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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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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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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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Jimmy Choo pink glitter slingback pumpsScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.05.59

 

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 Wedding Style

The Royal Wedding is almost upon us! I thought I would have a bit of fun and match some of my favourite Instagram wedding looks that I have posted over the last few weeks to members of the royal party in anticipation of the big day!

Lets start with HM. The Queen is quite loyal to her favourite couturier and milliner so I think it’s safe to say we will see her in a dress and coat by Stuart Parvin with a hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan. She wore yellow at the last royal wedding so my bet’s on blue this time round. The hat I’ve pictured below is by Philip Treacy, with dress coat by Suzannah.

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Mother of the Bride. It must be quite daunting for Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria,  dressing for an occasion like this. I think she would look good in a nice peachy coral or maybe a lemon yellow with ivory hat. This is one of my favourite coat dresses by Claire Mischevani with hat by Philip Treacy.

Doria

The Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla usually wears really shimmery pastel colours – and quite large wide brimmed hats so she’ll probably stick to this formula with a hat by Philip Treacy. Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 11.13.25

The Duchess of Cambridge. Usually loyal to Catherine Walker or Alexander Mcqueen on occasions like this. A tricky one for the Duchess so soon after giving birth but she’s lucky enough to have the expert services of the best couturiers on call so her dress dilemma will be made a lot easier with a bespoke number. The Duchess doesn’t wear green much but it would really suit her so I would dress her in a bespoke version of this lovely mint green dress coat by Catharine Walker, with hat by Lock & Co.

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The Countess of Wessex. Sophie wore a silvery Bruce Oldfield skirt suit at the last royal wedding. I’d like to see her in blush or rose pink for spring – with a hat by her usual milliner, Jane Taylor. I would dress her in this lovely pink dress by Oscar de la Renta pictured here with a hat by Philip Treacy.

Sophie

Princess Beatrice. Beatrice’s hat was one of the more stand-out memories from the last royal wedding. The infamous Treacy pretzel hat was quite a statement! Her dressing has become more and more elegant lately so I’m expecting to see her in a stylish dress and jacket and a sophisticated head piece, like this unusual floral headband from Juliette Botterill Millinery.

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Princess Eugenie. Eugenie loves a bit of colour so I’m not expecting this one to be too matchy matchy! I think she’d look good in this emerald green dress by Self Portrait with hat by Camilla Rose.

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Enjoy the royal wedding!

 

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Dressy Flats

These looks are for a follower on my Instagram page who is looking for an outfit for a wedding at Sandhurst this summer. She specified that she needs to wear flat shoes due to a leg injury so I’ve scoured the shops for some dressy flat shoes and here are my findings!  These have to be my favourite flats – pointed satin slingback in emerald green by Zara. I love this jewel-like shade of green. I’ve matched them with a pretty lace-trimmed aqua green tunic dress from Ted Baker a jewel-encrusted bag from Zara and a champagne headpiece from John Lewis. Zara is one of my favourite high street shops and they have some great dressy flats and clutches at the moment.

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The second look features a vibrant yellow dress from Warehouse with asymmetric satin shoulder panel. Yellow is quite a tricky colour to carry off but if you have the right colouring it can look great in the summer – I’ve matched it with two sets of accessories for two different looks. On the left, silver pointed slingbacks from Boden, a striking geometric box clutch from Zara, Swarovski earrings and a black headpiece from Whiteley Hats. For a softer look on the right I’ve pictured an ivory/gold beret headpiece by Rachel Black Millinery, gold flat sandals by L.K. Bennett, a beaded yellow clutch from Zara, and earrings by Infinity & Co.

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The third look features a blue lace midi dress with black trim by Warehouse. This is a bit trickier to accessorise without picking out the black in the accessories which could appear too dark for a summer wedding…so I’ve gone for ivory jewelled pumps by Dune London, pearl earrings by Accessorize, a sheer black headpiece from Issa, and a pale blue bag by Zara.

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Here are some more of my top picks for dressy flats!

LKBpink

Luisa pink jacquard flats, £125, L.K. Bennett.

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Nude diamante flat sandals, £75, Dune London.

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Bejewelled electric blue slingbacks, £25.99, Zara.

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Blush pink slingback shoes with pearl embellishment, £88, Phase Eight.

 

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What to Wear – Royal Garden Party

These two outfits are styled for an instagram follower who has a Buckingham Palace garden party to dress for this summer. As an ex-BP employee I have been on duty for numerous garden party days and have attended as a guest too so it’s something I am very familiar with. For the first look I have pictured the supremely elegant Hana dress by Beulah London. I love the subtle pleating in this dress, they call it a “hero” garment and hero it is in my book! I’ve matched it with a beautiful rose pink percher hat by Juliette Botterill, pink pearl earrings, an ivory clutch with pearl detail from Coast and ivory floral heels from Office. Now I’ve already advised her to wear comfortable shoes as there is a bit of queuing at the gates involved on garden party days and you’ll be on your feet on grass all afternoon…but I wouldn’t always listen to my advice! With shoes like this in the world it would be a shame not to wear them!  Honestly though if you do opt for high heels I’d always advise to wear tights and use a shoe cushion insert to support your foot. Boots and M&S sell good value ones, otherwise you’ll get blisters and be hobbling home! Alice Bow insoles are a more luxury brand and are apparently used by the Duchess of Cambridge. M&S also have really low denier cooling tights that are good in summer and feel like you’re barely wearing anything – they’re practically 0 denier – they’re hardly there at all.

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A garden party in England brings out the florals in me as you can see from the second look here – a gourgeous soft blush pink embroidered fitted dress by Karen Millen that I have paired with two hat options – the left one is by Awon Golding and on the right is another headpiece from Juliette Botterill Millinery. I think the soft pink accessories are best – L.K. Bennett clutch and matching blush suede courts – but you could also go for bright pink if you fancy more colour💕 (Dune London clutch and Kurt Geiger courts).

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Enjoy the garden party – the afternoon teas are the best!

 

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