Archive for the ‘Weddings’ Category

Rule: all white is tricky

In Actors, Celebrities, Famous people, Fashion shows, FIlms, Weddings on June 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

The white dress is a big fashion trend right now. In particular the white lace dress, which made the Dolce and Gabbana runway for this fashion season look like a cross between a convention of oversized girls taking their First Communion and a granma underwear parade.

But I can see the appeal. It’s a fresh idea and a welcome and witty change from the Little Black Dress to the Little White Dress and lady slebs have embraced it keenly (left to right: Kate Bosworth, Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively, Diane Kruger, LeAnn Rimes).

But there are very good reasons the LBD has become one of the all-time fashion classics. It suits everyone, is very forgiving, doesn’t show where you’ve accidentally dripped your dinner down the front and is generally hard to get wrong.

The only way you can really stuff up an LBD is to overaccessorise it. Or drop a lot of yogurty dip down the front.

But a white dress, which is the equivalent of carrying around a bill board saying ‘Hey! Look at me!’, takes a lot of chutzpah to carry off. Also a lot of dry cleaning. And a lot of control underwear, because any kind of white fabric is completely relentless about showcasing the tiniest boofle of flab. As you’ll know if you’ve ever spent time on a treadmill behind someone working out in white gym leggings.

The other risk with the white dress is of looking like you’ve lost your way on the way to the wedding reception. You may be surprised to hear that Elizabeth Olsen (sister of the more famous twins…), seen above, is not leaving the ceremony after just marrying the dude in the sand shoes.

He’s Sean Durkin, the director of her new film ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ and this is the two of them at its Cannes showing. (The film, a thriller about a girl getting out of a religious cult, sounds interesting and he won Best Director for it at Sundance.)

This bridal appearance becomes a risk when, as Ms Olsen shows here, you opt for a demure, full-length floaty version of the white lace dress. All that’s lacking from this picture is the lily of the valley bouquet. She’s even got veily things going on in her hair.

The other way to wear the white lace dress, to shift it from Here Comes The Bride, to The Girl Can’t Help It, is showcased here by Uma Thurman, also at Cannes, with fellow jury members, Jude Law and Robert de Niro.

Ms Thurman’s Versace frock is crisp Broderie Anglaise, rather than Olsen’s much more bridal soft lace and its fierce cut is worthy of Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.

Look at how she’s standing – caramba! – but it would be impossible not to sashay in a dress like that. It would also be impossible for most normal human beings to pull it off.

So that’s the challenge of the white lace dress. If you want to make sure you don’t look like a 21st century Miss Havisham, or a prissy 1960s bride (Rachel McAdams below, left), you’ll have to be up to looking like Uma Thurman.

I think even Uma looks a bit bridal in her all-white Chanel couture and Versace red carpet numbers, also at Cannes, below.

And I’ve put these pics in just because I love the body language between Uma and Robert de Niro. They so obviously had the best time judging together.


Rule: if you’re going to be scrutinised, seek expert advice

In Fashionistas, Royal Wedding, Uncategorized, Weddings on May 12, 2011 at 10:39 am


I completely forgot to post this for Wednesday. So sorry (or ‘soz’, as my daughter says). I’m crap. I think it was probably because I’m very deeply stuck into the germination of a novel and my hold on the real world is even more tenuous than normal.


I’m so glad I’m no longer editor-in-chief of an international fashion magazine. Back when I was a front row fixture at the European and New York designers shows (I was heading up British ELLE and it was an awfully long time ago now..) I found it fiercely stressful getting the magazine out, while being away from the office for four weeks at a time, twice a year, attending the shows that turn the wheel of fashion.

If I’d also had to have been picture perfect every second of those fashion weeks as well, I would have blown a gasket. In those days photographers only took pictures of the models on the runway and the odd celeb in row A, and there weren’t even many of those.

There was one chap – New York snapper, Bill Cunningham, so legendary they’ve just released a feature-length docco about him – who would grab pictures of the audience as they arrived, but that was it.

But while I didn’t have the pressure today’s editors have to look red carpet ready while turning up for work each day, I did have to look reasonable. The front row was always a big deal. Then there were all the crucial advertiser parties and lunches and dinners and breakfasts to attend.

Although the reason I’d been given the job was because I was quite good at coming up with ideas and finding the best writers and photographers to make them into something special, once I became an editor-in-chief I was rather surprised to find I was suddenly also the public face of the magazine as well. Brains weren’t enough any more. I also had to look the part – eek!

While I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and style – that’s why I wanted to edit a fashion magazine in the first place – it’s always been on quite an analytical level. I can tell you the exact structure of a Chanel jacket and date Dior launched the New Look (February 12th, 1947), but that didn’t mean I was expert in dressing myself for my very particular new role.

So what did I do? I asked for advice.

The person I asked was my Executive Fashion Editor, who was always perfectly dressed and groomed. Her job was to schmooze advertisers and PRs, so the talent to look right was a large part of what got her hired in the first place. And she’d been dressing to impress fashion industry insiders for years.

Her advice was brilliant. Invest in the best tailoring and don’t worry about being on season. If you stay away from anything to quirky, the good stuff lasts.

In particular, she told me to buy a ‘le smoking’ tuxedo jacket and never travel without it. You’ll always be prepared for a surprise invitation. I did exactly what she told me and that tux was my best friend for years. In fact, I still have it (although sadly, I didn’t look like this in it…).

That wise counsel served me well through my years of fashion show front rows, lunches with Yohji Yamamoto and dinner with Jean Paul Gaultier.

So if I’d ever been invited to an event that was going to be watched by a third of the world’s population and had a role in life that meant my outfit was bound to be intensely scrutinised, I would once again have sought advice from an expert.

If only Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie had done that.

Maggie Alderson’s new book Style Notes is out now (in Australia) published by Penguin.


In Famous people, Royal Wedding, The Duchess of Cambridge, Weddings on May 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

 There wasn’t a wrong note all day.

Well, yes, there was Beatrice’s Lady Gaga hat and Eugenie’s Falstaff doublet, but they were a necessary counterpoint to all the perfection, making it all seem even more perfectly perfect by comparison. (Poor loves, I do hope they get a good stylist after this.)

I was glued to the telly from 8am (having been up much earlier to finish icing 60 red, white and blue cupcakes for the street party…) and was eternally grateful for the long sermon which made it possible for me to make a mercy dash to the loo.

My first peak was William turning up in the splendid red dress uniform of Colonel of the Irish Guards, not the much drabber RAF uniform (although big respeck to that service…), with darling Harry in his fabulous Household Cavalry threads.

Aren’t spurs a good look? Even Prince Charles was working a solid silver spur.

I’m convinced we will be seeing elements of these uniforms in the next round of autumn/winter fashion shows. All that fabulous gold braiding and those trousers with a red stripe really are too divine (although you really need Spencer legs to show them off to full effect…)

Then of course – The Dress. It’s right in at number two, if not the number one spot, in the top ten of all time Royal Wedding Dresses, with Princess Grace’s the only other one in contention.

Demure, yet slinky, elegant and stately, a little bit Tudor, a little bit Victorian – and most marvellously from the house of Alexander McQueen. The boy from the East End tower block. The greatest fashion designer Britain has ever produced.

Sad he didn’t get to design it himself – he committed suicide last year, the day before the funeral of his beloved mother – but in all honesty, I don’t think he could have done a better job. In fact, I think it took a woman’s touch to give this dress such feminine finesse.

And all those ladies appliquéing each shamrock, rose, daffodil and thistle onto the silk tulle by hand at the Royal College of Needlework down at Hampton Court. Washing their hands every 30 minutes, changing their needles every three hours.

I find that connection back to Henry VIII absolutely riveting. That palace is so atmospheric you expect to see him come swinging round every corner. Even more thrillingly, the babe formerly known as Kate Middleton had some of her dress fittings with Sarah Burton actually there. Wonderful stuff.

Then there was the sister’s dress. Ay caramba. Her Royal Hotness. I overheard my husband chatting to a chap who lives along the road about the wedding this morning. Guess which particular detail of it all they were discussing…?

But that’s OK, because I’d just been talking to my niece (26, so just the right age for him…) about Prince Harry. What a player. That sexy equestrian walk, like he’d just tied his horse up in the vestry. That messy hair and the cheekiest grin.

I could go on…. and on…. and on….. and on. Such much more to discuss, like the moment when he winked at her during the service. Holding hands as they went through Admirality Arch. Prince Harry with the tiny bridesmaids in the carriage. The verger cartwheeling down the nave after they’d all left. Driving to Clarence House in Prince Charles’s Aston Martin.

Then my personal memories. Popping down to the Mall for a look the day after and finding the atmosphere was still electric. How incredibly fun and mad our street party was. My 8 year old daughter buying a cheap hair piece with some birthday money today and dressing up as Kate Middleton, with an old net curtain for the veil and dress.

And realising I will be an old lady before anything like this happens again.

As the Duchess of Cambridge said herself: Wow.

For more of me going on about it all:

And a link to the Daily Mail’s brilliant website stories, including a lip reader’s translation of what they were saying to each other:

Bring. It. On.

In Famous people, Princess Catherine, Royal Wedding, Weddings on April 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm



Bunting? Check. Cup cakes? Check. Pimms? Check. Five females of immediate family? Check. Gay BFF? Check. . Mad hat? Check. OK… BRING IT ON.

I’m posting this a day early because I’m in a Royal Wedding Frenzy. To the point where one of my nieces asked me tonight if I’ve taken out shares in the Union Jack…

Apologies to all my Republican Aussie pals and readers, I do understand how you must feel. When I’m holding my Australian passport, I’m a Republican too. But when I’m holding my British one, I’m a committed monarchist.

I know all the arguments against it and I know it’s a ridiculous anachronism, but to me, it’s such a part of the rich fabric of Britain, the country would be a shell without it.

And on a completely unintellectual level, I just love the pomp and ceremony of it all. The Household Cavalry, in particular, make me swoon. I remember once just coming across a company of them trotting down the Mall one spring morning and bursting into tears. I know it’s pathetic, but if you get it – you’ll understand.

I also think Prince William is a diamond geezer. He has all his mother’s best qualities, combined with his father’s sense of duty and it’s a winning mix. He cuts a dashing figure and he’s made a perfect wife choice in normal – if ultra gorgeous – middle class Ms Middleton.

And of course the fact that she did the same degree as me, at the same university makes me feel a little bit connected. We actually have mutuals… My lovely professor will probably be there at the Abbey. I’m going to look out for her when I’m five centimetres from my TV screen tomorrow morning.

I’ll be wearing my fabulous new/vintage hat, surrounded by my adored girly rels (and my gayer), with a glass of buck’s fizz in my hand and a street party to look forward to in the afternoon. It’s pure romance, escapism, celebration – what we all need when there’s so much crap going on in the world. I know it’s bread and circuses and I don’t care.

As well as my drink, I’ll be holding a notebook (I’ve been a journalist a long time, it’s something you learn…), as I’m reporting on it for the Sunday Age and the Sun Herald, dissecting what the guests are wearing and, of course, THAT dress.

Oh, I can hardly wait…

The Rules: Never wear black to a wedding

In Weddings on February 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm

This is the first of my new column for the Sydney Morning Herald (Thursday, Essential Style) and The Age (Sunday, M mag), which I’m going to post on here the following Wednesday each time.

I’ve stirred up a lot of indignation with this one, which is brilliant – controversy is mother’s milk to a columnist – with feelings equally strong on both sides of the argument.

 Not surprisingly there’s a big lean to the AGAINST camp from Melbourne, where they feel as strongly about their right to wear black to any occasion as Republicans do to bearing arms…

What I wasn’t so prepared for was people thinking I was dissing Kate Middleton for being a ‘commoner’. Far from it. What I can’t understand is why someone from a normal happy family like hers, would aspire to enter such a disfunctional one….

Anyway, I look forward to hearing from what you think and being able to respond right away via this wonderful global water cooler we call the internet.

It was all going so well. Not a see-through skirt or blouse from auntie’s wardrobe in sight.

Then that perfect dress for the engagement interview, from cool – but not faddish – label Issa, by London-based Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel. In a shade of blue that had fashion appeal whilst also broadcasting: I’m thrilled to be part of the Establishment. And went so perfectly with that engagement ring.

Then Kate Middleton wore black to a wedding. Head to knee black. Not even so much as one of the Queen Mum’s old sparkly brooches to alleviate the gloom. Cheers! Oh alright, the shoes and bag added a touch of burgundy, but that’s nearly as gloomy. Maroon.

What was she thinking? It’s hard to believe that a girl at the top of an upward social gradient so steep she must have needed crampons to get there (mum used to be a hostie, the family business sells party balloons on the internet), could make such an elementary blunder.

Especially someone who has successfully negotiated that most insider of upper crust dress codes: the shoot.

Madonna famously flunked that one going way too matchy matchy in brand-new tweed kit from gunmakers to Kate’s future in-laws, Purdey.

But Kate has swanned them in jeans and a well-worn quilted jacket for the early autumn variety and even looking relaxed in quite scary full camo for a deer stalk at Balmoral.

If anyone ever doubted she was up to her new gig, they only need to look at the picture of laughing in a fur hat, a £60,000 shotgun in her hands, appearing to have a marvellous time ritually murdering feathered creatures, while experiencing the early stages of hypothermia in a Norfolk field. What a girl.

So it seems amazing that someone this gifted at analysing and adopting the subtle codes of a different social group’s clothing (and please note the use of ‘different’ there, not better…) could have made such a fundamental gaff as wearing goth black to a wedding.

Even the one note of frivolity, a high quivering feather atop the bow on the pillbox hat, was coal black. Incredible. And worse: rude. Because wearing black to a wedding isn’t just lazy – some people believe it’s bad luck for the bride

Making things worse, it was a classic British day wedding, where .it’s the done thing to wear a rigout only really relevant in Australia at winter race meetings. Buttoned-up tailoring and a statement hat.

The men’s dress code for such traditional nuptials is called a ‘morning suit’. Kate seems to have read it as ‘mourning suit’. At least she’ll be able to wear it all again to her first state funeral.

But while the strict cut of the velvet coat made the Princess-to-be’s all-black get up look particularly funeral director (not to mention, fashion director…) this emotionally loaded colour is no more acceptable in floaty evening wear for an Australian wedding.

It might be chic, elegant, slimming, practical and timeless, but black just isn’t a shade associated with celebration.

So even if you think the happy couple are making a terrible mistake, get in the spirit and seize a wedding as a chance to splash out in joyous colour.

Just make sure it’s not white…

Kate helping Wills stalk a deer. She must have really wanted it, eh?

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