From Wimbledon to weddings, galas to garden parties, a packed social diary can take a toll on even the most seasoned of socialites. Enter: us. We’re here to help navigate the terrain of dress codes, event attire and Royal Enclosure etiquette (just in case). So dust off your old cadet uniform as we take you on a crash course in managing the social calendar.
Think of us as your sartorial metal detectors as we guide you through wedding traditions and show you how to be the best-dressed guest at every occasion, whether your tastes teeter towards wallflower or full-blown Carrie Bradshaw.
Women's Ball Gowns & Evening Dresses
Taking it from the top, let’s start with the gown. The right one can have you feeling all kinds of fabulous. Begin by working out which style works for you. Will a frothy tulle confection make you feel like a meringue or a megastar? Don’t be afraid to cut away from convention. Yes, 2019 is the year of liquid satin silhouettes. But if the notoriously unforgiving fabric will have you on the brink all evening, then opt for something softer – we suggest Rixo.
Similarly, if fashion fanfare is your thing, let loose in ruffles/feathers/tumbling layers of chiffon (delete as appropriate, or not). Labels like Alexandre Vauthier and Carmen March will be your playmates; those forgoing the frill will find respite in the houses of Keepsake and Roland Mouret. Whichever direction you take, it's an opportunity to shine bright like a diamond. Also referred to as 'white tie', the ball is an occasion when only a full-length dress will do. And when it comes to sparkle, the sky's the limit. First-time brides, and those already married, can crown the look with a tiara (but it is considered crass for younger girls). So polish your palatial pieces, get the diamonds out of the vault and amp up the glamour.
'Also referred to as "white tie", the ball is an occasion when only a full-length dress will do. And when it comes to sparkle, the sky's the limit.'
SHOP EVENING DRESSES
Women's Race Day Dresses
Whether it’s Ladies Day, the regatta or the races, the key is fluidity. Ok, so you probably won’t be competing in any sports yourself, but you still don’t want to be ringside in a stiff suit or pencil skirt that restricts you to an ungainly hobble. Move towards fabrics free of constriction: linen, cotton blends and crepe are all breathable and wrinkle-resistant – an added benefit at events where you’ll be making lots of trips to the Champagne bar.
Conservative clothing needn’t be unimaginative; conquer the dress code with delicate accessories and either a muted colour palette or one striking shade to ensure you stay the right side of OTT territory. Streamlined silhouettes continue to reign supreme at these events, so look to the floaty shapes of labels like Diane von Furstenberg and Preen By Thornton Bregazzi. Skin on show will raise more than just an eyebrow; ensure your outfit grants access to all areas by shielding shoulders beneath a lightweight pashmina, shawl or structured bolero jacket. Hats are non-negotiable, so opt for a style that'll stay on all day, and pack a few hairpins to protect from high winds, rogue pigeons and energetic outbursts if your horse comes in first.
Women's Floral Dresses
As the experts at Debrett’s explain; “'Come as you are’ rarely means what it says,” so save face and stick to timeless styles. Scope out other guests’ attire by asking in advance to avoid any red-faced arrivals. While florals for spring bring to mind Miranda Priestly’s scornful putdown, flowers and garden parties make for a harmonious mix, naturally. For an eternally elegant look that requires little effort, fall back on the fantastical florals of Erdem.
If you’re a Brit, this goes without saying – but for the benefit of those who don’t spend 10 months of the year carrying both an umbrella and sunglasses, then do consider the climate. Throwing a shindig in Shropshire? Attending a soirée in Suffolk? No Brit would leave the house without a coat, and with good reason. Opt for a smart jacket or cashmere cardigan for when the evening cools. So the party day brings glorious sunshine – hurrah. But what if the weather wasn’t playing ball before? Stilettos are a dangerous choice – much safer are wedges or espadrilles; even a high-voltage dress won’t save the shame of an evening spent pulling heels out of soggy grass.
'For an eternally elegant look that requires little effort, fall back on the fantastical florals of Erdem.'
SHOP FLORAL DRESSES
Women's Wedding Guest Dresses
Avoid tricky wedding traditions with timeless touches. Skip body-con in favour of soft fabrics, and keep the bride sweet by asking in advance if there’s a colour code you should copy. Traditionalists will steer clear of brash tones and black, but as a rule of thumb, the happy couple dictates the dress code. Off to a big white wedding? Let pastels prove your No.1 guest credentials with watercolour figure-skimming styles and sparkling finishing touches.
Perhaps your pals are saying ‘I do’ barefoot on the beach or under a wisteria-clad canopy in a field; carefully consider the location of the big day and the style of the couple. A Dalston duo may applaud your peacocking, whereas the classic couple may ask that you stick to convention. They’re your friends; you know what they like. Weddings are great – we love them. But by gum are they long. Opt for layers that can be re-worked throughout the day: shedding a shawl here, hiking a hem there. And remember, the higher the heel, the more likely you are to fling them under a table as soon as the speeches end. Don’t be that person.
There’s always one, isn’t there? The guest who refuses to wear a dress, no matter the occasion. If that sounds like you, then we salute your sartorial stubbornness. Make sure the invites keep coming with a statement one-piece and colour-pop accessories. You may be ditching the dress, but that doesn’t mean that all codes go. Compensate for the extra effort a dress can bring with striking accents and an expertly constructed ensemble.
Razor-sharp tailoring, while always appropriate, isn’t a must. But a well-fitting one-piece is – no saggy crotches or pinched underarms, please. Head to your nearest Harvey Nichols for a fitting to get your measurements. Balance bold jumpsuits with minimal accents, and pair prints with simple but elegant shoes and fuss-free hair. Braving a bright hue? Counter citrus shades with metallics and complement dark shades with well-selected accessories and a playful bag to avoid looking like you're mourning your former wing-woman’s freedom.
'Counter citrus shades with metallics and complement dark shades with well-selected accessories and a playful bag to avoid looking like you're mourning your former