A request that is both fun and current – no, really!
Recently, I received a suggestion for a piece on this blog. Now, lately, this has become increasingly common (Nancy Sutton, your piece is in the pipeline!) but this request is especially tantalising to my writing aspirations – due to a personal geographical connection and the fact that it will tie in very well to my next entry.
First a quick word about the subject matter of my next (ish – since this post is going out as a multi-parter) post – which is inspired by the aforementioned Nancy. In it, I intend to address trends for this spring / summer – which is pretty much here, or has been – and assess which will suit WAIWers (and their lifestyles) most. Hold your breath for information on the 70s trend; colour pops; smart sportswear (if that’s possible); folk and craft influences; the colour blue (yes, this is news); pleating (ditto); denim; maxi-dresses (yippee – something I can do); layers; nude (don’t be put off by Beatrice); florals (gold star to anyone who can tell me who said ‘Florals? For spring? Ground breaking’) and – finally – cosmetics and accessories. There’s something there for everyone…hopefully – chins up – I found something for you all.
For the time being, however, I will occupy myself with the musings of the insightful Miss Jane Foran (there – named and shamed!) who texted me to say that I should have a look at the, sometimes, delightful pictures of clothing sported at a local – to me – race meeting, recently. She said ‘why not write about Aintree and Ascot fashion, and link to occasion dressing?’. Well, you know what, excellent idea!
I’m sure you, like me, have been – or are – going through what I call ‘the wedding year’. This comprises the year (or two, or three, or – heaven forbid – four) when everyone you know seems to decide that married bliss is a good idea. Worse still, often the marrying couples have the same circle of friends. Like a Venn diagram, the guests will overlap and this means that it is hard to wear the same outfit on numerous occasions without being ‘found out’. Sure, you can do the LBD thing and swap accessories like a pro. However, LBDs only really work in colder weather or – in S/S (spring / summer) – at a night do…at a push.
Then you have all the delights we indulge in during the two months – or approximately sixty days – that comprise a British ‘summer’. This may mean the races, or festivals, or church fêtes (hey, I’m not a judger – I grew up with these ‘events’), or afternoon teas, or barbeques, or pick-you-own trips, or garden festivals. Blah, blah, blah…meaning that the principle problem of occasion dressing is the wealth – and variety – of actual occasions.
So…you have not just one, but many, opportunities to make a fashion faux pas – fantastic. Many of us feel the pressure to look good – and proper: weddings, for instance, traditionally mean hats and dresses. Worse still, because of these style emphases and expectations, they mean high visibility and – inevitably – high competition. Make no mistake: we women are not best friends when it comes to occasion dressing. Trust me – it’s a war zone out there. If you need proof, consider the fact that – for every ‘lady’s day’ – there is always a ‘best dressed’ prize. And, at every wedding, funeral or bar mitzvah you attend, there is an informal version. Nice.
I’m going to start where Jane did – with the races. Aintree and Ascot contrast very greatly (check out these recent pieces which contrast greatly in tone: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1375510/Girls-North-great-DO-dress-like-Lily-Savage.html plus http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/11/view-from-broad-northern-fashion (and enjoy the contrasting, eclectic sources) as does the tone at many formal events. I don’t intend to go a bundle on all (or any, I originally thought) of the rules available but I have included a link to the official Ascot dress instructions – http://www.ascot.co.uk/?page=Dress_Code:_Royal_Ascot&type=StandaloneRoyalTemplate – and, because we are posh, they are for Royal Ascot. Oh yes, nothing but the best for us WAIWers!
I wanted to hate the idea of the prim, prissy manual ‘proper’ dress. However I think, in summary, that the guidelines are pretty sensible – you could even argue that they could be used as a template for many summer events. Certainly the more formal (or formulaic) ones seem like solid principles for outfitting yourself appropriately. Or, really, for not making the kind of gaffes which we all want to avoid.
In conclusion, then, I recommend looking at the Ascot website and adapting their advice. The Royal Enclosure Dress Code can easily be used as a guide for a range of weddings. The Grandstand Dress Code is pretty much a bible for most less restrained occasions – like christenings or anniversary and ‘number birthday’ parties. The Silver Ring information is more murky but I think the encouragement to wear ‘smart clothing’ should be adhered to by anyone leaving the house – especially if they’re going to be entertained by someone making an effort. This is advice that some of the attendants at Aintree seem to have ignored – at their own risk and at risk to my sense of aesthetics, which has given ammunition to some of the bitchier articles I’ve read. On the other hand, some people summed up the best of what foreign writers call ‘Brit style’ – they were original and stylish – while others showed a level of polish that any native New Yorker would be proud of.