Knowing what to wear when is not always easy. Where instructions are not specific, look out for certain clues: the formality of the invitation, the time of day, venue and the reason for the event. Early evening drinks are less formal than a dinner/dance, for example. Better to dress up rather than down – nobody ever lost points by being well dressed! 



WHEN: formal evening events taking place after 6.00pm



Black dinner jacket with satin lapels to distinguish it from a lounge jacket.

Black trousers with black satin braid down the length of the outer seam

Black silk bow tie

Black waistcoat or cummerbund

White dress shirt

Black socks

Black patent leather shoes

For less formal ‘black tie’ events, such as parties and celebrations, waistcoats, bow ties and cummerbunds can be more colourful to add a touch of individuality.

For summer events, cruises etc, a white Tux can be worn instead of a black DJ



Cocktail or evening dress, nothing above the knee.

Palazzo pants may be acceptable if teamed with an elegant top.



WHEN: not only for the most glamorous and romantic evening parties but also the most formal of evening occasions, such as state banquets.



Black tailcoat

Black dress trousers with a double braid down the outer seam

White stiff-fronted dress shirt

White pique bow tie

White pique waistcoat.

Black socks

Black patent leather shoes

Optional accessories: black top hat, white gloves, black cloak and cane.



Formal evening dress or ball gown. Dresses must be long.

Long gloves

Accessories: stoles (fur or fabric), good jewellery


WHEN: formal events taking place before 5.00pm, worn by male members of a wedding party and for social events such as Royal Ascot, Royal garden parties, Trooping of the Colour, Investitures and other Royal or Court events. 

Grey tailcoat with grey trousers


Black tailcoat with striped trousers

Waistcoat – black for funerals, grey, buff or white.

Plain white shirt

Tie or cravat.

Black or grey top hat

Grey gloves

Black shoes




Black jacket – Prince Charlie and Argyll are the most popular

Black waistcoat


White shirt

Black bow tie

Black ghillie brogues

Kilt hose





 WHEN: less formal occasions such as business meetings, interviews and garden parties. Early evening drinks parties.



 Depending on the setting, the dress code will vary for these occasions. At garden parties, gentlemen would wear a morning or lounge suit, unless they have a service uniform or national dress.

 At functions such as a state banquet or the state opening of parliament, white tie or national dress must be worn. Decorations are also worn.




 In the Royal Enclosure, gentlemen are required to wear morning dress, national dress or uniform - brown shoes are banned. Top hats must be worn at all times in the Enclosure, unless within your own private box or facility.

Ladies must wear a hat that covers their crown and formal daywear. Strapless or halter-neck dresses, and those with a strap of less than one inch, are not permitted and midriffs must be covered.       Dresses and skirts must be no more than two inches above the knee.

 Trousers are only tolerated if part of a suit, must be full-length and of matching colour ad material. It is recommended that women cover their shoulders and wear sensible shoes that match their outfit - walking on grass in stilettos is no easy task.

Royal Ascot general admission dress code:

Ladies and gentlemen are required to wear smart formal wear. Ladies are to dress for a smart occasion, many wear hats.  Sportswear is not permitted and gentlemen are required to wear a shirt and tie with a suit/jacket.

Bare chests are not permitted at any time.







It’s the time of year when 16 year old girls spend hours on the internet, looking for the one dress that is going to stop all their classmates in their tracks, make all the boys fall in the love with them and all the girls green with envy 


they mooch around despondently, knowing that there is nothing out there that will transform them from an ‘ugly duckling’ into a ‘swan’ , it’s all going to be gross and disgusting and they don’t want to go anyway!

It can be a very stressful time for everyone involved so I’d like to share my experience to help make it all a little easier for you.

 Left to their own devices, our teenage daughters would happily rush out and buy a £300 dress without having a clue whether 1) it will suit them 2) it will fit them 3) it’s the right kind of dress for a prom or 4) YOU CAN AFFORD IT!

 This occasion is usually the first time they will have had the chance to wear a posh frock and they generally don’t have a clue! Fortunately, I do!!!!



Take her to a hire shop where she will have the opportunity to try lots of different styles and colours without any pressure to buy. Make sure she brings a friend, as she will need feedback from someone whose opinion she trusts. A good hire shop will allow an hour or two and will not expect a decision on the day. And, with a bit of luck, your daughter may find something she loves at a third or quarter of the buying price!

Take the shoes she’ll be wearing to ensure that 1) the dress is long enough for the heel height 2) the colours match 3) they’re comfortable – if, after a couple of hours trying on dresses, her feet hurt she’ll need to rethink her choice of footwear!

Do not let her choose anything with a train. Looks great but will trip her up at some stage during the evening. If not, someone will stand on it.

If there is to be dancing, make sure the dress sits on top of the shoe, not to the ground.

Anything that ties at the back needs to be secure. Most of the boys will think it’s the best thing to undo it at every opportunity!

Anything strapless needs to have boning in the bodice to make sure it stays up properly. Remind her that she won’t be able to wear a bra. 

If your daughter has saddlebow thighs, chose a satin fabric that flares out from just below the waist, this will disguise them and emphasise the waist instead.

Narrow shoulders look good with a halterneck , broad shoulders will be narrowed by broad straps or an off-the-shoulder style.

An empire-line dress is great for disguising a big waist/tummy.

A sweetheart neckline flatters almost any kind of chest.

Avoid plunging necklines with long thin necks, embrace them if  her neck is short.

If she chooses a style with spaghetti  straps, remind her that she might not be able to wear a bra with it, or choose a dress with integral cups.

Find  a dress that emphasises your daughter’s best feature.. With a bit of luck, this will distract her from all the other bits she doesn’t like!

If you really cannot find anything she likes, consider buying a pattern and having a dressmaker make it up for her. This may not cost as much as you’d expect. Ebay is a good place to source unusual or retro patterns so there’s less chance of someone else turning up in the same dress.

And a non-dress-related tip: if she is planning to wear her hair up, it’s important that your daughter doesn’t wash it for a couple of days before the prom. Clean hair just slides down again, slightly dirty hair is easier to dress and will stay in better.

Happy hunting!