My Guide to Elegance..Part Four – Dressing for every Occasion

One of the biggest sartorial faux pas is not dressing correctly for the occasion. Overdressing will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons and underdressing will make you seem as if you have not bothered to make the effort at all; It will also make you feel inferior. Dressing just correctly will show that you have bothered to really think about your outfit choice (something a lady will always do) and are enthusiastic about whatever you may be doing. There is a fine line between knowing what looks good and knowing when it is appropriate. For example, you may have the know how to buy a stunning white dress but wearing it to a  wedding would be extremely bad taste. 


For Business

 When dressing for business, sophistication and professionalism is key. You do not want to be showing too much flesh, however it is important to still look feminine. Finding classic, tailored pieces is a good step in the right direction. Shift dresses, smart jackets, pencil skirts and trouser suits are all key items that will make you look professional and sophisticated. 

 Your business and position is also a thing to consider. I once knew the General Manager of a luxury hotel in Dubai who had suits in bright colours tailored for her. Because of her high position, this really worked well as she was noticeable to all and it showed the hierarchical difference between her and the rest of the team. 

 Try to keep hemlines on or below the knee and if you go higher, I would suggest wearing tights.  Always dress in smart clothing for the office or business; I have seen many people dressed casually in their office environment and I think this is very bad etiquette. You are not going to send the right messages dressed in jeans, flip flops and a lumpy sweater. 

 Lastly I would always try to wear heals if possible. The height is of importance, heels that are too high will look unprofessional.


For Weddings

 It is surprising how many people do not know the unspoken etiquette of Wedding dressing. As a guest at a Wedding you should look formal and elegant, it is not a time to wear those new designer jeans you splashed out on. On the other hand, it is also not the time to be centre of attention dressed to the nines. The day should be all about the Bride and it is common courtesy to keep this in mind when planning your ensemble.   

 As religion plays a part in most Wedding days it is necessary to think about whether your outfit will be suitable for a religious building. Hemlines should be on or below the knee and showing too much cleavage is of extreme bad taste. Even if you are not attending a religious Wedding, it would not be ladylike to bare too much flesh.

 Colour is another important aspect when deciding what you will wear. As a Wedding is a happy occasion, you should choose an outfit that is colourful but not shocking. I would advise sticking to pastels such as pinks, greens, yellows and blues which will add colour in the best possible way. Black should really be avoided but if you insist on wearing it then you will need to ensure that you accessorize well so that you do not look like you are attending a Funeral.  A black outfit with embellishment is also acceptable. White should be avoided at all costs.  

 It is now largely the view that wearing a hat to a Wedding is not compulsory, but I have to disagree. In 2011, Samantha Cameron (spouse of the Prime Minister, David) was the only guest to attend the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton who did not wear a hat. I can’t imagine how much she regretted this mistake! The truth is, hats and Weddings go hand in hand (or hat on head) and a lady should always wear one. Take advantage of the rare occasion and invest in a beautiful hat. It will add a wonderful glamour to your outfit and make you look sophisticated and well mannered.  It may be a good idea to buy your hat before your outfit as you will then be able to shop to coordinate the two.


For Funerals

 Funerals are sad occasions and a time when one should show complete respect. There is not much to say about this occasion except always wear black, dress conservatively and always wear a hat.  Also be sure to take a handkerchief and umbrella.

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For Dinner

 A dinner party is usually an intimate occasion between friends or close family. For this reason it is your chance to be more experimental with what you are going to wear. As an elegant lady, it is your style mantra to never look fussy or overdone, but for a dinner party you can experiment a little more. As with everyday life however, you should still hold the image of someone who has put some consideration into their ensemble. 

 The invitation to a dinner party should always hold clues about what one should wear. Buffets, barbecues and al fresco dining always suggest less formal attire whereas a seated dinner will require you to dress more formally.  Another good tip is to take hints from the dress code required of the gentlemen. If they are required to wear jacket and tie, it suggests women will need to wear cocktail attire.

 The location of the dinner is also an important factor; Obviously you should dress more formally for dinner in the exclusive a la carte restaurant than you would for an evening at a friends garden party.

 A useful hint is to always wear a dress to a dinner party. With a dress you will always look just right and make the correct impression. For summer months and day time dinners choose elegant floral and colourful prints. For more formal dinners choose well cut dresses in luxury fabrics such as linen-silk blends, chiffon and lace. 

 Finally, accessorize. For summer and less formal occasions, choose bold statement necklaces, earrings and bracelets. For more formal occasions diamonds and pearls will always be the subject of admiration and conversation.

dinner party


For horse racing / Polo

 Equine events are always a great opportunity to show off your elegant and sophisticated style. The Royal Ascot is just one of many horse racing events, however it is a good template of how one should dress when attending the races. In recent years, the organizers of the Royal Ascot have changed the rules of their dress code and I believe they are a good standard for all Women to follow. 


  • Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer.
  • Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater.
  • Jackets and pashminas may be worn, but the dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code.
  • Trouser suits are welcome. They should be full length and of matching material and colour.
  • Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.
  • Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck and spaghetti straps are not permitted.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Fascinators are no longer permitted; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).

I believe that these rules are perfect as it is now almost impossible not to dress elegantly. All that is left to add is to ensure that you choose a good fit, cut, material and colour.  Choosing a well made, structured outfit will always compliment the figure. The ensemble should be made of a more luxurious material such as cotton-silk blend or organza. You can be experimental with colour as the event is supposed to be fun, just make sure your hat matches the outfit. Lastly consider the weather, the last thing you want is to be too hot or cold. 

horse racing

For travel

When traveling it is easy for many to choose comfort over style and abandon all dressing etiquette. For me, I believe that traveling is an occasion when one should always look ones best. The Airport is a busy place occupied with people from all over the World, therefore it is important to consider how you want to represent yourself and your country in such an environment. It is possible to be comfortable whilst maintaining an elegant look, the key is to wear fabrics that are durable and not too tight as you may be sitting for hours at a time. I would also suggest wearing pants or long skirts and dresses as you may want to sleep and the last thing you need is to be worrying about accidentally exposing yourself! Carrying a medium sized tote is a good idea as it will be able to hold all documents and essentials. You may want to freshen up before your arrival so ensure you have cosmetics with you onboard. Try to wear heels, after all you will not be walking too far and the airport is your runway. 


For the beach

When the Sun makes an appearance it is again a time when standards of dressing goes completely out the window. It is seen as an opportunity to wear little as possible; Women wear hot pant style shorts with their midriffs on show to all, some men even walk the streets topless! Just because the sun is shining and the weather is warm, it does not mean that style principles should be abandoned. You would not walk around town in your underwear so there is no reason why you should parade in minuscule clothing on a hot day. On the way to the pool or beach, ensure that you are wearing a sundress or kaftan and don’t remove it until you are ready to sunbathe or take a dip. When you have decided that you are ready to leave, put the sundress/Kaftan back on; You should never walk through a hotel in a bikini. To avoid aging, it may be wise to avoid the beach altogether.


The Countess x 

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