Dinner Parties – What to wear

breaking the dress code

1. women

2. men

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Vintage Roland Klein

Guests often ask “what should I wear?” 

Deciding what to wear can be a minefield – especially nowadays when the dress code can be interpreted in so many different ways.  “Smart Casual ” – two words that can cause jitters for the most fashionable woman.  Long or short?  Are jeans allowed?

Any party is an occasion, and like all occasions, you should dress up, or at least make some effort and “scrub up”. It’s not only a compliment to the hosts, it puts you in a party mood.  But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to put on different clothes, since you might be going directly from your place of work, without time to go home and change.  

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Day-to-Night dressing is not very clear today. Clothes once considered as evening are sometimes worn during the day – a sequinned skirt paired with a chunky sweater can be acceptable in some offices, or a lace skirt with a t-shirt and blazer…  Remove the t-shirt, add a chunky necklace,  you have a sexy outfit and ready to party! 

The A list’s latest dressing diktat makes Office to Dinner Style a snip. All you need is a pretty skirt and a big jumper. That’s what the Vogue girls are wearing this season. The pleated skirt is back – Gucci says so! It’s a formula that allows you to look the part without feeling over or underdressed…But there are rules…


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Vintage Roland Klein… and very now.

Here are some of my rules…If you want to look the part.


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2. Don’t underestimate the importance of being comfortable. You are not going to relax if your skirt is too short, or too tight and rises up, or the neckline too low -one wants to see less, not more, or your heels are too high and you can’t stand up.

1. Keep it simple – As Coco Chanel said:

“le  Luxe  c’est la Simplicité  –  “Luxury equals Simplicity” 

Another couturier from the thirties, Molyneux. His maxim was that you should never notice what a woman is wearing, only how wonderful she looks.

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3.   Because you can just about zip up your old favourite frock, is not going to make you look slimmer. Au contraire! 

4.  Short skirts are fine if you are over 40 as long as you have the legs for it.

“If you’ve got it, flaunt it”

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My gorgeous God Daughter Chez Moi

5.  Miss match – Over your day clothes, fling a brilliant coloured scarf or a shawl.  They can add instant pizzazz to the plainest clothes.  Draped over one shoulder it looks dramatic, or worn like a halter tucked into a belt, some exotic jewellery, an interesting belt, and possibly a pair of high heels, will turn the simplest outfit into a glitzy affair.  An Ethnic jacket, bought on your travels, will stand out and might start a conversation.

6.  Beware of this season’s “must haves“. They are not necessarily going to be your friends.  Use them sparingly to update an outfit and refresh your look, not revolutionise it.

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Primark bag and belt, under £20

7.  Anything in excess should be avoided. Too much make up, too much jewellery.  It is irritating to listen to your neighbour’s clanking bracelets, or to be overpowered by her strong perfume.

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New York Fashion Doyenne Iris Apfel says:
“Less is more and less is a bore”
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8. Crop tops are a “No No” unless you are in your 20’s or you are called Naomi Campbell and wearing vintage Roland Klein.


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my little black dresses

9.  When you are not sure how formal the occasion might be “The Little Black Dress” invented by Coco Chanel, or a version of the Yves St Laurent  “LE SMOKING” which he introduced in The Sixties, are always the perfect answer. Bianca Jagger married Mick in St Tropez in a white version. Kate Moss and Alexa Chung, today’s Style icons, wear the jacket with everything, from skinny jeans to mini skirts, or even on its own like a sexy dress. 

Or why not try some Vintage Roland Klein!


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It seems easier- tie or no tie? But today, men are often as interested in their appearance as women. Young men sometimes go shopping in groups, like girls do, and pick up each other’s purchases.

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Comme des Garçons 

For a Dinner Party men may choose to put on a jazzy shirt, or add a flamboyant tie or a scarf, an interesting belt, or swap their jacket for a colourful sweater.  And what about a pair of moccasins in a contrasting colour? 

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One of my favourite looks is a crisp white cotton shirt, well fitted Chinos, and good quality shoes.  Nothing is more attractive.   But be careful how many buttons you undo – two you are cool,  three you could be taken for Hasselhoff, four for J-Lo. 

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Vintage Roland Klein

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White shirts also work well for females. It became Patti Smith’s trade mark. Sharon Stone wore it on the red carpet for an Oscar ceremony, and Ines de la Fressange is a devotee.

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  • Palmer/Harding for John Lewis £150

Suits you!

Guys, no excuse to wear a badly fitted suit. John Lewis in Oxford St is launching a made to measure tailoring service. Prices start at £495. You can chose from 100 different fabrics, 30 linings and a range of buttons to create your perfect suit  (www.JohnLewis.com)

Confidence is key. Dress for yourself, not for others. It’s like the French say ” Être bien dans sa peau ” – feeling good in your own skin.

It reminds me of an old story about Margaret Thatcher when invited to a gala at Buckingham Palace, she called the Queen’s office in order to avoid clashing colours with the Sovereign. Back came the reply:  “Mrs T may wear what she likes, Her Majesty doesn’t notice what anyone else is wearing”. How great is that!

To the hosts – don’t try too hard, let your guests shine