Archive for the 'Dress & Appearance' Category



Travel Tips

The summer is nearly upon us, and for many of us this is reason for a holiday; whether you are traveling to distant lands or welcoming international visitors at home, make the most of the opportunity to improve your country’s profile and reputation. While no-one sets out to insult or offend their hosts or guests, unknowledgeable and naïve travellers may leave a trail of ill-will and hard feelings.

Before you go, obtain at least enough local currency to get you through the arrival process, tips for the airport porter, your driver and hotel bellman. Your home currency will be of considerably less value to them if they need to convert it at a bank and it suggests an arrogance to flaunt your home currency as though it were an international standard. Don’t over-tip, some cultures find it insulting. While recognising exceptional service is appreciated world-wide, standard services such as handling your baggage or driving from airport to hotel require only a modest tip, if any.

superstock_1598r-82430Prepare yourself with a few key phrases in the language of your host country. The first and most important phrase to learn is “Thank you.” Along with good morning/afternoon, and goodbye, these phrases, delivered with a smile even in your questionable accent, will ease your arrival and minor transactions during your stay.

Familiarise yourself with the culture you are visiting.  While hotel destinations in the Middle East are accustomed to Western dress, once off the hotel property or when traveling through the airport, women especially need to be aware that even simple items like sleeveless dresses or anything revealing the shoulders are considered immodest and may cause offence.  While alcohol is available at resort properties, when leaving the compound to experience the very culture you came to visit, don’t mention it or try to order it.

Even on the most casual of vacations, have at least one decent set of clothes to wear when the occasion presents itself. While formal dress codes are rare, a sense of moderation is encouraged or requested in many dining situations. For men, this means a collared shirt and long trousers (not jeans).  Ladies, no halter tops or shorts in the dining room.  And everywhere at all times, gentlemen (unless they have a medical or religious reason to keep it on) remove their hats indoors and this includes the ubiquitous baseball cap.

If you see an international visitor about to commit some glaring offence, a considerate prompt might be appropriate.  Remember, no-one sets out to offend or antagonise their hosts. A polite suggestion that saves a visitor later embarrassment or discomfort will be much appreciated.

Remember that when travelling, you are an ambassador for your country and the impression you leave behind reflects on your country and affects the way your fellow citizens will be welcomed in future. Arrive as a stranger, leave as a friend.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

Royal Epsom Derby

Aerial view of Epsom

Aerial view of Epsom

First run in 1780, the Epsom Derby (pronounced dɑː’ bi / dar-be) is a contest for three-year-old colts and fillies run over a mile and a half. Traditionally, the contest started on a Wednesday, but during the 1990s it was moved to Saturday, as it was thought that more people could attend as the days when Parliament was adjourned and the stock market closed in order for people to attend are no more.

This year, the event takes place on the 5th and 6th of June.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family still attend and watch the racing from the Royal Box. For those who have admission to the Queen’s Stand, morning dress for the men and smart day dress with hats for women is required. For everyone else, jackets, ties/skirts and dresses are the protocol.

Part of Epsom’s Derby’s charm is the alternative style of dress of the gypsies and pearly kings and queens over on the downs (think of that scene in Mary Poppins). There is also still a funfair and many people arrive in open-topped buses.

Membership and entry requirements need to be checked early with Epsom racecourse and early booking is, like with many events, strongly advised.

NB: Although some call this type of event ‘horse-racing’, those in the know refer to it as ‘racing’.

If you are still in any doubt as to the event’s protocol or what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any questions you may have. Alternatively, please visit our main website for more information: http://www.theenglishmanner.com

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Blooms from 2008's show

Blooms from 2008's show

The first of the major events in the season is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. For newcomers to the event, it may be interesting to note that this event has not always been held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Before it arrived in SW3, the society used Chiswick House (this ceased in 1858), the site of what is now the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, and then under canvas in Temple Garden on the Embankment, before moving to where it is today.

There is no stringent dress code, but smarter visitors wear blazers and ties. Ladies often wear skirts and jackets or suits, but not usually hats.  However, it is the end of spring and nearing the start of summer, so the weather can be mixed. Try to prepare for rain and shine and possibly have a rain hat, rather than an umbrella which gets in the way in crowds and can block other people’s views.

Members of the RHS have the advantage of being able to book tickets in advance and two days are set-aside for members only. There is also a private Royal preview which The Queen always attends and other family members, on the Monday, with an evening Charity Gala Evening, used by the great and the good for corporate entertainment. This is followed on Tuesday and Wednesday for RHS Members and then three days for the public, with a fabulous opportunity on Saturday for bargains as stall holders and garden designers sell off their ‘used’ wares.

There are lots of loos but they do border on the primitive and long queues can be expected for the ladies’!

If you are still in any doubt as to the event’s protocol or what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any questions you may have. Alternatively, please visit our main website for more information: http://www.theenglishmanner.com

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

In Season: What To Wear

Two weeks ago, I commented on The Season in general. Now, as the start is less than a month away, here are a few dos and don’ts on dress codes to help you navigate this social juggernaut for some of the main events.

Chelsea Flower Show
Probably the most relaxed event in terms of dress code, and it is all in the entrance here.  Take the bus, tube or arrive by taxi, but be prepared to queue at the gates so arrive as early as you can.  Essentially, you are here to look at the flowers and gardens, and not on a fashion parade, so understated investment dressing is the key here:  depending on the weather go for light suits or dresses and jackets, and do remember a lot of walking is involved, so wear comfortable shoes.  If you are attending the private view then cocktail dress of course, but the men can get by all day in a crisp blazer and chinos with well-polished loafers.

Polo
Don’t, whatever you do, dress down.  Polo is probably the most high-profile of the season’s events, and attracts not only an international crowd but also seems to be a magnet for the celebrity crowd, from jet setting movie star to B-lister wannabee.  If the weather is good, team a pretty summer dress with the highest Jimmy Choos, or wear a chic trouser suit.  The latest designer sunglasses are a must-have – but do make sure that if you are invited into the Royal tea tent, you remove them out of the glare!  Men can get by with a blazer and well pressed trousers – the more one imitates the well-dressed smooth good looks of George Clooney, the better!

Royal Ascot
416_ascot_royal_416x300Morning suits and top hats are de-rigeur, as of course are the most fabulous hats.  Trousers for ladies are now permitted, but skirts must not be far above the knee, and if you are hoping to enter the Royal Enclosure you will need to apply for a sponsored badge many months in advance, with a reference from a member of the Royal Enclosure.  Top hats should always be black silk, and morning suits can be grey or black – my own preference is grey.  Ladies Day is the traditional one to ‘be seen’, when even the more conservative hat-wearer can really push the boat out.  A word of caution though:  if you are not used to wearing a hat, practice putting it on and off and wearing it around the house several times before the big day, and learn to relax – otherwise you will have severe neck strain and a bad headache before you go near the champagne!

Cowes
The cult brands of Jack Wills, Musto and Joules will be raking in the money this year as sailing appears to have taken off again – if it ever went out of fashion.  For spectators, stick to looking the part in deck shoes, sunglasses, windproof gear and a chance to wear that perfect Hermes headscarf – and there are plenty of wonderful wellies around if the weather is wet.  A plug here for the wonderful work of the RNLI – spare a thought for this entirely volunteer-led organisation which aims to raise some £131 million a year to maintain the fleet of rescue craft and on-shore lifeguards.  There is rarely a day when crews do not risk their lives to save others at sea so, if you are attending any sailing event this year, pop a coin into the nearest donation box;  you never know when you may need them!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Badminton May Horse Trials

One of the regular features on this blog will be postings regarding dress codes and etiquette for sporting events in the British Season. We have already commented on The Season in general. This week, we begin our quick insights into each major event with next month’s Badminton Horse Trials.

Badminton House

Badminton House

Set in the park of Badminton House in Gloucestershire, the three-day horse trials are an annual event, which began in 1949. The cross-country day at Badminton attracts crowds of about a quarter of a million people, the largest for any paid-entry sporting event in the UK. Although it is said to be ‘three-day eventing’, the trials actually take place over four. The Thursday and Friday are for dressage; the Saturday for cross-country and the Sunday for show-jumping.

As with many social events in the British season, we at The English Manner start to get many enquires asking us what the correct dress code is for this event, which this year takes place from 7th-10th May.

It is advised that your choice of clothes is ‘country’ and that sensible shoes are worn. ‘Country’ does not mean what one would wear to go walking or rambling in the fields, but instead it infers tweeds or rustic fabrics. For those that hope to enjoy the corporate hospitality in the Portcullis Club or company marquees, it is requested that you wear jackets and suitable ties (no novelty ones, please!).

Badminton is known for its stringent rules on dress. The New Zealander Mark Todd rode two-thirds on the 1995 cross-country course on his horse with only one stirrup before getting disqualified at an inspection the next day.

If you are still in any doubt as to what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any more questions on the event you may have. Alternatively, visit our main website for more information: http://www.theenglishmanner.com

The Greatest Minefield of All: The Season

The ‘Season’ begins in just under a month’s time and is a uniquely British thing.  In these days of a so-called classless society it is quite amazing that this totally inimitable feat of social engineering continues to hold such sway.  Perhaps it is entirely because it is such a change from the mundane that it remains so popular!

The Season came about primarily in the 19th century, and its heyday was reached during the reign of the gregarious King Edward VII.  Since then, we have witnessed two world wars, banking crashes and the horrors of the credit crunch, and whilst there are bound to be some financial casualties this year, particularly where corporate sponsorship is concerned, many of the events of ‘the season’ seem to attract ever increasing crowds.  Attendance at most is not cheap, but because corporate sponsorship has boosted entry many people will be invited to at least one event this year through work or friends.  Our intention is to give a basic guide – but do email us for more specific assistance!

Blooms from 2008's show

Blooms from 2008's RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Debutantes went out in the 1950s as a result of The Queen’s ‘modernisation of the Monarchy’, although the Berkeley Dress Show and the Paris Crillon Ball have been revived to rave reviews – aspiring young ladies no longer need to be presented at Court, nor do they necessarily want to find a wealthy and eligible bachelor for long term wedded bliss, but instead perhaps enjoy a chance to show off a pretty dress and meet some new friends, whilst the aspirations of good manners, correct dress codes and a little bit of gentility in our increasingly hectic lives is cutting the mustard.

Officially, the ‘season’ is a three month period from May to July when in days gone by, the Court and fashionable society were in town (London).  During winter months, the ruling classes spent time at their country estates hunting, shooting and fishing – nowadays many do not even own one home let alone two – but the Chelsea Flower Show, this year from 18th May, continues to herald the start.

The English Manner always has a presence at Chelsea, usually with guests who are taking part in one of our guided garden tours, and if the weather is good, it is a wonderfully English way to kick-start summer.  The Derby follows, and then Royal Ascot, possibly the most famous race meeting in the world, presenting an opportunity to wear that fabulous outfit and out of this world hat, whilst picnicking on smoked salmon, strawberries and champagne at the side of the course – in Number One car park, of course!

After Ascot and The Queen’s Birthday Parade, we have Wimbledon, Glorious Goodwood and the Festival of Speed, and for the sailing fraternity, The Royal Henley Regatta and Cowes Week, preceded by Cartier International Polo Day – always a firm fixture in the social calendar and now attracting a celebrity crowd from all over the world.

Packed tightly in between all of these are myriad charity events, timed to perfection to attract the most likely donors, and to give credibility to all that partying!  Coupled with the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair and Hampton Court Flower Show, those who have the money, the time and the inclination, can have a jolly good time!

Of all the summer events, I think Royal Ascot is probably the one we think of more often than not when we talk about ‘the Season’, and it was here that the term ‘Royal Enclosure’ began.  King George IV invented the idea of entertaining his private friends, and the idea of a private or select area quickly caught on for Centre Court at Wimbledon, the Stewards’ Enclosure at Henley – where entry is even more restricted than Ascot – and the Member’s Enclosures at Polo.  As the names imply, entry is limited, often to the cognoscenti and ‘who you know’, and there are essential elements of dressing up as well as certain rules and traditions.

As ‘the season’ unfolds, we will give you some do’s and don’ts on protocol and customs.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Black Tie: A Coat of Many Colours?

Last week, we discussed some of the conventions associated with wearing Black Tie, following the start of the awards season. There is so much to say about this dress code that we thought we should pursue it further. This week, how to introduce colour successfully into what some perceive as a boring colour system, and how to tie a proper bow tie.

The white dress shirt should preferably have a turndown collar (as opposed to winged). Wing collars are the preserve of White Tie, which is the highest form of formal dress. Although, it is usual to find gentlemen in Black Tie sporting wing collars. Interestingly, John Robertson, fellow tutor at The English Manner, notes that:

bowtie“[He has] seen the black dinner suit with the wing collar and the black tie worn SO successfully that [he] would be the last person in the world to say it is incorrect. It comes down to confidence and flair. Especially amongst the younger set, I say go for it, just so long as you do it with style. As long as you are breaking the rules anyway, best to go all the way. Not only does this look require that you tie your own tie, to avoid any display of adjusting hardware as well, wear a single ended bow tie (the favourite of The Prince of Wales) or a properly sized butterfly (that matches your collar size).”

Introducing colour into the black and white colour scheme of the garments can be dangerous. Yet, like with the wing collars, if you know the rules you can break then with panache and élan. There was once an occasion where a gentleman attended a Black Tie dinner wearing:  a white business shirt, blue blazer, dark bottle green trousers and a bow tie. No one noticed that he wasn’t wearing a ‘proper’ dinner jacket, as the bow tie gave the over-riding impression.

It is probably fair to say that most of the male population would opt for a ready-tied bow tie over a DIY one. Whilst there are benefits with the former, nothing can look better than a ‘proper’ one, as the ready-tied variety do not look nearly as good and can be very obvious to the trained eye.

You can find instructions on how to correctly tie here:

http://www.societies.cam.ac.uk/cuhags/whitetie/howtotie.htm

However we would advise a trip to a gentlemen’s’ outfitters to learn how to tie a bow tie, rather than just relying on the web. Shops such as Gieves & Hawkes, T. M. Lewin, or Thomas Pink – all of which are accessible outside of London.

It is never good manners to question the authenticity of someone’s bow tie: especially by pulling it to see if it comes apart! It may be a good idea to carry in your pocket a ready-tied tie, in case your attempt at having a go yourself fails.

Cummerbunds are worn with pleats pointing upwards and are worn in the spot around the waist where a conventional belt would be worn. Belts themselves are not normally worn with Black Tie: opt for braces if you feel a cummerbund is not for you.  A cummerbund bridges the gap between the waist edge of the trousers and the beginning of the pleated or pique fronted shirt.

Other accessories you can add include evening studs: a lot of proper dress shirts do not have the front four buttons, but have holes for formal dress studs. Studs are often given as 18th or 21st birthday presents and can last a lifetime. For dress shirts with double cuffs, cufflinks are required. Please note that all ‘jewellery’ (or accessories) should compliment what you are wearing and each other. For example, if your studs are black with silver edging, your cufflinks should ideally be silver, too.

Another point to note is that in America, it is referred to as ‘Tuxedo’ (see last week’s post as to why), whereas Brits will call it ‘Black Tie’ or ‘Dinner Jacket’: the latter is never written on invitations, only the former. In France, the notation “Jacquet” on an invitation denotes Black Tie.

What do you think? Do you dare break the colour rules? Have you found any better instructions on how to tie your bow tie? Let us know by commenting on this post.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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