Even if you dress down for work, don't expect those swank private clubs to let you through the door.

L.A.'s elite clubs are keeping a stiff upper lip and requiring that members and their guests wear "proper attire" most of the time. For men, that is coats and ties. For women it's skirts and formal pants.

At the California Club, which is more than 100 years old and sits in a seven-story building at 538 S. Flower St. in downtown Los Angeles, few exceptions are made.

"The only casual dressing we allow here is on the third-floor patio and the card room off the patio, where we allow members to take off their coats but not their ties," said Harry Richter, general manager. "Other than that, it is formal attire for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our environment doesn't really lend itself to casual."

Down the street at the venerable Jonathan Club, founded in 1895 by a group of men backing the presidential candidacy of William McKinley, members are slowly breaking down the walls, said club President Todd Anderson.

"We recognize that business across the country and around the world is changing toward a more casual dress, but the place that is most apparent is in Los Angeles," he said. "As such, we made changes last May to our dress-code policy."

Those changes include a casual dress code for a wider area of the club, which occupies a 13-story brick structure built in 1927 at 545 S. Figueroa St. The Tap Room, a casual bar and dining area, allows casual attire, as do the Jonathan Club's meeting rooms. On Fridays, the Grill Room, which is much like a steakhouse, allows diners to wear casual clothes. But the two formal dining rooms, with their ornate Italian Renaissance d & #233;cor, remain formal.

Over at the Regency Club in Westwood, it's strictly business attire for entry to the club's various dining rooms and meeting rooms. But about two years ago, the club initiated casual Fridays, when upscale casual attire is allowed.

"We saw that a lot of companies were casual on Friday, and we have to accommodate our members," explained Gerard Fossali, the club's managing director.

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