Posts Tagged 'dress code'

Royal Ascot: Dress & Wardrobe

2010 Royal Ascot is just under a month away. Last year, our post on Ascot proved very popular, gaining the most reads out of all of our entries. This is probably because Ascot is a melting pot and people from all different walks of life can be found here.

Next week we will talk about how to picnic in style at Royal Ascot. This week, we recap on what should and should not be worn when at the races.

Alexandra Messervy, Founder, The English Manner: “Morning 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!

William Hanson, Tutor, The English Manner: “In 2008 Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere. For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however. The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller. Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.”

For further advice on Royal Ascot, please see last year’s (very popular) entry, or feel free to contact us.

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

Red Carpet: Black Tie?

We’ve barely got over Christmas: the last mince pie has been eaten and that stubborn piece of Christmas cake that no one chose to eat up has been thrown away. Now we are faced with endless acceptance speeches, glittering gongs and ticker tape as the awards season is here once more. It seems that everything and everyone has to have an award ceremony nowadays.

Whilst many of us will be slaving away in the coalface that is work, there are those select few, who some may envy, that are living the high-life on the red carpet. Traditional award ceremonies call for the most common of formal dress codes, Black Tie. But where does this dress code come from? What is it supposed to look like? It seems many of our celebrities don’t know either, or have chosen deliberately to flaunt it.

Keeley Hawes and husband Matthew Macfadyen at this year's BAFTAs

Keeley Hawes and husband Matthew Macfadyen at this year's BAFTAs

Black Tie was the creation of celebrated dandy Griswold Lorillard, who wore a mutated and deliberately altered version of White Tie to New York’s Tuxedo Park Club in 1886. At first, sartorial traditionalists were shocked with both the change and the audacity of the man. Lorillard, whose father owned the club – so there was no danger of being thrown out – wore a much shorter jacket than the required tailcoat. He also wore the white piqué shirt, which was worn with correct White Tie, and black trousers.

In England, the then Prince of Wales, Edward, had introduced a similarly short jacket for him and his courtiers, which they dubbed a “Cowes jacket”, which they wore to the annual boating festival.

Fashionistas, at first shocked by the new form, soon began to warm to the new design and the new dress code caught on, soon evolving into how we wear it today.

Black Tie, when worn correctly, is not to be taken literally: it does not mean wearing a black tie – one is not going to a funeral. The tie is a black bow tie, and, where possible, should be self-tied. A white dress shirt (preferably piqué) with turndown collar can be fastened with evening studs. A black dinner jacket and tapered trousers are also part of the dress code. Black patent leather evening shoes are optional, although preferred.

Black Tie is more diverse than some imagine. It can be dressed up or down. For example, if attending a private dinner at home, one could select a soft silk shirt with properly tied bow tie, if going to a subscription dinner – a pleated shirt.

Ladies don’t have it quite so easy when it comes to dressing up for a Black Tie event, although like their male counterparts, they can dress up or down, from little black dress with pearls for a formal business function, to something far more glamorous with ‘important’ jewellery for that award ceremony. However, the reason men wear black and white is so that it acts as a blank canvas for their partners to wear whatever colour they so wish (within reason, of course). Floor length dresses can be worn for more formal black tie events; otherwise cocktail length or luxurious evening trousers are perfect.  If attending a white tie event, then long dresses for ladies are de rigueur, together with tiaras and gloves. Earrings can be more flamboyant for evening events, dangling sparkles only at night, and always smaller and discreet – perhaps the ubiquitous pearls – for day wear.

There is so much to say on the humble Black Tie (including how one actually ties it) that next week we will discuss this dress code further.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

What to Wear When Working

There has been much talk in the media recently about dress codes during office hours, particularly for ladies: are such stringent dress codes old fashioned and patronising? Or do our clothes say more about us than we may think?

An increasing number of international businesses are sending employees on courses to learn basic business etiquette and presentation skills.  The media has made much of this in recent days, highlighting the importance of dress for women in particular, and when interviewed on BBC Radio 2, columnist Amanda Platell remarked that she writes her newspaper column from her home in full business dress and lipstick to give her the appropriate ‘corporate’ persona.

windows_macWhat we wear, and how we wear it, can speak volumes. It is important to get the right look for the right occasion. Look at the advertisements for Apple computers, where they use anthropomorphise Apple and Windows computers. The former, whose machines are sleek, all in one and appeal mainly to a younger, more creative market, use a hip, young, trendy man, whereas the Windows character is a suited, balding man with a slight paunch. The juxtaposition instantly conveys two very different images.

Having said that, we would not advocate that for work you based your style on the Apple man. It’s about getting a middle ground. A suit is timeless and can be worn by any generation. In business it is much better to dress more conservatively than you may do in your own time.

For the ladies, too much make up can allude to a lack of confidence – less is always more; skirts up to the nostrils are never appropriate: ideally, the hem should be just below the knee.

The English Manner are running a course on contemporary business skills in March, where dress-codes, presentation and much more will be covered. For more information, please click here.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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