Versatile, elegant and practical: how Caroline Harrington perfectly styled Europe’s Ryder Cup women and friends

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Versatile, elegant and practical: how Caroline Harrington perfectly styled Europe's Ryder Cup women and friends

he commentary on the opening ceremony of the 43rd Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits lasted only minutes when the fashion analysis began.

And for the record, it wasn’t the TV-style police who were brought in to dice and slice the outfits that went off early, but the golf fans themselves who tweeted what the home team looked like Mr. Bean, all spiced up in their tobacco brown herringbone tweed jackets.

On closer inspection, Steve Stricker’s American golf squad was the spit of Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean in their tweeds in exactly the same color as the unfortunate TV and movie comedy. The jackets were styled with a blue buttoned shirt, a dark blue diagonally striped rugby club tie, and topped off with a white pocket square in the breast pocket.

It wasn’t so much transatlantic cultural embezzlement in the fashion sense, but the three-button single-breasted tweed jacket with its thick herringbone chevrons and large flap pockets was really much more of Scottish Highlands squire, Victorian nobility, or literal Oxford University don, than it was American university don Golfer who lives in year-round sunshine.

When the camera switched to the players’ wives and girlfriends, you could see an entirely different change of direction from their 2018 conservative look of a very safe little black cap sleeve sheath dress. This time they opted for lederhosen, worn with a white shirt and a black coat of arms with silver buttons. Lederhosen are not for everyone – at all ages. The choice of shoes and handbags was left to itself.

The whole concept of asking women to dress the same – and they agree – is a hot topic of conversation every two years around the Ryder Cup. The comparisons with the Stepford Wives are inevitable. It baffles some people. It bothers others. Intensive.

Dublin resident Caroline Harrington is an incredibly practical woman and as the captain this time, she said her whole agenda was to create a look that would suit women of all ages, shapes and sizes, and come up with something that they might wear want again.

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Sketches of the Ryder Cup outfits styled by Caroline Harrington

Sketches of the Ryder Cup outfits styled by Caroline Harrington

After all, it is the age of sustainability and nobody wants “single wear” in their wardrobe, especially if it is made by the Italian luxury brand Loro Piano.

For the European players, Caroline and her husband and team captain Pádraig developed the concept of a dark blue single-breasted suit and tie in EU flag blue, complemented with brown leather shoes. And thankfully there was no nod to the fashionable style that has graced Irish weddings for years – the ubiquitous pale blue suit and tan shoes. Team Europe’s men’s shoes in Whistling Straits were made of dark brown walnut leather yesterday, and Pádraig has been overseeing the athletic functionality of their outfits, which we will see on the course in the coming days.

The ladies rocked a cream and caramel look with a reversible coat with a hidden half-belt on Thursday, and they all wore the coat with the cream-side out for the opening ceremony at 4 p.m. local time in Wisconsin.

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The women and friends of Team Europe during the opening ceremony.  Reuters

The women and friends of Team Europe during the opening ceremony. Reuters

The women and friends of Team Europe during the opening ceremony. Reuters

A centerpiece of the look was a flared knit dress that had the look and relaxed elegance of the pleated dresses that the late Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaïa was famous for, with lovely flattering pleats.

Almost all of the women wore the same cream-colored patent leather high heels by Jimmy Choo, plus a Meghan Markle bag. Not a bag designed by the Duchess, but one from Strathberry, the Edinburgh-based luxury handbag label that Meghan loves so much and wore when she visited Dublin.

The two-tone Strathberry bag in cream and caramel, which yesterday echoed the colors of the woman’s coat and long scarf, was recognizable by its clean lines and characteristic bolt closure. It’s a very nice memory of the Ryder Cup 2021 and I would be surprised if the GWAGS don’t want to use it again, along with the Jimmy Choo shoes the Lady Captain gave them in a Ryder Cup tradition.

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Lee Westwood from England and Team Europe and wife Helen Storey.  Getty

Lee Westwood from England and Team Europe and wife Helen Storey. Getty

Lee Westwood from England and Team Europe and wife Helen Storey. Getty

Just a few hours after the event, the European women’s outfits were praised in the press as being elegant and stylish down to the smallest detail. You can understand why the other wives and girlfriends trusted Caroline Harrington’s tastes, starting with her nickname.

She is known as ‘Ceefax’ among pro golfers on tour, after the old teletext channel, because she knew everything about golf and if anyone wanted to know how they fare in the table, the Dubliner always had the information at hand.

Aside from the golf course, the mother of two is certainly familiar with Irish and international designer fashion brands, from Peter Pilotto, Roland Mouret, Rocksanda Ilincic and Pinko to Zara on the high street. When the coat was originally kept in red for the opening ceremony, Caroline Harrington had it changed to the off-white option. That was a good call.

For the next few days you will see the women and friends of Team Europe carrying bags from the French brand Longchamp, including a backpack to carry their little things on the track.

Caroline, who designs golf apparel with her husband for Dunnes Stores, has designed over a dozen items of clothing for the ladies on the course in shades of navy, royal blue, gray and white. The ladies can choose from three different jackets, pants, a skort, hoodies, a waistcoat, a cardigan and a scarf and combine several layers to personalize their look. Shoe options range from Foot Joy golf shoes to sneakers and there are even team rubbers for when the weather turns bad. However, when the sun is shining, the team will wear Maui Jim sunglasses.

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Team United States' Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits.  Image: Getty

Team United States’ Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits. Image: Getty

Team United States’ Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits. Image: Getty

During the captain’s speech yesterday, Pádraig Harrington turned to address Caroline and thank her and her sons Paddy and Ciarán and acknowledge that he would not have made it without her support.

And when the sun really shines for Team Europe and they go home the winner, Pádraig will get a lasting souvenir, as he has promised to pull off the team’s tattoo machine and get inked.

My bet is it will be a ladybug, a nod to his Carnoustie win in 2007 when the three-year-old paddy became known worldwide as the boy who wanted to put ladybugs in the claret jug of the golfing world.

There was no gala dinner for the two teams this year, so no opportunity to dress super glam like the rival teams did at the Palace of Versailles in September 2018 when the Ryder Cup was held in France.

Covid restrictions meant that the event schedule in Wisconsin was directly cut back, so that Team Europe had dinner on Wednesday evening at the American Club in Kohler.

The fashion for the night included lots of little black guys with great heels, a look preferred by Wendy Honner, who is married to Shane Lowry and Erica Stoll, Rory McIlroy’s wife, who stood out in her Valentino studded heels.

Kristin Stape, the wife of Vice-Captain Graeme McDowell, wore a gathered gold velvet dress and sparkling heels. Jon Rahm’s wife Kelley Cahill wore a very form-fitting long red dress with a dramatic slit to better show off her Christian Louboutin spike shoes. Caroline Harrington kept her cream theme going, wearing a long sculpted dress with chandelier diamond earrings, a silver bag and shoes.

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Paulina Gretzky and Dustin Johnson

Paulina Gretzky and Dustin Johnson

Paulina Gretzky and Dustin Johnson

In the meantime, the US players and their families had a pre-Ryder Cup dinner Monday night that saw Paulina Gretzky, friend of Dustin Johnson, her very leggy look of a blazer and shorts set and diamond engagement ring Documented 1 million Instagram followers.

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