What to wear, and what not to wear this summer, from weddings to the polo
Summer is in the air, well, almost anyway, and as those invitations plop hopefully through the letter box, if you’re anything like me, your thoughts will pretty quickly turn to what to wear, and shopping for that elusive ‘perfect’ outfit that fits you like a glove, and is wearable for years to come.
Disposable fashion fans look away now—I say invest in some of these key pieces and you will be sure to stand out from the crowd, in the right way. We’ve all seen those Aintree pictures— and they are too terrifying for words.
For a day at the races
Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn—think elegance and refinement. General race day tickets call for fun summer attire, and there is no need to be too smart, but dressing up is always fun. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot this year, skirt length must always hit the knee or ideally fall below—midi length is in vogue anyway—and no strapless or midriff showing outfits, god forbid. Hats must be 10cm diameter or more, so no frilly fascinators here thank you very much.
Look to designers such as Suzannah, who made my wonderful dress a few years ago when I was interviewed by Gok Wan at Ascot. I was terrified, but she made me feel so at ease by creating such a fabulous frock. The hat is Edwina Ibbotson
Something like this silk number will hug all the right places and she will make sure it fits you perfectly for the day. It’s also a classic design you can keep in the wardrobe for years to come, and mix with different accessories to freshen it up. Suzannah dress £1,200.
Another new brand I have come across is Libby London. These clothes are more affordable, but still look really good quality. Smart enough to wear to Ascot, weddings and even a board meeting – the dress below is just £198.
They offer a fantastic VIP trying-on service where they bring the clothes to you, you try them while they wait, then you buy what you like the look of. Easy.
Libby London have collaborated with our favourite occasion-wear jeweller, Kiki Mcdonough, and you’ll get a free candle when you book an appointment, which is a lovely bonus.
I recently spotted these stunners (below) in Anthropologie They look even better in the flesh, and would work perfectly for both Ascot and weddings this year.
Best hats to wear this summer season
Make a beeline for designers like Edwina Ibbotson or Rachel Trevor Morgan (The Queen’s favourite) for some really magnificent headgear. They truly know their art. Edwina is gloriously bohemian and you are guaranteed to have fun in her shop (hat, below, £840).
A new lovely designer I like is Annabel Allen She makes more affordable, classic pieces that you could buy and wear with many outfits – the piece below is £220.
Rosie Olivia is another brilliant designer (hat, below, £500). If you can’t stretch to buying a piece, you can hire some of her pieces from The Hat Club who will, helpfully, deliver and collect from the Investec Derby and Royal Ascot. This is a great way to go for something daring as a one-off without breaking the bank.
What to wear to a summer wedding
Happily, you can have more fun with what you wear to a wedding these days: go for (reasonable) shorter hems if you have the legs for it, but otherwise stick with smart and sophisticated – the bride and groom will love that you dressed up and wore a big hat.
Fascinators—or no hat at all!—have sadly taken over—but I say wear a hat with pride. It is one of our great traditions and adds to the theatre of the day—not to mention protecting the blow-dry from an inevitable rain shower.
For weddings abroad different rules apply, unless you know the dress code is formal, you can go long and floaty, I love the dresses from Beulah—British and ethically made (dress, below, £745).
Favourbrook, a Country Life favourite, has been dressing Mothers of the bride all over the country with chic elegance and decorum for years. Lots of lovely embroidery and bright colours will ensure you stand out (dress, below, £1,100).
Also if it turns chilly, which it will, these jackets from Katherine Hooker fit snugly. My top tip: always buy a jacket on the small side, it will look more flattering.
Jewellery to wear this Spring/Summer
Kiki Mcdonough have gorgeous little drops in lots of colours to go with anything and everything you might wear. They are so versatile you can practically wear them with your pyjamas.
For a modern take on the string of pearls these (below, £4,750) from Cassandra Goad would work well for a Mother of the Bride look.
There is no need for fine jewellery all the time. Pebble London on Sussex Gardens, W2, is an Aladdin’s Cave of wonders: I challenge you to spend an hour there and come out empty handed. This necklace is more affordable at £165.
Above all, be comfortable in what you wear. Nothing ruins a great outfit more than its wearer tugging at the hemline or hobbling in sky-high heels. A wedding guest recently told me that she’d packed some foldable ballet pumps in her clutch bag. Genius! Perfect for when you make your escape.
What to wear to the polo
The key for attending a day at the polo is to be prepared. Wind and rain (quite likely) or strong sun (less likely) can strike at any time. Layers are a good idea as you can always shed or add these throughout the day. It’s strictly no stilettos – everyone will know you’re a newbie as your heels slowly sink into the grass, and you must be at your best at all moments: who knows when you might bump into Jilly Cooper.
If you’re in the stands, a pretty summer dress and wedges are the name of the game. Please no jeans and trainers: this is Britain after all. It’s true that overdressing is passé, but looking like you’re there to muck out is another thing altogether.
For smarter polo days or if you’re invited as a VIP to the polo, then lucky old you. Choose something smart but fun, such as the ever popular Self Portrait dresses with their cut out designs (below £240).
Your choice of shoe will be vital and will really dictate how much you enjoy the day. Choose chunky heels for treading the divots or even choose flats if you’re the leggy Jodie Kidd type. These sandals (£199) from Penelope Chilvers have a cool edge and perfect if you get a scorching day.
If you must have a heel, then opt for a wedge. The brand I am lusting most after at the moment is Aquazzura, they will have something for every occasion. These wedges (£429 and £445) are spot on for the Polo.
Think larger when you’re choosing a bag: you’ll need enough makeup and blister plasters, and a useful strap, to see you through the day and into the evening if the party goes on, as it tends to. Make a mini statement with this Aspinal trunk clutch (£395).
And above all have fun! As long as you come prepared for rain, hail or shine you will enjoy yourself and look perfect without feeling self-conscious. Make the most of the few months of the year you can really rock a summer dress, and invest in some of these key pieces which won’t let you down next year or the year after that.