If I find a pair of shoes that I like I’m very loyal to them – perhaps too much – I once hung on to a pair of tan flats that I loved for so long, even when they had a crack in the sole and it was a sad day when I had to throw them out. I also have a pair of black brogues whose cost per wear is probably less than a penny by now. I’m not immune to the lure of a new pretty shoe however. I wonder if anyone has done a study on shoe psychology?! It’s the area of the wardrobe that’s easier to buy for as your shoe size doesn’t usually fluctuate as your clothes size can – a good thing in theory but can result in impulse purchases in practice. I bought a pair of pink satin ballet style slippers in Barcelona once (over six years ago) and I’ve never worn them outside as I’m frightened of spoiling them. I wore them once at a dinner party at home and the rest of the time they’re tucked away in their shoes bags. Practical they are not but pretty they most definitely are. I also have a pair of gold T-bar dancing shoes that I bought for a 1920s party (from a dancewear shop – I’m not sure these ones are even meant to be worn outside as they have a really soft leather sole). I never wear them now but I look at them often, like an artwork!
I’m still on a quest to own a pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz – the shoe of dreams that must be the most famous pair ever designed and surely begins many ladies love of a pretty shoe. I saw one of the originals at a film costume exhibition at the V&A several years ago (four pairs were made for the original movie). It was quite an exciting moment! One of the original pairs was stolen from a museum in 2005 (it wasn’t me, I promise) and were finally returned just a couple of weeks ago. I remember Harrods selling some Limited edition ruby slippers in 2009, I think it was – they had a ruby slipper pop-up boudoir to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. I hot-footed it over there on an afternoon off when I was working at Buckingham Palace – alas they had sold out pretty quickly. So the quest continues for my own pair of these pretty and powerful shoes! “Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, there’s no place like home”. 👠
Here are some of my favourite statement shoes – not so practical but oh so pretty – if you feel like having a Marilyn/Dorothy moment this weekend! My top pick on a budget would be the Marks & Sparks silver sparkly slingbacks ✨ sure to be a favourite come party season and great if you want to combine comfort with glamour!
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.
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.
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.
This set of looks is for an Instagram follower who has a wedding in Milan to attend this summer and will be heavily pregnant on the day!🤰Stylish maternity wear can be hard to find and maternity occasion wear even trickier! I’ve pictured two maternity dresses and two regular dresses. I’ve known a couple of ladies that go down this route when it comes to maternity occasion dress – they just size up in a regular label and choose tunic/cape styles that will cover the growing bump. I love the statement sleeves on the Ted Baker dress which will also help to balance out the growing baby bump, and the dusky rose colour matches beautifully with the floral headpiece by John Lewis and satin clutch by Carvela.
Coral pink is a great colour for summer – I’ve pictured below a pleated maternity dress by Seraphine Maternity and a chiffon cape overlay dress by Gina Baconni. If you sized up in this dress I think the cape overlay is a nice addition to discreetly cover the baby bump.
And lastly I have picked out a pretty “English Rose” dress by Tiffany Rose Maternity which I have unashamedly accessorised in an excessively romantic and feminine way! The English Rose print just makes me want to skip around in an English flower bed! Now I’m not a fan of fascinators but I think if it’s more of a floral hair clip then this is fine – I just don’t like anything too flimsy as it doesn’t really enhance the outfit.
This series of looks is for a follower on my Instagram page who is looking for an outfit for a wedding this summer. The wedding date is four weeks after she is due to give birth so I’ve recommended that she go for a tunic style of dress that skims over the figure and perhaps make more of a feature of the accessories or hat. I’ve picked out three tunic style dresses here and matched them with accessories.
This look features the Chatsworth Bloom Scallop dress by Ted Baker, with sheer panelling around the top and a scallop edge. I’ve picked out the scallop detail in the blush/gold courts from Dune, and added their matching clutch, classic double drop pearl earrings from A. B. Taylor at John Lewis and a statement headpiece in the same tone from Scottish Milliner William Chambers. These shoes are a great neutral court shoe for special occasions – the nude colour will go with every dress and the scallop detail and streak of gold make them a little dressier than a regular beige court. The Ted Baker dress has quite a bold print but in subtle colours so I think you can still make a feature of the hat.
Secondly we have the Flame tunic dress from Goat Fashion in a vibrant coral shade. The Flame dress is simple, versatile and stylish. Shaped for an easy fit, the dress has a round neck and an over-sized feature button on the outer sleeve. I’ve shown two looks here with different accessories so you can see how the dress can be worn two completely different ways – great if you have a busy social calendar this summer and don’t want to buy multiple dresses! On the left I’ve matched the vibrant colour of the dress in a button head piece from Bundle Maclaren, and statement earrings from Kendra Scott. If you’re wearing a block colour like this you can afford to add embellishments in the accessories so I’ve added an embellished black suede clutch from Dune with matching bag from L. K. Bennett. For a softer look I’ve used the same accessories as the first look and added a button pink sequinned headpiece adorned with an oyster and dusky pink silk flower from Bundle Maclaren with statement mother of pearl earrings by Olivia & Pearl. This headpiece could also match with the first dress from Ted Baker.
And finally a baby pink dress by Boutique Moschino featuring pretty ruffled sleeves and a square neckline, which I’ve accesorized with a classic Whitely swirl hat, the Olivia Pearl earrings, rosy suede heels from Kurt Geiger and a floral clutch from Ted Baker. I love Whiteley hats – they’re classic and elegant and look great with dresses like this if you want a sophisticated look!
Another instagram follower is quite the social butterfly this year 🦋 she has four weddings and a day at Royal Ascot to dress for! Sounds like a sequel for a Richard Curtis movie! She wants to re-wear her beautiful peachy coral flower & twist headpiece from Juliette pictured here for at least one of the events. I’ve selected some dresses and accessories below to mix and match so that she can get three more wears out of this hat!
“I make hats because I love hats. It’s an enigmatic object that serves the human purpose only of beautification and embellishment, and making one feel good, whether you’re the observer of the spectacle or the wearer”
– Philip Treacy
With the Royal wedding in May and Royal Ascot in June, now is the time to be thinking about hats! So I thought I’d bring you a round-up of all the best hatters in London and further afield, which may be especially useful if you’re new to the millinery world, and my top tips for finding the right hat if you have an upcoming special occasion this year. Finding the right dress for an event can be a hassle in itself, so if you also need a hat it can be quite challenging to find the perfect outfit. Here are some points to consider:
If you want a perfectly styled elegant ensemble, I would recommend matching the hat to the colour of your dress as much as possible. Most milliners offer a bespoke dye-to-order service where you can take your dress to them and they will create a hat to match its exact colour. Remember with bespoke services to leave as much time as possible for this to be done. A lot of hats take three to four weeks minimum to make, and are likely to take even longer at busier times eg. Royal Ascot, garden party season, so it’s important to plan ahead.
For variety of colour in your look, try picking a slightly different shade from the same colour group or a complementary colour group and then match it with your other accessories, e.g. a navy hat, bag and shoes with a paler blue dress.
If you’re wearing a multi-coloured patterned or floral dress, pick out one of the colours and match this in your hat, shoes and bag, or go for neutral accessories – this will help to pull the look together.
If you’ve chosen a statement hat and you’re building your outfit around it, stick to a simple dress and shoes and let the hat do the talking.
Store your hat properly after wear: line the crown with acid-free tissue paper and store in a hat box to protect its shape.
Price range: £600–£3,500+ Showroom: 69 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London. Other stockists: Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Fenwicks (see website for full list of stockists).
The King of millinery, Philip Treacy’s hats have been popular with British and European royalty and Hollwood celebrities for decades. The Duchess of Cornwall wore a Treacy head piece and hat on her wedding day in 2002 and has been wearing mainly Treacy hats to major royal events ever since. Camilla always chooses his very wide-brimmed style hats, which suit her well. I particularly like the percher hats which have a silk floral detail on the underside. One of the most expensive milliners out there, but each piece is a work of art. In fact, if I bought one I think I’d be inclined to show it off in a glass cabinet in my house after wearing!
Price Range: £400–£2,500. Showroom: King Street, St. James’s, London. Other Stockists: Harrods, Selfridges.
Royal Warrant holder since 2014 as milliner to HM The Queen. The Queen wears Rachel Trevor Morgan hats almost exclusively (sometimes HM wears hats designed by her Dresser and Personal Assistant, Angela Kelly). Beautifully feminine and traditional hats and headpieces. (Photography: Catherine Harbour).
Price Range: £500–£2,500. Showroom: 253 Kings Road, London. Other Stockists: Harrods, Fenwicks, Fortnum and Mason.
Another favourite with the Royals, especially the Countess of Wessex, who has worn Jane Taylor hats exclusively to all formal royal events since 2009. Their occasion hats are chic and feminine, usually with a subtle floral or feather flourish that appears elegant without being too fussy. Blush rose is one of my favourite colours, so I’m spoilt for choice here as they have several rosy hats in their current collection. Blush pink is a great rosy neutral for complementing summer pastel or floral outfits. A bespoke service is also available to hand-craft clutches and gloves for a perfectly matched ensemble.
Price Range: £270–£575. Studio: London E3, by appointment only. Other stockists: Fortnum & Mason, Suzannah. HoodLondon.com, LoveHats.com. Consult website for other worldwide stockists.
London-based creative and contemporary milliner worn by Lady Gaga. Her current collection is inspired by optics and the rainbow of colours in visible light. Fun and contemporary pieces for those looking for something fresh and unique.
Price Range: £85–£400. Showroom: Fulham, London, by appointment. Other Stockists: John Lewis.
A large selection of affordable ready-to-wear hats available on their website. A great choice if you like quirkier contemporary hats, but they have many traditional pill box and wide-brim hats too. I’ve pictured some of my favourites above. Bespoke service available – no brief too big; they have done some pretty crazy creations for the races, including a giant parrot cage hat! Bridal headpieces and casual summer hats also available.
Price Range: £285-£425. Studio: London SW6, by appointment. Other stockists: Herald & Heart, Abi Gurney Hat Hire, Katie & Jo, lovehats.com
There’s a strong architectural influence to Camilla’s hats from her background in interior design. The “Volute” is a stand out style – a fluid, structural beret style hat available in a range of colours. Bespoke service available.
Price Range: £450–£1,125. Showroom: Wimbledon, London (appointment recommended). Other Stockists: LoveHats.com.
Emily London is really bringing back the boater! I love their elegant and dressy spin on this classic hat shape – as worn recently by Princess Beatrice. A great choice if you want a smart summery look without looking overly formal. Ready to wear, bespoke and bridal available.
Price Range: £380–£620. Showroom: Wimbledon Village, London, by appointment only. Other Stockists: Fortnum and Mason, LoveHats.com.
Juliette’s chic cocktail button hats and percher hats are popular with the younger royals: Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Zara Tindall and Autumn Phillips. Bespoke and dye-to-order service available. Some lovely pastel spring hues in her current collection as well as bolder colours, I’ve pictured my favourites above.
Price Range: £250-£750. Studio: 128 Grosvenor Road London, SW1 or Shropshire, by appointment. Other stockists: pop up in Selfridges May 2018.
Timeless hats all handcrafted in Laura’s Shropshire studio. Some whimsical creations too in her Butterfly House collection – always a favourite for Ladies Day at the races! Bespoke, ready to wear and bridal.
Price Range: £750–£925. Location: No. 6 St. James Street, London.
The world’s oldest hatter. A small selection of occasion hats online – classic shapes and sophisticated understated style. Experts in hat care; if your hat loses its shape then this is the place to take it to re-block your hat and get it back to its former glory.
Price Range: £185-£359. Studio: London, by appointment. Other stockists: Herald and Heart, Fulham, London.
British-Australian Milliner focusing on bespoke creations but a small collection of ready-to-wear hats are available. Some nice berets and boaters with a twist, also good for smaller headpieces/headbands.
Price Range: £180–£600. Studio: NW London (by appointment). Other stockists: Suzannah, Harrods, Fenwicks. See website for other European stockists.
Nerida worked as an apprentice to Philip Treacy for two years before starting her own label. Ready-to-wear hats available online, bespoke service also available. Elegant and sophisticated hats with subtle embellishments and classic colours. I’ve pictured some of my favourite wide brimmed hats from her current collection.
Price Range: £185–£550. Studio: North London (by appointment). Other stockists: Suzannah, Bloomingdales, Dubai, HoodLondon.com, lovehats.com
Rachel trained in theatrical costume construction which she draws on as inspiration when designing her hats to produce wearable, elegant and unique pieces with a sculptural flair. Ready-to-wear, bridal and bespoke service available.
Price Range: £255–£875. Location: available for appointments in Hampstead, London and Manchester. Other stockists: lovehats.com
Stylish, elegant and wearable beret style percher hats. Lots of colour in her latest collection, so a good choice if you have a bright outfit to match. Popular with the younger royals – Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice. Bespoke service available.
Price range: from £195. Showroom: The Italian Centre, 168 Ingram St., Glasgow, Scotland. Other stockists: Harrods, Fortnums, Fenwicks, Joyce Young, LoveHats.com. Samuels Hats (New York).
William Chambers likes to mix traditional textiles with more contemporary materials not frequently seen in millinery, e.g. leather, plastic and latex. Ready-to-wear, bespoke and bridal pieces available.
You can’t go wrong with a Whiteley. I love the simplicity of the pillbox hat which Whiteley does so well, as seen on the Duchess of Cambridge. You can’t fail to look elegant if you’re channeling Jackie O chic!
Irish milliner based in County Tipperary. Eye-catching, colourful and elegant hats. A great choice if you want to dress to be seen at the races. Bespoke, ready-to-wear and bridal collections. Hat hire service also available – a good option if you’re on a tighter budget.
For those on tighter budgets, department stores such as John Lewis or Fenwicks offer a great range of affordable hats and headpieces. Here are some of my favourites available from John Lewis.
The Royal Family attended the traditional Easter Sunday service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, yesterday, the venue for two Royal weddings this year. The calendar might be telling us that it’s spring, but with the weather yesterday – a chilly 8 degrees – it felt more like a day in December, meaning there was a blend of winter and spring style on show from the royal ladies present. In terms of millinery, hats are usually felt/wool in winter and straw in summer, but April is a tricky month for formal dressing, as shown by the mixture of spring/summer and autumn/winter Easter bonnets on parade.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s outfit was the most wintery looking. Kate re-wore several items from her wardrobe: a chocolate brown bespoke wool dress coat by Catherine Walker with matching velour pill box hat – an ensemble last seen on St. Patrick’s Day 2015, during her last pregnancy. The hat is a favourite by Lock & Co, the world’s oldest hat shop, and has been worn many times before. The only nod to spring was in her blush nude accessories: Gianvito Rossi 85 pumps in praline pink and a matching blush leather clutch by Loeffler Randall, a combination she used at her last solo official engagement. She also freshened up the look with massive pearl jewellery – large faux pearl clip-on earrings by Balenciaga and a 5-pearl brooch, last seen at the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 2016 and 2015. This is a great example of how accessories can really update a look, even if the choice of colour for the coat/hat was somewhat sombre for Easter Sunday. I think she must be running out of maternity coats to cover the growing baby bump!
The Countess of Wessex combined spring pieces with winter colour, opting for a trendy but traditional navy blue wool trench coat – the “Millington” – from the Resort 2018 collection of Roland Mouret featuring flared split long sleeves and over-sized lapels. Sophie teamed the coat with a navy/beige straw hat – the “Fernanda” – from the Spring/Summer collection of Jane Taylor London, and navy satin pumps by Manolo Blahnik.
Princess Beatrice and Autumn Phillips opted for a more summery look, both wearing dress coats by Suzannah. Princess Beatrice wore a silk/cotton jacquard “Versailles” coat dress in ivory white featuring a round neck with a Peter Pan style collar and pleats and tucks around the waist to flatter the form. She teamed it with a matching tweed boater style hat by Emily London, beige patent (dangerously!) spiky-looking heels by Kurt Geiger and a lilac satin knot clutch by Bottega Veneta. Meanwhile, Autumn Phillips chose Suzannah’s fresh ice blue dress coat – the “Hunter” – with matching straw/lurex knot button headpiece designed by Suzannah, in collaboration with Juliette Botterill Millinery. She accessorized with dove grey suede pumps and a matching suede clutch by Emmy London.
Princess Eugenie, who is the second bride-to-be to marry in Windsor’s chapel later this year, brought several splashes of colour to the proceedings in this striking paint-spattered effect dress by Oscar de la Renta, with fuschia knot detail percher hat by Juliette Botterill Millinery (from their AW 14 collection). Eugenie teamed her dress with a black leather clutch by YSL and black suede pumps by Prada. At least if you spill something down this dress, you wouldn’t really notice!
Seasoned royal dressers The Queen and Princess Anne brought some much-needed colour to brighten the day. HM chose a vibrant cerise pink dress coat with matching hat trimmed with a spring bloom, while the Princess Royal opted for a stylish turquoise shade for her coat and matching trilby style hat.Notable absentees from the Easter Sunday service in Windsor yesterday were Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – the next time the royals gather in their finery at this chapel will be for their wedding in May!
Racing Fashion – The Lady’s Maid’s Guide to Style for The Cheltenham Festival
When you think of hats and horses, Royal Ascot might be the first event that springs to mind – a week in June that is as synonymous with style as it is with all things equine. March sees a very different racing event in terms of fashion: the Cheltenham Festival (13–16 March), the most prestigious meeting held at the Cheltenham racecourse, and the first notable event of the English racing calendar. Whilst the outfits of attendees are not quite so dressy as those at Ascot, it is still a place to show off your best country attire. Held in March, the weather usually calls for more practical winter wear – hats are worn but tend to be primarily for reasons of warmth as well as style, and are not obligatory; felt fedoras or berets are more appropriate than flamboyant fascinators.
Zara Tindall, The Duchess of Cambridge, Autumn Phillips and The Princess Royal pictured at the Cheltenham Festival.
The royals are the best models for inspiration when it comes to dressing for the races, pictured above in an array of neutral earthy tones. The best colours to wear for Cheltenham are autumnal shades, perhaps with a little pheasant feather flourish on the hat in keeping with the country feel. As for the outfit itself, smart country wear is the aim: tailored tweeds, houndstooth, skirts in countrified colours, rather than rainbow brights. As an outdoor event your outerwear will be kept on most of the time, so pick a smart longline tailored coat with simple separates underneath. For footwear, leather boots with a block or flat heel are advisable over stilettos; there is a wide variety of stylish leather and suede boots at Fairfax & Favor, some with elegant heels suitable for smarter ensembles. English weather in March is unpredictable so a scarf and gloves are also advisable; a patterned silk scarf or faux fur collar are stylish ways to add warmth to your outfit.
I’ve styled five possible outfits for Cheltenham below. The hat is the best signifier of how smart the look is. The first look is a fairly casual sweater and skirt ensemble topped off with a fedora hat; the last outfit features a more chic silk trimmed occasion hat from Jane Taylor London. This would be more suited to Ladies day at Cheltenham, held on the second day, Wednesday 14th March – this is the day when you will see dressier outfits, more colour and flamboyant headwear, and where there is also a competition for the best dressed lady, known as #ColourMeMarch, to add a bit of fun to the style stakes!
If you’re fretting about what to wear for New Year’s Eve, The Lady’s Maid has rounded up a few of her favourite picks from the Christmas Sales to help you welcome the New Year in style.
Outerwear can be a bit of a conundrum when it comes to evening clothes – you don’t want to spoil your party look with the final layer, so it’s worth investing in one coat that will cover all evening outfits. A long-line black coat is a safe bet, but The Lady’s Maid’s favourite look for evening is winter white. A white coat is a classic wardrobe staple for evening events and will go with every outfit. Bright colours especially, like the dazzling pink dress from L. K. Bennett shown below, will be neutralised by a white or off-white cover-up.
Another option for evening cover is the cape – a chic way of shielding your shoulders from the cold winter’s night, while still revealing a glimpse of your glad-rags below. The one pictured here is not on sale, but works well with a black jumpsuit. The black jumpsuit is turning into the new Little Black Dress in terms of its wearability and versatility. This one from Whistles continues the summer’s “cold shoulder” trend and is now half-price.
The Lady’s Maid loves this metallic fitted coat by Bruce Oldfield at John Lewis. More of a statement piece in itself, you’ll want to keep it on all night! Shown here with a metallic blue dress from Ralph Lauren, available from House of Fraser, and pewter accessories.
If you’re staying at home but still want to dress up a little, why not go for fancy flats – velvet embellished flats, like these from Aquazurra, are a simple way of dressing up a plain outfit. 2017 has seen flat footwear appear more frequently in evening wear, which is a relief for those who struggle with the discomfort that the lofty heights of heels can cause after a night of partying. If you have to carry your shoes at the end of the night, you know it’s time to go home.