Crack the (Dress) Code

Fashion editor and founder of style blog best-dressed guest, Stacey Duguid shares her tips for mastering the art of elegant but easy occasionwear

If the invitations dropping through your letterbox have brought you out in an acute state of wardrobe anxiety, Stacey Duguid is the woman you want in your corner. Having spent over a decade at ELLE magazine, where she wrote the much-loved column Mademoiselle, she went freelance in 2013. Since then, Stacey has established a fashion consultancy business, writes regularly for The Pool, various national newspapers and a monthly beauty column for ELLE. She recently launched Best Dressed Guest, a style and shopping blog to help women navigate the minefi eld of occasion dressing. In the year of the royal wedding, plus her own, Stacey’s occasionwear radar is well-honed. Here, she shares her guide to being ‘the best-dressed you’.

garden party

When I think of garden parties, I immediately imagine floral dresses and pastel hues, statement heels and colour-pop clutch bags. However, in this country, garden-party style needs to be approached with an open mind (aka caution). Will it rain? Has it already rained? Will the ground be wet regardless of the fact it’s sunny? Let’s work from the ground up. Forget spiky heels – that includes kittens and anything too spindly (disaster); go for block heels instead. At the right height, block heels can look very elegant and work well with midi-length dresses, which I think are absolutely perfect for garden parties. I love Emilia Wickstead, Roksanda and Dodo Bar Or for mid-length dresses, and Marks & Spencer has a lovely selection of elegant day dresses this season that will look fantastic paired with the right accessories.

Super-large earrings are very much on-trend, and this is where you can add pops of colour and excitement to your outfit, especially if your dress is simple. I hardly ever match my accessories and what better time than a garden party to play with colourful, mismatching bags, shoes and jewellery?

black tie

I love black tie, and even though I’m hardly ever invited to a black-tie event, I still have my outfi t all planned and ready to go. I recently interviewed Kate McGuire of for my blog, She does a wonderful job of reimagining and re-working past-season clothes in a new and stylish way. Buying things that are on-trend, whether it’s current season Zara or the latest dress from Matches Fashion, can mean turning up at an event in the same dress as someone else (cringe). Buying past season is one way of avoiding that.

At the last black-tie event I attended, I wore a black dress, and I will never make that mistake again. Seated beside women wearing shimmery sequins, gold, silver and burnished bronze, I felt boring in my plain – albeit lovely – black dress. Fading into the background like a wallflower, my night wasn’t as fun as it might have been in a more daring dress. When I say daring, I’m a modest dresser. I wear long sleeves, I never reveal my cleavage – and that’s why I love the new shopping site Not only do they stock the most glamorous gowns in high-end retail, their sales are great, and I know I’ll find something incredible.

How to do black-tie on the high street? Head to Jenny Packham at Debenhams. Pile on the fake diamonds from Butler & Wilson and go have a ball.

wedding guest

The bride, regardless of her age or whether it’s her second marriage, is very likely to wear white, so approach pale colours with caution. I say this because a) there are lots of tonal pastels around this season, and b) I myself am getting married, and even though I’ll be 44 when I walk down that aisle, I’m wearing white! Avoid pale and the usual ‘wedding guest dress code’ and go bold in bright orange, cobalt blue, sunshine yellow or grass green instead.

Don’t be afraid to mismatch accessories and try to stay away from nudes and neutrals, which can feel a little old-fashioned. Go instead for white – yes, white! There are lots of lovely white bags and shoes around. If white scares you, mis-match with metallic gold, silver or bronze.

A hat will add oomph – says the woman who always feels self-conscious when she wears a hat. If a hat isn’t your thing, and like me, you feel your hair needs a little something, head to Fenwick of Bond Street. They have a great new hair accessory department that’s full of hidden gems at reasonable prices.

Can we talk about the royal wedding for a minute? I’m so giddy about the incoming Windsor Castle nuptials, you’d think Meghan was my best friend. I think it’s safe to say we’ll all be glued to the telly on 19 May, a bit dressed up, possibly with a glass of Champagne in hand. We may not be going, but I think the occasion requires a lovely tea dress and heels. Just ignore the funny looks from family members.

And speaking of well-dressed royals, one last word on wedding guest style: ditch the bobbly cardigan and go for what I’m calling the Queen Mum Coat instead. Totally versatile, multi-occasion appropriate and you won’t get cold. Bless the Queen Mum.



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