style, Style Secrets, The Lady's Maid Recommends

What to wear – Glyndebourne

With Glyndebourne Opera well underway I thought I’d bring you a selection of my favourite black-tie summer dresses. The annual Glyndebourne Festival Opera takes place from May to August in the grounds of Glyndebourne House, East Sussex. The founder of the Festival, John Christie, started the tradition of wearing evening dress during the Festival as he felt it was one way that the audience could show their respect for the performers. Black-tie dress is customary still. You can get away with a short dress for black tie these days but I prefer long, so that’s what I’ve selected here. As it is an outdoor event it is advisable to go for a block-heeled sandal or a dressy flat rather than spiky stilettos. There is no way of reliably predicting the English weather from May to August, so I would definitely bring some kind of cover-up. A pashmina wrap or cropped dressy jacket are the best options to keep warm and stylish.

For the dress, I like the idea of picking something that fits in with the outdoor setting – spring/summer florals, pale colours and lightweight chiffons, for example, rather than heavy velvets. You want to sashay around the grounds, and blend in with nature like a pre-Raphaelite beauty! And something with a loose skirt, preferable un-creasable, that makes it easy to picnic in style.

Here are some of my top picks available now:

Cassidy maxi dress, Alice & Olivia A pretty billowy ruffled silk-georgette maxi dress with a crochet-knit waistband and lace-trimmed hem from the Pre-fall 18 collection. Inspired by the country setting and costumes in the Academy Award-winning film Atonement.

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Cold shoulder gown, Dundas. An ethereal sunny yellow gown fit for a Grecian Goddess!

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Bouquets of painterly blooms adorn this stunning Malcolm open-back floral-print cloqué gown by Emilia Wickstead. Perfect for posing amongst the peonies!

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Another gorgeous colour for summer in this Alexis V-neck crepe maxi dress by Marni. A simple style with an edge of drama in the wide belt and skirt ruffles.

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La Fleur crepe maxi dress, Free People.

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I love this Whimsical Gown in rose quartz by Needle & Thread. Featuring a pretty ditsy floral pattern, and made of layers of tulle. A really romantic dress perfect for a night at the English opera.

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Floral embroidered mesh maxi dress, Self-Portrait .  A pretty long-sleeved floral mesh bodice with pleated maxi dress in a soft shade of blue.

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Mint green maxi dress with asymmetric shoulder, Ted Baker.

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Phase Eight, Anastacia embroidered dress.

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Adrianna Papell, long beaded dress in rose gold.

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Floral print chiffon maxi dress, Self-Portrait

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I love the fresh aqua hue of this Lace-trimmed Swiss-dot tulle gown by Costarellos. Topped with a leaf lace pattern – perfect for black tie summer soirees.

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style, The Lady's Maid Recommends

The Little White Dress

If there’s one dress that screams summer it’s the little white dress. Simple, stylish and it looks great with a suntan. I love designs with a bit of broderie anglaise trim or frill to add a feminine touch, or button detail for contrast. Wearing white is great in summer as it reflects the heat rather than absorbing it so will keep you cool. The downside of wearing white is obviously that it is more prone to visible marks – so it will probably need washing more than other clothing. Wash as soon as you notice any marks – once they settle it will be harder to bring it back to its original pristine condition (particularly make up, sweat or sun lotion). Most of these dresses are cotton so will withstand a higher temp wash which is best for stain removal (check the care labels though – if there are delicate lace trims or linings hand-washing or dry-cleaning may be necessary).  Adding whitening or brightening agents to the wash will help to maintain the brightness too. And if you leave to dry hanging outside then the whites will benefit from the sun’s natural bleaching rays. Here are some of my top picks available now for every budget. There are some great budget little white dresses available that look just as good if not better than some of the designer options!

Designer:

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Sarafina lace-paneled embroidered cotton-voile midi dress, £650, Talitha

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Corsail lace-insert cotton dress, £975, Zimmerman
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Sofie broderie-anglaise cotton dress, £460, Sea

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Embroidered cotton silk dress, £696, Burberry

 

Mid-range:

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Y.A.S High Neck Lace Midi Dress With Asymetric Hem, £120, ASOS.

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Belted pleated pointelle-trimmed cotton midi dress, £195, Michael Kors

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Aileen Zinnia Dress, £168, All Saints

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Ivory Broderie Anglaise Dress, £89 (reduced from £129) Mint Velvet

 

Budget:

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Embroidered midi dress, £39.99, Zara

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Ruffled lined dress, £49.99, Mango

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Broderie midi dress, £65, Oasis

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Embroidered dress, £69.99, H&M

 

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packing, Top Tips

Top Tips for Travel

Packing for a holiday can be stressful. How nice would it be to transport your world and your wardrobe with the click of a finger to your sunny destination – eliminating the need to make any decisions about what to pack?! If you find it tricky to know what to wear each day, then forward planning for a holiday will certainly be a challenge and your suitcase is likely to be bursting at the seams. It definitely takes experience to streamline the perfect holiday wardrobe so that you’re not lugging your whole wardrobe around with you whenever you travel, and experience of travel and packing is something in which I have multiple-suitcase experience! Here are a few tips for travelling that will help ease the luggage load so that next time you travel you can pack like a pro!

  • Pack based on the length of your trip – resist the temptation to force your entire summer wardrobe into your suitcase just for a two-week holiday. Select clothing based on potential outfits you could wear – don’t pack any separates that you haven’t already planned how you would wear – if they haven’t got the perfect partner at home they’re not going to find it on holiday!
  • Try and pick pieces from a complementary colour palette so that you can mix and match separates as much as possible, creating maximum outfit options from minimum garments.
  • Keep neutral with the accessories – tan/metallic/beige/white will go with most summer outfits. Resist packing crazy colours unless they complement the rest of your clothing.

 

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Straw Bag, Zara

 

 

  • The weight allowance for hand luggage is the same as the hold luggage on most airlines, so if you really want to pack that extra pair of shoes then invest in a great cabin bag for luggage overflow! The Cosmolite Spinner cabin bag by Samsonite is super light at 1.7kg and has a 36 litre capacity.

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  • Zipped travel laundry bags like these ones from Ted Baker are really good for keeping small things together (e.g. underwear, swimwear) and separated from the rest of your suitcase contents. It makes it easier to find things when you don’t have stray undies jumbled up inside your case. I really find they make a lot of difference to how organised I feel when packing. Similarly, if you have a lot of chargers or plug adapters, pack these in a transparent zip-lock bag to keep them together within the case.

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  • I’m rubbish at judging distances and weights, so I really have no idea whether my suitcase weighs 20 kilos or 30 kilos! I’ve been hit with an excess-baggage charge at the airport that was more than the cost of the flight itself – once that has happened, you never want it to happen again! I always weigh my case at home, just to be sure. This handy digital scale is available at Sainsbury’s. Different airlines vary with their charges and some will charge an excess fee per kilo of extra weight.

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  • No-one wants to do ironing on holiday, but even with my top packing tips, it’s likely that some of your floaty summer frocks will be a bit creased on arrival. A portable steamer is great for eliminating creases quickly and effortlessly. I know you’re probably thinking that the last thing you want to do on holiday is anything resembling laundry, but it’s easier than drying your hair, I promise! Steaming will also kill bacteria, eliminate odours and freshen up your clothing, delaying the need for regular washing. I have one by Philips which weighs 0.72kg, so it won’t add to the weight of your case too much, and it’s worth it if you have a lot of crease-prone holiday clothes and don’t want to pay for the hotel laundry service. A good budget alternative is ProBreeze which is very compact and travel friendly (0.65kg) and comes with a handy travel pouch for storage.
  • Toiletries can really add to the weight of your suitcase. I never pack full-size toiletries of anything except sun lotion; I streamline the rest of my products. There are so many miniature versions available for most beauty/bath products these days so it’s much better to pack these to lighten your washbag. I really like transparent hanging washbags for travel: Victoria Green has a great new one available now from Marks & Spencer. They’ve clearly done their research into what people want from a washbag and the importance of organisation when travelling. I like the ease of being able to hang up the bag so that I can easily view the contents and not have to unpack everything inside – it makes it much easier if you travel frequently or are hopping from one destination to another. (When you’ve visited 13 different countries and 22 cities in the space of three months like I have, then unpacking your toiletry bag is no longer on the agenda!). The bag is constructed with a 3-in-1 system which allows you to use it as a hanging organiser, but you can also detach the larger bag at the bottom and the transparent middle pocket so that you can personalise your beauty packing for each trip – great for both shorter trips and more extended vacations.

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style, Style Secrets

What to wear – Cartier Queen’s Cup Polo

The Cartier Queen’s Cup Final, held in Windsor Great Park, is a key event in the English social season, attracting the world’s greatest polo players and a VIP guest list to match.

In terms of dress code, ladies should be thinking smart/casual summer day wear. For the Royal Box and Clubhouse a summery day dress/tea dress, skirt or tailored trousers would be appropriate. Smart/casual is hugely open to interpretation – you don’t want to appear too formal or too casual. I always find that accessories are a key component with this dress code – the right shoes, bag and jewellery will really make a difference, and a great pair of sunglasses won’t hurt either. Wedges or a block-heeled sandal or fancy flat would be the best footwear choice. (See Summer shoes for some ideas.) A cream blazer is a great wardrobe staple for smart summery events – it will work with floral dresses or summer trousers and instantly adds the smart to smart/casual.

A floral tea dress is your saviour for smart summer day events like this – easy to wear, smart but not too formal. Here are a few of my favourites available now:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Channel Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in this summer polka dot number:

 

You can’t go wrong with a little white dress for the summer season – this dress by Y.A.S was recommended to me by an Instagram follower – a great smart and summery wardrobe staple.

Or go for a floaty frilly number teamed with a blazer:

If you’re dressing to be seen amongst the VIP crowd, go for something a bit more special like this floral stretch-silk georgette midi dress with contrasting waistband by Red Valentino:

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Wide leg trousers in summery colours and prints are also a great option – stylish and chic – wear with just a top if the weather allows, or keep a sleek and chic blazer on standby if the sun goes into hiding:

 

Plage Blouse, £276.50, Temperley London

Wide leg trousers, £675, Emilia Wickstead

 

 

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style, Style Secrets, The Lady's Maid's Looks

What to wear – Royal Ascot

With a week to go until Royal Ascot gets underway, I thought I’d take a closer look at the dress codes for Royal Ascot. Many of my followers on Instagram are attending and have been planning their outfits well in advance, but there are still a few last-minute ladies looking for outfits this week! Hat hire is a great option if you’ve left it too late to get a bespoke hat made or if you want a quality hat at a lower cost that you’re only going to wear once. Many of the milliners in my hat directory have hat hire options, or you could consult your nearest hat shop – the advantage of these is that you have the pick of hats from lots of great milliners all in one place. In London, X Terrace/The Old Brompton Gallery have a Royal Ascot/Summer wedding pop up shop. The Cotswold Hat Club is a new hat hire company with some pieces from top milliners, including Emily London, Sarah Cant, Bundle Maclaren and Martha Lynn Millinery. They also offer a membership for unlimited hat hire for 12 months for a one-off fee, which is a great idea for summer-season social butterflies.

Ascot has actually relaxed its style rules in recent years to include trouser suits and jumpsuits within the royal enclosure. They are aware that fashion evolves and are keen to embrace current trends. But there are still strict rules in terms of straps on dresses and substantial headpieces. Some people may not like such rules, but I’m happy for them to stay as long as possible. It’s entirely possible to find a fun and stylish outfit within these rules so there’s no need to resort to night club apparel! Dress and tradition are part of the fun of Royal Ascot. And as I say with any event – dressing appropriately is a sign of respect to your host and in this case the history and tradition that make Royal Ascot so special. Formal daywear is not something that is regularly worn by most people these days, so I think this is why some people sometimes find it hard to know what to wear – dressing up doesn’t mean wearing a party dress – the outfit should be appropriate for daylight hours not cocktail hour.

On consulting the Royal Ascot website, you will see the dress codes that should be followed for each enclosure. The strictest dress code is for the Royal Enclosure, which is relaxed a little for the other enclosures; e.g. strappy dresses and fascinators (if you must) are permitted elsewhere.

Royal Enclosure

The dress code for the Royal Enclosure is basically “formal daywear”, which is defined as:

  • Skirt/dress to be knee-length or longer.
  • Straps on dresses should be at least 1 inch.
  • Trouser suits are allowed, but they should be of matching colour and material.
  • Jumpsuits are allowed. They should be full-length to the ankle, with sleeves matching the regulations for dresses.
  • Hats should be worn. Head pieces are acceptable as long as the base is 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.

What NOT to wear:

  • Dresses of the strapless, spaghetti strap, halter-neck, or off-the-shoulder variety (including bardot style dresses).
  • Fascinators.

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For the royal enclosure I would recommend tailored long sleeve dresses or skirt/jacket ensembles. For a really stylish elegant look, I prefer matchy-matchy ensembles, so stick to two colours. Black and white is such a classy colour combination for Royal Ascot. I think it’s good to get the balance right with the black/white ratio and patterns/details so that you come across more My Fair Lady rather than Cruella de Vil! I love this ivory wide brimmed hat with black sequin lace by Nerida Fraiman – a real statement number. Ascot is a great place to wear wide brimmed hats – the sort of hat you can’t wear seated unless you want everyone behind you to hate you! This hat is definitely one for wafting around the royal enclosure in style. I’ve matched it with a white cotton weave jacket with lace trim and asymmetric hem by Roland Mouret, and matching pencil skirt. Clutch by Aspinal of London, classic black suede courts from Boden and black/gold floral studs from Accessorize. A really chic, timeless and sophisticated look.

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All white is another classic choice and a great summery look for Royal Ascot. It’s not a colour that you can wear at weddings without raising eyebrows! So Ascot is the perfect time to work those pristine stylish whites. Just be sure to protect your personal space at the Pimms bar – one drink spillage and it’s ruined. This beautiful lace dress is by Claire Mischevani. I’ve matched it with a rose & net sideswipe hat from Juliette Botterill, nude accessories from L.K. Bennett and pearl drop earrings by A. B. Davis. A perfect royal enclosure outfit fit for a Duchess.

Queen Anne Enclosure

  • Not as formal as the Royal Enclosure, but a hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times.
  • Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted.
  • Trouser suits and jumpsuits must be full-length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Shorts are not permitted.

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Another colour that’s a bit taboo to wear at weddings is red, so Royal Ascot is a great opportunity to go for bright colours and stand out from the crowd. This stunning silk rose headpiece by Rachel Trevor Morgan is a great match for the red/black floral dress from Hobbs, accessorized with clutch from Hobbs, courts from L.K. Bennett and stud earrings from Anne Sisteron.

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If you’re more of a floaty-flirty lady when it comes to dresses, something like this summery green frock from Keepsake the Label would be ideal – sharpened up with my favourite emerald green volute headpiece by Camilla Rose Millinery. This summer frock could be worn at many other summer soirees too – evening as well as day time (bag: Zara; heels: Gianvito Rossi; earrings: Monet Jewellery).

Village Enclosure

  • Less formal than the Queen Anne Enclosure, but a hat, headpiece or fascinator should still be worn at all times.
  • Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted.
  • Trouser suits and jumpsuits must be full-length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above.
  • Midriffs must be covered.
  • Shorts are not permitted.

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I love summery boater-style hats – they will give your outfit the formal edge required but aren’t as dressy as the more flamboyant statement hats, so are perfect for the outdoor setting of the Village enclosure. This one is the Amherst straw boater with hand sculpted ice blue Lady Amherst feather by Louise Georgette Millinery. As the Village Enclosure is a largely outdoor area, a wedge shoe or block heel is advisable over a spiky stiletto. These sandals are by Oasis and the courts are Rupert Sanderson. Dresses by Goat Fashion and Alice & Olivia and clutch by Emmy London.

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Another great floral frock from Hobbs that’s great for all sorts of summer events, including the races. Pictured here with an elegant shell pink feathered headpiece by Rachel Black Millinery, bag by Zara and Faber Novella block shoes. Headpieces like this are a great choice if you want something discreet and are in a crowded area. Infinitely better than fascinators.

Windsor Enclosure

  • No formal dress code is required but racegoers are encouraged to dress for the occasion, so it is recommended that ladies wear smart attire with a hat or fascinator.
  • Fancy dress, novelty and branded/promotional clothing are not allowed.

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Again, a boater-style hat like this one from Eugenia Kim is an option for this less dressy enclosure. Or you could wear a discreet button headpiece like this one below from Vixen Millinery. Jumpsuit by Whistles, yellow dress by Top Shop; bags by Zara; shoes by Office and Dune.

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For more daily race-ready outfits head over to my Instagram page: @theladysmaid where I’ll be styling more last-minute looks before Royal Ascot next week.

 

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Summer Shoes

Footwear is usually the one area of your wardrobe for which it is easy to shop. But come summer, it can be trickier to buy the right smart shoes for outdoor summer events, especially if they are held on luscious green lawns. To save yourself from the sinking stiletto there are three ways to go: the block heel, the wedge and the flat. I’ve rounded up some of my top picks of each style to help you find the perfect shoe to grace garden parties, racecourses and outdoor opera festivals this summer. I’ve stuck to mostly neutral shades as these will go with most outfits, but many of the shoes pictured here are available in other colours too.

Block Heel

This is the smartest option and the closest in style to the classic court stiletto. I prefer ones that aren’t too high as they can look a bit clumpy. This is the best option for more formal events, e.g. when a jacket or hat is required.

Chloe scalloped edge block heel

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Rupert Sanderson, Powder patent heel

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Faber Novella, rose champagne Carine heel 

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Jimmy Choo Carrie Sandal

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Ted Baker Qarvaa leather block-heeled sandals

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Stuart Weitzman, nearly nude sandals

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Oasis block heel sandal

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Dune tan leather sandal

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Dune Meggan black suede sandals

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Samuele Failli pink suede sandals

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Whistles Tula Twist Block Heel Sandals, Gold

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Ted Baker, Kerria bow ankle block heel sandals

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Wedges

A more smart/casual heel, so good to pair with summery tea dresses or separates. I’m not a fan of cork wedges; I think the espadrille style is much more elegant.

Russell & Bromley, Candyfloss Peep-Toe Espadrille in Nude Suede

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Castaner, canvas wedge espadrille

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L.K.Bennett, rose satin espadrilles

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Office, Honolulu Dressy Espadrille Wedges

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Office, Holiday Cross Front Espadrille Wedges

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Mint Velvet, mink wedge

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Office, Halkidiki espadrille wedges

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L.K.Bennett, black suede sandals

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Dressy Flats

Avoid the heel altogether and go for a dressy flat – a great option for tall people, and there’s a huge range of styles out there for elegant flats these days. I prefer an almond or pointed toe for dressy flats – they look smarter than round-toe ballet flats.

 

Zara satin slingbacks

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Boden jewelled flats

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Jimmy Choo gold leather Lancer flats

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L.K.Bennett pink jacquard flats

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Royal Style, style

Royal Wedding – best dressed guests

There were so many stylish outfits on display at yesterday’s royal wedding it’s hard to pick my favourties! Here is a run-down of my best dressed guests.

For me, there was one clear winner in the style stakes. Amal Clooney oozed Hollywood glamour in a sunshine yellow dress by Stella McCartney with matching hat by Stephen Jones. Such a tricky colour to wear but it complemented her colouring perfectly and looked simply stunning. Her look was so dazzling you barely noticed the Hollywood A-lister at her side – George Clooney!

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Prince Harry’s cousin, Kitty Spencer, looked incredibly stylish in a green dress with a striking hand-painted floral pattern by Dolce & Gabbana with matching elegant beret-style veiled hat by Philip Treacy. I love the wide square, almost tudor-style neckline of this dress and the rich jewel shade of green.

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The Countess of Wessex is also up there in my top three. I love the effortless elegance of her short-sleeved top and ice blue midi skirt by Suzannah with bespoke hat, hand-dyed to match by Jane Taylor. A glamorous look for the Countess whose style is really getting better with age. Brave to choose separates too – I think she carries it off really well.

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Sofia Wellesley, wife of singer James Blunt, wore a pretty embroidered long dress featuring an intricate floral vine pattern by Red Valentino with a cream volute hat by Camilla Rose Millinery. A perfect outfit for a spring wedding. The dress is heavily detailed so she chose the perfect hat to complement it. A really fresh and summery look.

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Gina Torres, Meghan’s Suits co-star, wore a red/pink embroidered tulle lace dress by Costarellos. A great colour and the cream trilby style hat gives the delicate dress a bit of edge.

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Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, chose a colourful striped dress by Eponine London with an elegant shell pink feathered headband by Rachel B Millinery, aptly named “Ballerina”. A really pretty, fresh and vibrant look. It would be difficult to match a statement hat with such a complicated dress, so this discrete romantic headpiece is a great solution.

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Gabriela Peacock wore a pink Emilia Wickstead midi dress with bow detail on the sleeves and a hat by Laura Cathcart millinery. A beautiful, feminine and chic look.

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Fashion PR, Nicky Malone, wore an elegant blush pink “Belle” dress coat by Claire Mischevani with matching pillbox hat by Sarah Cant Millinery. Blush pink is one of my favourite colours so this is always a winner for me!

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Janina Gavankar wore a 1930s orange tasselled cape dress with a 1940s hat – I love this vintage look. Wearing vintage is also a great way of making sure no-one turns up in the same outfit as you!

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I’m a sucker for polka dots so this classic navy/blue cream collared pleated midi dress by Alessandra Rich, worn by actress Abigail Spencer, is one of my favourites.

Autumn Phillips wore a teal belted coat dress by Ceri Brooks at Hen House Brides, a boutique based in Wiltshire, with a matching bespoke feather percher hat by Juliette Millinery, worn with Emmy London navy suede accessories. Teal was a popular colour amongst the royal guests, with Princess Beatrice and Zara Phillips also opting for this vibrant shade of blue. I love the fit-and-flare style of this one.

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Mother of the Bride. It can’t have been easy for Doria Ragland being the only member of Meghan’s family attending the royal wedding and sitting across from the Queen! But Doria looked extremely elegant in a pistachio green embroidered dress and coat by Oscar de la Renta with a chic beret style hat.

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Carole Middleton wore a fit-and-flare pale aqua dress coat by Catherine Walker with hat by Jane Taylor. You can’t go wrong with Catherine Walker for formal events and this shade of green is one of my favourites.

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If Amal Clooney stole the show at the wedding ceremony, Priyanka Chopra was threatening to do the same at the evening party! She chose this dazzling dress by Dior for the evening reception at Frogmore House. A real show-stopping old-school glamour number.

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