Fashion: The party manifesto

This summer’s parties and special occasions provide the perfect excuse for making a canny wardrobe investment. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to stand out in style.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 18th July 2015, 8:24 am
The Saturdays' Mollie King at the Wimbledon cocktail party wearing Ralph Lauren spring/summer '15 collection.
The Saturdays' Mollie King at the Wimbledon cocktail party wearing Ralph Lauren spring/summer '15 collection.

Life, for most of us, tends not to take the form of one fast and never-ending whirl of parties. Far from it. Maybe a wedding or two, a couple of anniversary and big birthday bashes, a summer garden party if we’re lucky, or a posh barbecue. Or, in a particularly good social season, a summer ball, one of those idyllic affairs that starts on the lawn, moves indoors for dining and dancing, and then drifts outside again to cool down and cosy up.

But no matter how crowded or how sparse our summer social diary appears, still, we’ve nothing to wear. Nothing that we want to wear, anyway, or that still fits, or that we haven’t worn so many many times before.

This transitional time of year is an excellent opportunity to make a fashion investment. The sales may be coming to an end, but there are still some bargains to be had, especially if you are looking for something bold and unusual. Don’t dismiss something fabulous just because it doesn’t fit. If you love the colour and the style, find a local tailor or seamstress who can adjust this for you. Obviously, this works better for clothes that are too big rather than too small and, although the cost of alterations needn’t be high, it is best saved for more expensive, quality and special pieces.

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Downton Abbey star, Yorkshire's own Joanne Froggatt keeps it bright and short in characteristically pared-back Ralph Lauren for the pre-Wimbledon cocktail party.

Cocktail party dresses are a particularly good investment right now. Not that there are too many actual cocktail parties these days – small, shortish afternoon events with cocktails which first became “a thing” in the early part of the last century both in the UK and the US – but a smart, bold little dress that gets you noticed (for all the right reasons) will always come in handy. As will a smart ensemble featuring gorgeous trousers, or an all-in-one, or a maxi dress, or (a failsafe, this is), an expensive looking white shirt tucked into a stunning bold skirt – think jewel-bright, floral silk maxi skirt, or luxurious, sequin-embellished A-line, for starters.

Monochrome always works well for any dressy occasion and, for this summer, try all white, or cream, like a silk shirt dress (I am currently longing for a cream shirt dress) with just a dash of black, like a small black clutch bag. Incidentally, talking of clutch bags, check out Oasis for smart leather clutch bags in a range of colours, with chains so they can be worn cross body too. They cost £25 and are perfect for fairs and festivals, walks, shopping, concerts and plenty more besides.

Invest in a beautiful, neat-fitting cashmere cardigan, or preferably several in a range of colours (check out Harrogate-based Pure Collection, which has fantastic sales) to wear open and fastened with a neat belt (à la Victoria Beckham) over a sleek shift dress or with a chiffon prom skirt.

Try colours you have always thought (or have been told) were too bold or simply not for you. Ignore so-called style and colour wardrobe specialists and just try them out for yourself. A simple silk tunic dress in a bright, standout shade is the ultimate party head-turner at any time of day.

TV presenter Laura Whitmore at the film premiere in early summer wearing white tux with jeans and white blouse.

Here’s my pick of the best-dressed stars of the summer, attending their glamorous early evening premieres and parties. We can all dream.

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

Amber Heard at the Magic Mike XXL premiere at Leicester Square in June, wearing a red chiffon halterneck from Emilio Puccis autumn/winter collection.
Emily Blunt at the Christian Dior A/W haute couture bask in Paris earlier this month