The Utterly Inessential Shopping List: Dressing for dinner, lockdown-style

Let's be honest: we've all let standards slip a bit (well, a lot) since lockdown began. That ends here.

When you think of Stanley trekking through the jungles of Africa in search of Dr Livingstone, you probably imagine people hacking through tangled undergrowth with machetes while wearing khaki fatigues soaked in sweat and pith helmets on their heads.

True, there was plenty of that sort of thing, but once Stanley made camp for the night things changed. He set great store by keeping up appearances, no matter the circumstances — and his fellow explorers such as Harry Johnston were even known to dress for dinner while on cross-continental treks.

If that doesn’t embody the spirit of the utterly inessential, we don’t know what does. So here are a few things to ramp up the glamour or eating at home, whether you’re getting ready for a Zoom dinner party or just eating with the family.


Aspinal refillable leather journal

Every dinner party starts with planning — recipes, invitations — and you’ll need somewhere to write them down. But put that spiral-bound notebook to one side, and instead use Aspinal’s refillable leather journal, in a variety of bright hues.

Priced at £75 — see more details.


Lalage Beaumont silk midi dress

The odd splatter of ragú holds no fear if you choose your clothing carefully; this red-and-white midi dress from Lalage Beaumont in Italian cloque silk is ideal for the clumsy-of-fork.

Priced at £999 — see more details.


Barbour Freya quilted jacket

Eating al fresco is a joy at this time of year, the only trouble being that by the time you’re popping open the second bottle of bubbly, the evenings are usually getting chilly. Thankfully, inventors have come up with a solution to chilly temperatures: ‘the coat’. And this is a very nice one.

Priced at £139 — see more details.


Smythson Panama zip cross body bag

The ideal vehicle for hands-free transportation of bits and pieces from one room to another. What’s not to like?

Priced at £725 — see more details.


Annoushka red agate and pearl earrings

Now we’re getting beyond practicalities and on to conversation starters, such as these red agate tulips which hang cheerily from gold and diamond hoops. Nestled in each one is a creamy freshwater pearl.

Priced at £495 — see more details.


Pragnell enamel ring

If it’s your other half’s turn to cook, and he/she is taking their sweet time dishing up, this ring is the answer: it’s simply ideal for tapping impatiently on the table. The design is of a wild strawberry plant, the herald of summer, in Pragnell’s yellow gold and green enamel leaf with a vein of yellow diamonds wrapping around the wearer’s finger.

Priced at £5,900 — see more details.


Cassandra Goad Large Klover Amethyst Flower Pendant

Every swish outfit needs a pendant, and this is one which fills the brief while also bringing a layer of extra meaning. Each petal apparently represents a different wish for the wearer: faith, hope, love, and luck. Bet St Paul is still kicking himself for leaving ‘luck’ out of his letter to the Corinthians.

Priced at £795 — see more details.


Really Wild tie neck top

Equal parts evening wear and camouflage, this Liberty print silk satin tie-neck shirt (featuring green and pink jewels) will look dazzling on a conference call, or whilst watching Netflix with supper on a tray.

Priced at £235 — see more details.


Susannah Lovis hedgehog pendant

The ancient Egyptians saw the hedgehog as a symbol of luck and happiness, things we could all do with more of right now, and Susannah Lovis’s sweet ‘Hans the Hedgehog’ is sure to inspire cheer in his wearer with his distinctive spikes from the Boucheron pointe de diamante emblem, which creates light with its multiple reflections.

Priced at £4,250 — see more details.


Heming amethyst drop earrings

If ever a precious stone was made for lockdown, it’s amethyst: the name comes from the Greek ‘to intoxicate’, something which, frankly, we’ve all been doing a lot more of in recent weeks. The Greeks actually believed that the stone protects its owner from drunkenness, so why not don Heming’s glittering amethyst drops as cocktail hour approaches? Even if they don’t save you from a hangover, they’ll make sure you look lovely in the getting.

Priced at £1,995 — see more details.