STILL TRYING TO WORK OUT WHAT TO WEAR FOR THE RACES? YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY. HERE ARE NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK’S THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER…
It’s that time of year where the fashion press and media is full of two words that make me hide behind a changing room curtain: Occasion Wear. The Grand National at Aintree is approaching and while some beautifully dressed women and men bring on the style, attention often gets diverted to what I would politely call fashion disasters.
We’ve all got it wrong. I wore a gorgeous Temperley London dress for my own wedding. I even did a speech, and as it ended I sat down and the front of my dress fell in some gravy. My lovely stepdaughters ushered me off to the rest room, where I had to stand in my flesh coloured control underwear while they washed it with hand soap. The dress was saved, but I’ll never forget that moment!
An elegant dress is the usual style course for an occasion, and the great British high street do them so well. If you happen to be past that first flush of youth, you are no longer confined to lilac polyester Mother-of-the-Bride ‘separates’ but can go floor length, or knee length, add print, or colour. You can go fitted or plump for a swish. However, even as I write I think these dresses look fabulous – on other people! For me, I always seem to veer towards a trouser suit. This one by Gabriela Hearst on British Vogue’s Sarah Harris stole my heart as soon as I saw it.
You can opt for trousers or go for that fashion conundrum: the jumpsuit. Yes, we know they can be a bit of a nuisance to get in and out of, but they can be the perfect compromise between a dressy dress and something a little more tailored. Fit, colour and accessories have to be spot on. If you get fabric that is a little flammable and go a bit wild with root lift and a bright lip, you’re veering towards Yootha Joyce territory.
Coast are always a go-to for summer party looks, and their signature dresses never fail, but the Rio Jacket (£69) and Rio Wide Leg Trouser (£89) in lipstick red are standout pieces. The trousers have a detailed pleated front which sit really flatteringly, and the jacket has a casual throw-over-your-shoulder appeal. Think Bianca Jagger on a colourful day.
Coast’s Avia Jumpsuit (£109) is also a scene stealer, and the ruffle front and culotte length mean you can dress up in a relaxed fashion.
When it comes to accessories, it’s a time when you have to consider standing up in style. I adore these Park Lane Sandals in silver by Kurt Geiger London (£99) as they are uber-glam but the multi-strap front and heel height mean I can stand the pace, and their iconic Tweed Kensington Bag (£119) in silver is a real investment. I have a couple and they are go-anywhere bags. All of these pieces can mix with your wardrobe as in the real world, we like to wear to adapt pieces for less dressy days.
To hat or not to hat? I struggle with hats and again, I admire them on other women, but once I have to try them on, I wonder what to do with my unruly hair. I found HT Hats on Instagram, and they do a hire service as well as made-to-measure pieces, and they are really elegant and fun. This gorgeous new addition to their range is trimmed with silk handmade flowers. Would I wear navy and pink with red? Why not. Too much matchy-matchy can look a little try hard.
The rest really is up to you, but remember to try everything on in advance and give your hair and make-up a trial, too. Oh, and stay away from gravy. That really is my style tip of the season.
Picture of Sarah Harris courtesy of Instagram. Gabriela Hearst is available from
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.
Here’s a link to Nancy’s recent post on her new make-up hero products.