :cheesy: ). And exposed bellies, that's really too much skin (and for some players, really too much skin).

Consider that these women would not be allowed on the course in their attire if they were just playing as members at the club!

It's not how...it's how many

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I am quite fond of the many cute golf outfits. I have to admit, it is one of the reasons I picked up the sport. I do work out and do my best to keep in shape so I like the opportunity to show off a little - to a reasonable extent. But skirts and shorts that are too tight and short really don't belong on the course. I suppose exposed midriffs also can be a little too much depending on how much is shown. Big dangly earrings are silly. I prefer to not wear jewelry when I play.

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I am a guy, but voted anyway...also, this is from the matchplay:

 

FASHION STATEMENTS

Paula Creamer lived up to her "Pink Panther" moniker.

 

Creamer wore a black outfit with pink accessories during her morning match, then switched to a pink and white stripped shirt and a pink skirt and cap in the afternoon.

 

Her Adidas shoes -- black in the morning and white in the afternoon -- had pink stripes and spikes. She also had a pink ribbon in hair and wore pink earrings and a pink sweatband. The grips on her clubs also are pink.

 

The Nike-adorned Michelle Wie wore an orange top and cap and black skirt during the morning round, then went with a white top and blue cap and skirt in the afternoon.

 

Ok, so pink spikes now...does anyone think this is getting out of hand? Also, I apologize in advance for the threadjack, but thought this was interesting...I am a big Wie fan by the way:

 

Notes: Wie Gives Silent Treatment; Knock on Wie?

By Sports Network - July 08, 2006

 

GLADSTONE, N.J. -- Michelle Wie didn't speak to her opponents Saturday in the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

 

"She's not much of a talker," Se Ri Pak said after her 2-and-1 loss in the third round. "Me, I was having fun with my caddie. She wasn't really talking at all. We were not having any conversation at all, but this is a match game. It was a little weird, but that's fine. She wanted to win."

 

Wie also gave Brittany Lincicome the silent treatment during the 16-year-old star's 4-and-3 loss in the quarterfinals.

 

"I would tell her 'Good shot' and she would say nothing in return," Lincicome said. "Maybe she was just focused. Maybe I was messing her up by trying to talk to her."

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I am a guy, but voted anyway...also, this is from the matchplay:

 

FASHION STATEMENTS

Paula Creamer lived up to her "Pink Panther" moniker.

 

Creamer wore a black outfit with pink accessories during her morning match, then switched to a pink and white stripped shirt and a pink skirt and cap in the afternoon.

 

Her Adidas shoes -- black in the morning and white in the afternoon -- had pink stripes and spikes. She also had a pink ribbon in hair and wore pink earrings and a pink sweatband. The grips on her clubs also are pink. .............

 

Ok, so pink spikes now...does anyone think this is getting out of hand?.....................

 

Yes, I do. :cheesy: Check my post in this thread link below. I certainly understand branding and image, but Paula Creamer and her agents are really going much too far with this "PINK" theme, I think.

 

http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13836

 

PS: In regards to the general fashion issue - I"m OK with nice outfits, but there is some stuff that is completely inappropriate that I see out there. I wouldn't want my daughters dressing like some of these gals out there.

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Okay, it's not just me. That's encouraging. The question I have asked before -- and gotten no answer -- is to whom are these companies (Nike, Adidis, etc.) trying to market their clothing lines? It is generally true that most private clubs and upscale daily fee facilities don't allow -- sleeveless, collarless shirts or short shorts/skirts/skorts. Those bare midrifts will get you banned from the grillroom as well. Where else, besides a country club, would anyone wear what is obviously designed as golf clothes? When tennis was all the rage during my misspent youth, we didn't wear tennis skirts in "public" but only to and from the courts. Also, given the cost of these little numbers sported by Ms. Wie, Gulbis, etc. -- those diapers (aka skirts) retail for well over $100. Are there really teenagers with so much money that they would blow $100+ on a single skirt/skort that you can't really wear anywhere? Oh ya and such really trendy fashion colors as well .... let's see there is hot pink, fucsia, coral, and black. At least if you blow the clothing allowance on $150 shorts, you can also wear them to the beach/marina. The high end micromini Nike golf skorts could maybe be used if you're big into figure skating, but no where else that I can think of as even tennis has gone to the big short.

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I am an avid golfer and belong to a private club. Last year we changed our dress code to allow collarless shirts for the women and skirt length was adjusted to mid thigh instead of a measured in-seam. It seemed to work as the ladies with longer legs or shorter torsos could have more flexibility in their golf wear.

As for me, I tend to wear a more stylish look. I veer away from the pleasted shorts and the baggy polo shirts. I am fit and enjoy working out. I also walk, so I layer my outifits if the weather changes or if I get warm.

I love Nike and Adidas and do lean towards the more fitted look. I hate the look of the manly outfits on many of the LPGA gals as it deters from the general public's interest in the ladies golf circuit, I hate to say. I watch their golf and have been a long time supporter of the LPGA, but the average "Joe" who is a casual observer or player to the game tends to concentrate their attention on the Natalie Gulbis's or Wies due, in great part, to their looks.

I think the LPGA could raise the bar on their dress code to discourage the short shorts that are seen and the frumpiness some of the other looks. If the look was more professional, there might be more interest.

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I think the LPGA could raise the bar on their dress code to discourage the short shorts that are seen and the frumpiness some of the other looks. If the look was more professional, there might be more interest.

Making women golfers sex objects doesn't make them more professional as athletes. It detracts from the actual sport because it assumes that men only watch women who are attractive and wearing skimpy outfits. There's no question the women's outfits are getting more stylish (which is good), but when they are being ogled mostly for their short skirts and the possibility that one will bend too far over, it's a problem. I agree with you, that's an easy fix. Defining "frumpy"....well, what are you going to tell Pat Hurst to wear? :drinks:

It's not how...it's how many

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Yes, I see that the "loose" standard the LPGA has imposed allows for the wide variety of looks that is seen on this tour. For me, I can look past the "outer" appearance and watch the "golf" because I'm a true addict of the sport and watch almost anything associated with it. However, I have friends that can't grab the remote fast enough when they see some of the LPGA tournaments unless Natalie or Michele are being featured. And the short skirt/skort, busty tight shirts, etc...is all they want to talk about. To heck with the golf...

 

IMO, the LPGA is using the appeal of the young, attractive golfers to draw attention to their tour, but have no answers in how to retain that interst to the other fantastic golfers that may not have that same appeal.

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I'm sure your wife looks very nice in her coral skort outfit -- but the discussion is more about the length of the skort, i.e. Ms Wie barely covers her dignity. The women that I see wearing these generally have them to at least mid-thigh if not a bit longer. I don't find them particularly comfortable nor flattering to me and my figure -- or lack thereof. Never thought of shorts and polo as "man dressing", just appropriately comfortable for an active sport. Of course this all presupposes that the shorts and shirt fit vs have room for one more in one or both of them.

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  • 1 month later...

one of my golf friends wears the skorts and they are short. real short. but she's all legs and in great shape...(hate her, really). we generally play a variety of semi-private courses around here..and especially in the summer it's HOT here and very very humid. A big part of my new gym routine has to do with losing 20lbs so I can wear some lighter clothing. A lot of it happens to be shorter, sleeveless etc. it seems most of the clubs down here, private, semi and public have gotten over the collared shirt thing. the addidas collarless shirts are nice and VERY comfortable.

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  • 1 month later...

The LPGA is much more enjoyable to watch now that there are some attractive women that can actually play. I would much rather watch Natalie Gulbis than Pat Hurst. I think more men are watching the LPGA than women and if thats the case the LPGA is doing the right thing marketing the more attractive women on their tour.

JMHO

Mike :)

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Mike, I think it goes without saying that it's human nature to observe what some profess to be an attractive person over someone who is less attractive or fit. Hey, it's life......trust me, I like looking at Adam Scott more than Phil Mickelson.

 

That being said, I would watch Pat Hurst stroke the ball any day of the week....that girl can play!

 

I'm a proponent of "wear what makes you feel good". I don't mind the short skirts.....on the girls that can wear them. Christina Kim seems comfortable with herself, some of her choices are questionable, the LPGA lets her wear it....who am I to say no. I wear some clothes during my round that are quite similar to Christina Kim.......mine however are the correct size and fit.

 

 

My .02.

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  • 4 months later...

I tend to prefer to wear shorter shorts and sleeveless-- collared, if necessary-- blouses, not out of a lack of modesty or wanting to "show off," but because I am more comfortable in it, and also because a good part of the year it can be quite hot and sticky down here in FL. I love the heat, and can tolerate it very well (useless in the cold though, lol), but need to keep the clothing light on the course. Fabrics that breathe are important, too.

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