by Camilla Ridley
The 'Season' is here and our friend & society stylist Claire McNestry has some great tips to get you looking and feeling your very best for every summer occasion
Stylist Claire McNestry is a huge fan of the new Ridley London collection of statement silk maxi dresses
And suddenly we’re in June already. Where did May go? Longer evenings are here with the promise of incredible sunny days and of course the start of the busy British summer social season. So whether you’re having a flutter at Ascot, hobnobbing at Henley, 'treading in' on Smith's Lawn, raving it up at an amazing festival or perhaps attending a wedding or special family celebration you’re going to want to look and feel fabulous. Whatever the weather, wherever the occasion. And if you’re like us (and an increasing number of our customers), you’re going to want a unique, versatile outfit that’s going to take you effortlessly from day into night and see you through a number of occasions. So with this in mind we’ve invited our fabulous friend society stylist Claire along to share some of her tips on finding your perfect garment for this season. Claire works with a variety of movers, shakers, household names and red carpet events ensuring the great and good are always looking effortlessly glamorous.
With so many different summer events, where’s the best place to start and can one outfit really work for everything?
This is the number one question I get asked all of the time and for most people finding that perfect outfit and then successfully accessorising it to create a unique stylish look can be overwhelming. But there are some simple steps you can follow to make this easier:
1. What is the occasion?
This is so important as we need to determine If there are specific dress codes. What the conditions are. Will you be inside or outside? What is the weather going to be like? Are you dressing for varying conditions - say day into evening?
2. How do you want to feel?
And how do you want other people to perceive you? Do you want to feel sexy? Is this a professional event with corporate clients or your mothers 70th birthday party? it’s really about understanding the social conventions and putting an outfit together that gets the delicate balance right between standing out and fitting in.
3.What ideas do you have?
At this point I tend to look through Pinterest with my clients to share ideas. I find this process really interesting as I get to see what my clients would love to wear but are too scared or feel that they can’t!
4. Layering strategy
Once we've picked the style then it all starts to fall into place. We think about whether the outfit needs layering. This is where the occasion comes back into question. If Ascot or Henley then we need to think carefully of the jacket / pashmina. If it’s a social event with mates then will a distressed denim or biker jacket suffice?
This is where each customer’s unique body shape plays an important part. For example if you have a pear shaped figure you are best sticking to a pointed shoe as this will elongate your silhouette. Also, consider the location. Will you be outside on grass? If so, a wedged or block heel would be the best choice of footwear.
And finally your accessories and again, body shape plays a big part. If for example you're a pear shape, I advise statement jewels as it draws the eye upward away from the hips. Does the occasion require a hat? If this occasion is Royal Ascot then be mindful of the rules. Royal Enclosure guests are not permitted to wear a fascinator. The hat must have a solid base with a diameter of 10cm or above. there's a helpful video on Royal Ascot dress codes: https://www.ascot.co.uk/what-to-wear/royal-ascot-style-guide
Occasions like Royal Ascot are now major fashion events in their own right. With this in mind, what are the key looks and styles we can expect to see this season?
This season’s must have pieces all have an element of pattern, colour and fun. And bolder is definitely better. Sleeves are big and bouncy, colours are vivid and print is everywhere. For me there are 3 stand out styles for this summer season:
Hot off the press: Carey Mulligan and Sofia Wellesley sport examples of this season's must have floral maxi dresses at the Royal Wedding. While PR Liz Cocozza wears Ridley London's new made to measure silk wrap dress
Floral Maxi dresses
Incredibly flattering, timelessly glamorous without doubt one of my all time favourite styles and a big trend for this summer. Floral Maxi dresses featured prominently across summer collections from the most influential labels including Gucci and Erdem and were out in strength at the recent Royal wedding. My favourites had to be Carey Mulligan’s yellow and pink float maxi dress by Erdem and Sofia Wellesley's red Valentino dress. See the new Ridley London collection of bespoke silk maxi dresses: https://ridleylondon.com/collections/maxi-dresses
The wrap dress
Invented in 1974 by Dianne Von Furstenberg is still going strong more than four decades later and is featuring prominently in a number of collections this season. The easy wrap design enables unlimited adjustment and a near perfect fit for every shape and unique physique. No wonder its such a fashion icon. I’m planning on wearing a wrap dress to two of my events this season. The new silk wrap dress by Ridley is stunning, the very fact that it’s silk means that it drapes effortlessly over our lumps and bumps whilst creating a seamless silhouette plus the deep v neck elongates the neck and also creates a lovely shape around the bust.
And finally it has to be the jumpsuit. The fact that Royal Ascot have given their race goers the nod to wear a jumpsuits this year means that we are bound to see a few make an appearance. I was watching with anticipation to see if anyone dared wear a jumpsuit to the wedding. I was so excited to see Megan’s best friend Misha Nonoo in her one shoulder red silk number by Sled, how amazing! If you’re out to make a big statement this season, it has to be a jumpsuit. See the new Ridley London collection of floral print jumpsuits: https://ridleylondon.com/collections/skirts-jumpsuits
So which look is right for me and how can I make a fabulous impression?
Whether it’s a maxi dress, a wrap dress or a jumpsuit; the secret to looking and feeling really fabulous is finding the right styles, cuts and colours for your unique body shape and skin tone. And then ensuring your outfit is properly fitted. Essentially there are five distinctive body shapes with proven strategies for bringing out the best in each.
Pear: your top half is smaller than your hips. You have a small waist and your hips and thighs are your widest parts. The main aim here is to balance out your curvy bottom half by adding volume from the waist upwards. Think bold, bright tops with large collars, statement sleeves and frills.
Apple : your top half and shoulders are wider than your hips and thighs. The aim here is to lengthen your torso so avoid anything that clings to your middle and look for styles that finish on your hip line and include a lower cut neckline. Empire line is especially flattering as are hemlines with embellishment which draw the eye down to your legs.
Strawberry: your top half is wider than your hips. You may have a defined waist and great shapely legs but the chances are you have little to no hips. Draw attention to your cleavage with a v neck or sweetheart neck line and opt for skirts and dresses that sit above or on the knee. I would also recommend sticking to muted colours on top and steering clear of paler colours.
Slender: your top and bottom half is balanced but your waist is not very defined. Your legs are likely to be your best asset. You are best suited to dresses that cinch in at the waist which will instantly make you look curvier. Want to add a bust? Then try high neck tops, frills, ruffles or a pussy bow. Steer clear of very baggy clothes as these will drown you and spaghetti straps will make you look too angular.
Hourglass: your bust and hips are balanced and you have a defined waist. So look for pieces that flatter your waistline and show off your neckline in a v or scoop neck. High waisted palazzo trousers will emphasise the curve of your hips without making you appear bigger than you actually are.
And what about colours Claire? How do you know which colour is right?
Amal Clooney shows how to dress with colour at the Royal Wedding
Getting the colour right really is the secret ingredient to becoming the best version of you. Typically our understanding of a season's colour trends is directly determined by what we see walking down the catwalks or in the media. But different colours work for different people and while everyone wants to feel fashionable, its essential colours are chosen to enhance your natural skin tones. Luckily the pallet for SS 18 has a colour for everyone.
The 2018 Pantone colour of the year is ultra violet. Lilacs are everywhere. In fact, think pastels and you can’t go wrong. Rose, mint green and sky blue - oh so feminine and chic. Can’t wear a pastel? If you are suited to warmer tones then you are in luck. Think crayola colours: tomato red, emerald green, cobalt and vibrant yellows are the go to bolder brights for this season.
The simplest way to understand which of these colour tones works for you is to examine the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they appear green then you have a naturally warm skin tone and you are suited to spring and autumn colours. So head towards warmer colour tones as pastels will wash you out. Your go to colours this season are rich reds, golden yellows, oranges, warm blues and greens.
If your veins appear blue or purple then you are a cooler skin tone and summer and winter colours will work best for you. Summer skin tones look fabulous in icy shades and pastels so that ultra violet is definitely for you. While winter colourings are especially suited to jewel colours so think bright blue, royal blue sapphire, emerald, amethyst and deep purples.
To properly assess your colour tones you can't beat a professional colour drape consultation, a service I offer my clients. I was taught by leading industry expert Jules Standish. If you get the chance, read her book on ‘ how not to wear black ‘ it’s mind blowing: https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Wear-Black-Jules-Standish/dp/1846945615
For a great example of successful colour dressing in action, look no further than the Royal Wedding and Amal Clooney in her stunning marigold Stella McCartney gown. This is the look everyone remembers. This shade of yellow is absolutely on trend for this season and there is a fantastic synergy between the incredible vibrancy of colour with the understated structured tailoring of this classically chic dress. But above all this tone worked beautifully with Mrs Clooney's warm skin tone enhancing her rich dark hair and eyes.
The new Ridley Carmen silk chiffon maxi dress shown here in the stunning yellow daisy print can be made to order in a range of chiffons
You’ve talked about how bold prints and vibrant colours and pastels are really in this season. But what if I’m a little more conservative?
The secret to looking great is feeling confident which comes with finding a comfortable balance for you. As long as the style works with your shape and a garment is properly fitted, demure styles with understated details will always exude timeless elegance. Micro florals or a block colour and silk are my go to for my more conservative clients. I recall showing one of my clients your Ridley Jane silk midi dress and she fell head over heels in love with it. It oozes glamour whilst still remaining quite formal. Team this with the Ridley ‘Chanel’ style jacket and voila - a timelessly elegant outfit complete.
it’s often said it’s the details that make the difference. Is this true?
Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to fit and accessorising your look. Everyone’s physique is subtly different and while choosing the right shape is crucial, getting an outfit properly fitted ensures you’ll look at your most elegant. There’s nothing worse than hem lengths that are just that bit too low or loose fabric bulges that could have been taken in. For special events, I absolutely insist that my clients are properly fitted for their outfits and where possible fine adjustments are made at the fitting stage. I really can’t emphasise enough the positive difference this makes.
Likewise accessories should be carefully chosen to seamlessly work with your outfit and enhance your best features. For example, I encourage clients with a pear shape to wear statement jewels. As this draws the eye upward and away from the hips. Often, finding the right piece of jewellery can be more frustrating that finding the perfect outfit. But again there are proven strategies one can follow. For example, If you have chosen an outfit with a busy pattern and lots of frills around the neckline I would advise you stick with simple jewels. If however, the outfit is less patterned and can take a statement piece, be this a necklace or statement earrings then the bigger the better. It’s all about striking the right visual balance.
I tend to shy away from wearing a statement necklace and statement earrings together. It’s a little too fussy for me. Jewellery should also compliment your skin tone. Silver looks great on the cooler skin tones whilst gold really compliments those with a warmer colouring.
What about hats?
Hats are very personal. I have many clients who feel awful in hats, like they have an alien on their head. Others totally embrace the look. Personally, I love wearing a hat and for me this season is all about hats. From the classic woven fedora to the brightest fascinator I can find. But be careful when choosing a hat for your event. Be mindful of the codes and conventions. For the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, the hat must have a solid base with a diameter of 10cm or above. You also need to consider the shape of your face. For example those of us with a long, thin shaped face are better suited to hats with a wide brim as these are great for shortening and slightly widening the look of your face.
For those not wanting to wear a hat but feel that you need to wear something in your hair you are in luck. Feather hair slides, pearl and diamanté clips and butterfly clips are all making a massive comeback. Gigi Hadid and Alexa Chung have both been seen at recent catwalks shows and events embracing this 90s throw back. Didn’t I hear that Ridley are now offering a bespoke tailor made millinery service? You really are a one stop shop. So amazing.
The new Ridley London Melanie silk midi dress can be made to measure in a variety of silks and prints. It's teamed here with new bespoke red hat by Sahar Millinery
How can I dress up / dress down/ accessorise outfit to make the most out of it throughout the summer?
For me this is an absolute must when investing in a piece for my wardrobe. After all you want as many opportunities to look as fabulous as possible. Often this can simply mean adopting a slightly more modern attitude to dressing. I often find myself encouraging clients to stop saving their best clothes for formal occasions. A great dress is not just for one occasion. If styled correctly, It can be worn across a variety of different events with confidence and panache.
We’re lucky, fashion has definitely become less structured and prescriptive. Dress codes are definitely more relaxed and people are far more open minded. So it’s far easier to dress garments up or down for a variety of occasions. I’m a huge fan of the sports luxe trend. It’s really easy to wear and brings a relaxed urban edge to every outfit. My personal favourite is wearing my Ridley silk maxi dress with a pair of air and grace trainers and my (18 year old) denim jacket.
Buying separates also really works. Silk maxi skirts for me are my go to. Pair with a silk shirt and heels for an event, then team with a cute logo T-shirt and a pair of trainers for a garden party or a trip into London to do a spot of shopping.
Bloggers @doesmybumlook40 and @luludumas demonstrate the sports luxe trend pairing their made to measure Ridley silk maxi dress and silk maxi skirt with trainers and streetwear
Do you have a favourite summer event and inside tip for our readers?
Oh goodness - this is tricky. This year I have Royal Ascot, Henley, Wimbledon and Newbury Races. I can’t really chose a favourite as they are all so different. As for an insider tip, yes. If you are lucky enough to be heading to Ascot don’t be afraid to wear the biggest hat you can find. Each year the style police are scouting around looking for the best dressed and best hats. Who wouldn’t want to be featured in one of those categories??
Do you have a hilarious British Summer Season Story?
Haha! I’ve never been asked this question before. This is a hard one. I have many stories, most of which I could not possibly share with your readers 😉 One that does spring to mind …although I’m afraid it’s not really British is from my holiday last year in Lake Como. Each year we go away on a ‘ Stylist Road Trip and last year me and one of my all time favourite mates Charlotte Broadbent ( aka Charlotte loves ) embarked on a trip of a life time. We took months working out our outfits especially for our night out at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The night came, we were sooooo excited. Our taxi arrived ( a speed boat ) it was like a scene out of James Bond. There we were, walking down the dock, working it ( as they say in pretty woman) and the heel of my shoe got stuck down a gap on the deck. Not only could I not move but my shoe came off and I tripped! I was expecting Charlotte to come to my rescue but no, she just let out the most hilarious cackle and ran .... leaving me to try and wrestle my shoe out of the deck only to pull the shoe out without a heel! We still laugh about it now.
Thanks so much Claire. It's been great speaking with you and I'm sure our readers have found your points really interesting and insightful. I know we're planning a styling event with you for a little later in the summer and we'll keep everyone posted on this. In the meantime there's more information on Claire and the services she provides on her website: http://www.clairemcnestry.com/