What Do I Wear to Dinner at 8?

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Asked by his brother-in-law, Pete Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg, Inc., what the dress code would be for a family dinner party, writer/raconteur John Heilpern responded as follows.

Pete, concerning the dress code for our family dinner tonight: I have always believed that dress code is entirely a matter of personal taste, 
an understated style, and, of course, comfort. (It’s no use thinking for a single second that one looks good in tight trousers.) 


As you know, I usually wear a crown. I have two crowns, actually. One for day wear, one for evening wear. I do not wear my crown in the company of family, however, as the family needs no reminding that I have been an old queen for some time. Be that as it may, before tonight’s dinner at 8 for eight, I 
shall be taking a revivifying shower in the Jaipur pink onyx bathroom, followed by my customary spritz 
of Chanel Pour Homme, before proceeding down the corridor to my gentleman’s quarters. I always dress informally, though not too much so. I shall be wearing my lighter gray trousers purchased in Paris 
at Hartwood on the Left Bank. (Hence the deeper French trouser cuffs.) I wouldn’t have bought them, but the owner saw me looking around the place in 
my jeans and said I looked like a farmer. Trousers are trousers, though, let’s face it. A pleat here or there. Shirts are the thing. 


I have a number of blue shirts, in various shades that I prefer. Blue tends to flatter and reflect my pretty blue eyes (though not when they’re bloodshot). I bought some of my shirts many years ago from Turnbull & Asser when I lived in London, and like me they have only gotten better with age. 


Of late, however, I have favored white shirts. There is nothing to beat a simple, beautifully laundered white shirt. I might choose the Charvet (which cost me about $200,000—but what of that? Let’s not be vulgar), or the Arnys (which only cost $50,000 more, but then, it was on sale). Or I might choose the perfect white shirt—one of six I splurged on recently in Rajasthan from Anokhi (which cost $19.50 each, depending on the exchange rate, of course). Hmm. I shall have to decide. 


I never button my shirt cuffs, incidentally. It is a tribute to my mentor who never buttoned his, though his shirts were handmade and his suits Savile Row. David Astor always wore his jacket over his shoulders, too, and this throwaway, elegant casualness gave him 
a theatrical air. With his unbuttoned cuffs and all, he looked as if he was always about to finish dressing or go to bed. But no matter. His code had style.


I almost never wear a tie, but if I do, I never knot it. I have only three ties—all from Balenciaga. Two of my jackets are black cashmere and dark blue cashmere, and both have been widely admired, even by couturiers Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Rucci (who remarked on them, but only when I asked). They were purchased at Marion Sportshop in Massachussetts, where 
a man called Frank is reluctantly at your service. 


But I might not wear a jacket tonight, being at home. That said, I firmly believe that from the ankle down is of prime importance. My socks are a color-
ful touch, and I have quite a collection. They are all Richard James of London (One Size Fits All—or so they say). I buy them at Barneys as consolation for a visit to my dentist, whose office is nearby.


But shoes are the thing: the one true signifier of 
a gentleman. Which is what we are. In England, you can always tell a gentleman by his shoes. They are scuffed, never polished, and do not necessarily fit. This is because they have been inherited. Lobb shoes are willed to overeager relatives like Yankees season tickets are to the sons of the lifelong committed. But, if you please, only Lobb of London (shoemaker to 
the Duke of Windsor, whose lasting contribution to history was his invention of the Windsor knotted tie). 


As I shall be awaiting your presence indoors, however, I shall almost certainly go with a casual—but not too—pair of Tod’s. Suede shoes for men 
have forever been underestimated, and the American seasonal bias against them mystifies me. 


Well, Pete, I really ought to get on with my day now. See you tonight!