THANKFULLY, THERE are no hard and fast rules about dressing for evening anymore. Once, formality ruled the sartorial waves: the cocktail hour required cocktail dress, hat and gloves, not to mention a pair of chic slingbacks. Dinner demanded something just as elegant but altogether grander - a swooping decolletage, some grand jewels, and a head of properly coiffed hair.
But these days, nobody differentiates between happy hour and dinner - or, for that matter, lunch and breakfast. We tend to wear the same outfit all day long, from air-conditioned office to restaurant, theatre or drinks party. For most women, the solution is the little black dress. The same old, boring, little black dress. But it needn't be.
If you dare, this is the summer to give your evening look a lift with a nifty sun dress, the sort of thing Grace Kelly might have always carried in her luggage, just in case. If a dress isn't your thing, try palazzo pants or a longish skirt with a sparkly vest top; then add a light cardigan to wrap around your shoulders in case the evening air isn't as hot as you hoped.
We've trawled the shops and chosen five of the best combinations, all with a touch of the tropics. Go for loud prints, exotic foliage, and colourful patterns. And don't forget - a sequinned bag or a smattering of jewellery will make all the difference. !
This page: lilac three- quarter-length-sleeved cardigan, pounds 35, from Warehouse, 19-21 Argyll Street, W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 0171 278 3491); leaf-print dress, pounds 70, from French Connection, 249 Regent St, W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 0171 399 7200); antique-lace-backed bracelet, pounds 115, by Whistles, 12 St Christopher's Place, W1 (enq: 0171 487 4484); white sequin bag (just seen), pounds 15, from Ravel, 184-188 Oxford St, W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 0171 436 3126)
Facing page: green and blue striped sequin V-neck vest, pounds 90, from Monsoon, 5-6 James St, WC2, and branches nationwide (enq: 0171 497 9325); sheer green devore leaf trousers, pounds 310, by Betty Jackson, 311 Brompton Road, SW3, and Bamboo, 15 Francis St, Stoneygate, Leicester (enq: 0171 589 7884); green and blue sparkle shoes, pounds 250, by Senso, 23 Brompton Arcade, SW1 (enq: 0171 584 3484)
This page: peach short- sleeved cardigan, pounds 75, by John Smedley, from Harvey Nichols, Brompton Road, SW3 (enq: 0171 235 5000); lilac ribbed sleeveless top, pounds 45, pink puffball devore skirt, pounds 225, and antique- lace-backed necklace (just seen), pounds 225, all by Whistles, as before; orange suede sandals, pounds 175, by Gina, 189 Sloane St, SW1 (enq: 0171 235 2932)
Facing page: multi-coloured gingham vest, pounds 317, by Clements Ribeiro (stockists enq: 0171 409 7719); cream skirt with multi-coloured sequins, pounds 120, by Joseph, 26 Sloane St, SW1 (enq: 0171 590 6200; antique-lace- backed earrings, pounds 95, by Whistles, as before
Squishy, glittery bags are still the vital evening accessory; these two are in lickable ice-cream shades. The kitten heels are dressy but pleasantly girlie, while Etam's embroidered slip is a good 'cheat sheer' - it will show you know about the look, but won't show your knickers
Pale pink net dress with fuchsia flowers, pounds 85, from Etam, 187- 193 Oxford Street, W1, and branches (enq: 0171 437 5655)
Lilac sequinned evening bag, pounds 29, from Oasis, 292 Regent Street, W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 01865 881986)
Fuchsia beaded bag, pounds 24.99, from Accessorize, 22 The Market, Covent Garden, WC2, and branches (enq: 0171 313 3000)
Pale pink kitten-heel shoes, pounds 46.99, from Office, 55 South Molton St, W1, and branches nationwide (enq: 0181 838 4447)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NICOLA KURTZ / STYLING BY HOLLY WOOD
MAIN PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEVIN FOORD
STYLING BY CHARLIE HARRINGTON
HAIR AND MAKE-UP BY ALEX BABSKY
AT MANDY COAKLEY
MODEL: REBECCA B AT TAKE TWO
THANKS TO DEREK WARWICK AT HONDA (01534 58881),
THE WATERFRONT RESTAURANT, JERSEY
(01534 27799) AND WOODLANDS GUEST HOUSEReuse content