How to be the Best Dressed Guest at a Summer Wedding

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

If you are lucky enough to have an invitation (or two!) to a wedding this summer, you will, of course, need a fabulous new oufit. This season, you’ll be spoilt for choice as the shops are bursting with eye-catching colours, sumptuous fabrics and stunning accessories – all guaranteed to make you look and feel fabulous on the big day.

Green & Navy Sundress Dress £169 Full Hat £119 Navy shoes would complete this outfit

Green & Navy Sundress
Dress £169
Full Hat £119
Navy shoes would complete this outfit

 

Hard and Fast Rules

The days of hard and fast rules on what you ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ wear to a wedding have long since gone. As wedding services and venues have become more adventurous and individualised, dress codes have also followed suit and become more flexible and relaxed. In past decades it was frowned upon for a female guest to wear white (an insult to the bride) or to wear black (a sign of bad luck) and no male guest ever appeared without a formal shirt and tie. Hats for women were ‘de rigueur’, whereas today there is far more choice: a full hat; a fascinator; or something inbetween called a ‘hatinator’.

Coral Shift Dress Dress £169 Bag £69 Coral, accessorised with black, looks stunning on all colourings

Coral Shift Dress
Dress £169
Bag £69
Coral, accessorised with black, looks stunning on all colourings

 

The only real ‘faux pas’ you could make at a wedding today would be to wear a totally black outfit (much too funereal); to wear a long white dress (much too bridal); or to look too “attention seeking” in anything too exposing i.e. – too short, too low, too tight, or all three! The bride and groom will want their friends and family to look fabulous on the day but will definitely not want to be embarrassed or ‘upstaged’ in any way.

Blue Lace Formal Dress Dress £189 Full Hat £119 Accessorise with cream shoes and pashmina to complement underlay of this dress

Blue Lace Formal Dress
Dress £189
Full Hat £119
Accessorise with cream shoes and pashmina to complement underlay of this dress

 

 Suit Yourself

The most important thing is to choose a wedding outfit in which you will feel comfortable on the day and will want to wear on many occasions afterwards. Many women will buy an outfit, which they think is the ‘correct’ outfit for a wedding – and then feel uncomfortable and miserable all day and never wear it again!

If you love summer frocks don’t truss yourself up in a starchy suit and stiff hat – buy a colourful cotton dress and finish it off with a flower-strewn hat. If you feel most comfortable in trousers, there are gorgeous, soft trousers suits around which are perfect for summer weddings teamed with eye-catching, drop-earrings, an embroidered scarf and a beaded bag. A simple shift dress can be made to look incredibly elegant with the latest jewellery, bag, hat and shoes but still have lots of use in your wardrobe after the wedding is over.

Casual Black & Pink Chiffon

Top Ten Tips

With so much choice in the shops this season, there is the perfect wedding outfit for every age, personality and budget. Colours range from the chic neutrals of black/white, navy/ivory, coffee/cream to the eye-catching brights of fuchsia pink, lime green and cobalt blue. Choose whichever colours you are drawn to and make you feel most confident but bear in mind the following Top Ten Tips to achieve your most stylish look:

  1. Shiny fabrics show every lump and bump – especially satin
  2. Matt fabrics are more slimming and flattering
  3. Avoid belts if you have little/no waistline – go for semi-fitted
  4. Keep a low neckline if you have a short neck/double chin
  5. Wide shoulder straps/shoulder pads/shawl collars narrow the hips
  6. Avoid short-jackets on big hips/tums – wrist length is best
  7. Mid-calf skirts are frumpy – knee-length is best
  8. Low fronted shoes lengthen/slim thick legs
  9. Ankle-straps show off slender legs and ankles
  10. Avoid fascinators if fuller-figured; a full hat is in keeping with your scale

It’s A Cover Up

Some outfits come, of course, with matching jackets but if your choice is a strappy little number, you also need to consider the Great British Weather. As most weddings (except evening occasions) will involve some time outdoors, you will need to guard against the possibility of goose bumps with an attractive cover-up. Floral dresses look great with a pretty ¾ sleeve cardigan – perhaps beaded at the neckline or with pearl buttons. Pashminas are still an elegant cover up of choice, come in a wide variety of colours and also help with ‘upper-arm’ problems! Look out for chic, coloured jackets – satin, silk or linen – which can also add structure and formality to a strappy outfit for church occasions.

Cream Beaded Dress & Jacket Dress £199 Jacket £189 Hatinator £129 Black shoes and handbag would complete this outfit

Cream Beaded Dress & Jacket
Dress £199
Jacket £189
Hatinator £129
Black shoes and handbag would complete this outfit

Footnote

Your shoes do not have to match the colour of your outfit exactly. For example, a red dress could be accessorised with navy, black or even taupe shoes. Neutral coloured shoes are far more useful in your wardrobe than red, pink or green ones! Simply repeat the colour of your shoes in one or two other accessories (no more than that) to achieve a balanced look to your outfit.

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A Note from America – Tipping Differences

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

A frequent comment I hear from American friends who have travelled to London and the United Kingdom is, “Gosh, everything is so expensive and your VAT is 20%”; however, upon returning to my American home state in January, I was not prepared for the amount and frequency that I have to tip.

Service is added on to the bill automatically now both in America and the UK

Service is now added on to the bill automatically both in America and the UK

Yes, UK sales tax is higher than the 7% that we pay here in Georgia, but tipping in pubs is rare, and “service” in restaurants is usually 10-12.5%. For salon appointments, 10% is still the norm. In the US, however, one is expected to tip for all services – anywhere from 5% (for counter service/take away) to 15-20% for restaurants and beauty treatments. Those are the biggies, but let’s not forget baggage carriers, taxi drivers, delivery people, hotel maids and concierges. In restaurants, a bill will often arrive with listings for tips at 15%, 18% and 20%, thus making it easier to know how much to leave. In a cocktail bar, each drink should be rewarded with $2-3 or 20% of the total bill. There is even an app called “Tip N Split” which calculates the amount each person should contribute, including the tip, when a bill is shared.

 

Available Apps now make splitting the bill easier to calculate

Available Apps now make splitting the bill easier to calculate

My own hairdresser said that it’s rare for her to receive a 10% tip and that the majority of her clients tip close to 20%. For my last cut and colour, the tip alone was $38, which I rounded up to $40. Recently, upon paying for a beauty treatment, I noticed a sign at the till that politely suggested amounts based on time with the therapist. In this case, the tip was based on minutes. Bearing in mind that this lady was a registered nurse (discretion prevents me from revealing the full nature of the treatment), I did feel a bit awkward about tipping someone that I considered a “professional.”

As parking spaces are at a premium in Atlanta, valet parking is required for many restaurants and even some shops.  Most of these establishments provide complimentary valet parking, but one must tip the driver. This is usually $2 to $5, depending on the venue. At this same level of tipping, I include coat check and bathroom attendants. Additionally, many of us now use alternative taxi services such as Uber. Giving a strong tip raises one’s profile and increases the chances of a quicker collection.

OK, so these are my own experiences but when did the tipping culture become rampant? According to C. A Pinkham’s article “The Gratuitous Injustice of American Tipping Culture,” it began “… in 1991, [when] restaurant industry lobbyists helped push through an amendment that uncoupled the tipped minimum wage from the Federal minimum wage. The minimum wage for tipped employees has been frozen under Federal law at $2.13/hour ever since. Despite the fact that the minimum wage for non-tipped employees has since increased from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour, the tipped minimum wage has not budged one cent in over two decades.” It is not my intention to instigate a political discussion with the above statement, but one can certainly see why those, especially in restaurants, and many in the service industry must depend on tips to increase their wage.

So for now, I will continue to carry $1 bills in my purse and will tip accordingly. Personally, I would prefer to tip 15% and leave a glowing (when deserved) online review of services received.

 

 

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A Note from The Colony: a Question of Cheese!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

It is almost ten years now since I left the rolling hills and stunning coastline of Dorset that I had called home for more decades than I would care to share, to head south to the ‘land of plenty’ and all that it promised.

One might be forgiven for thinking that moving to a country so intrinsically linked with British rules and customs would be a relatively easy transition to make, particularly since we share the same language (although that could be argued at times), but despite these common denominators I continue to be fascinated by the differences in customs here in Australia to those observed in Britain. My conclusion is that this wonderful country embraces so well the diversity of its multicultural influences, that it has forged its own style and form of etiquette to enrich us all with a sense of history and belonging to a wider global community.

With that in mind, I thought I would share with you ‘what’s what and what’s not’ here in the colony, and our first port (pun not intended) of call is cheese!

Cheese Board

A stunning platter of cheeses

 

Once a month, just a stone’s throw across the Barwon River from my home here in Victoria, the local farmers can be heard setting up stalls amongst the native river red gums, silver wattle and woolly tea trees, very early on a Saturday morning. Like farmer’s markets in towns and cities across Britain, the trestle tables groan with the weight of the most splendid array of locally grown fruit and vegetables, grass-fed meat and, to my mind the pièce de résistance, cheese.

Cheese is as popular here in Australia as it is in Britain, but what separates the two nations is the point at which the cheese is served during a meal. With the strong Italian influence (the fourth largest ethnic group in Australia) it has brought about the widespread inclusion of cheese on the antipasto platter which is traditionally eaten, as the Italian name suggests, ‘before the meal’.

During summer, when Mr R and I have friends round for casual drinks, alfresco, we always serve a substantial cheeseboard, together with locally grown olives, chilli and fennel salami, home-made pesto, crostini and crackers, some olive sourdough bread and perhaps a fig & fennel paste. Of course, the trick is to be fairly speedy in enjoying its delights before the heat has us and our guests compelled to seek refuge in the cool and comfort of the air conditioning. There is of course a second reason: any significant rise in temperature will have the cheese ‘running’ and sweating so profusely that it will spoil rapidly which is tantamount to sacrilege in my book.

 

Enjoying alfresco dining is one of life's great pleasures

Enjoying alfresco dining is one of life’s great pleasures

When Mr R and I host a dinner party English style, even though my good husband is Australian, our guests who hail from all corners of the globe will witness the traditional way to serve cheese – after the pudding (and there exists a moot point, more of which later in another blog, perhaps!).

The cheese is selected to provide for a broad range of tastes and textures, and it should ALWAYS be served at room temperature to ensure a full flavour. Ideally, the cheeseboard should include the following: a soft cheese (d’Affinois is my favourite now widely available in some of our better delicatessens here in Victoria); a hard cheese such as a cheddar (Warrnambool Heritage extra tasty is a good one); a mild cheese which might include a goat’s cheese; and a sharp cheese, perhaps a blue brie (Tarago Shadows of Blue is outstanding in my opinion) or a Stilton (yes, available here in my local greengrocer).

The cheese should be presented beautifully ensuring that it is also arranged, and eaten, in order from the mildest through to the strongest. A separate cheese knife for each cheese is a must, as is providing a Stilton ‘scoop’ if serving the Stilton as a truckle (whole). Never, never take the ‘nose’ off the cheese; that’s almost as heinous as saving the pork crackling for yourself and giving your guests the overcooked morsels. Instead cut the cheese like a slice of cake ensuring the pointed end of the cheese is always intact.

Remember to include some fruit, grapes are best, but Muscatel raisins are a perfectly acceptable accompaniment, and some sticks of celery displayed in a celery glass add interest and texture.

And finally, if there is just one wine, fortified or otherwise, that I would suggest as a pairing with a selection of mixed cheese, a glass of Champagne it is – as if one needed an excuse at all !

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What To Do When You Meet The Queen

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

When greeting The Queen it is polite for men to bow and women to curtsey.  Unlike at the end of a stage show, men should bow from the neck, not the waist.  A woman’s curtsey should not be an elaborate sweep to the floor, but simply a bob of the knees with one foot behind the other.  If you go down too far, you may never get back up.

David Cameron demonstrates the correct way to bow

David Cameron demonstrates the correct way to bow

Although it has been reported that Her Majesty is not phased by the lack of a bow or curtsey, it can appear churlish to not. Former British Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair famously did not curtsey on one of her first meetings with The Queen, and Australian premier Julia Gillard did the same to much outcry during Her Majesty’s official visit to Australia in November 2011.

HRH Duchess of Cambridge curtseys perfectly to The Queen

HRH Duchess of Cambridge curtseys perfectly to The Queen

If you are not a British or Commonwealth citizen, you are not expected to bow or curtsey, although many do out of respect.  The Queen is referred to as ‘Your Majesty’ first and then ‘Ma’am’.  (Ma’am is short for madam and is to rhyme with ham, not palm.)

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, does not need to curtsey to The Queen

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, does not need to curtsey to The Queen

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Do You Suffer from Card Shame?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

For the foreseeable future, “Yo, ‘sup, wanna Bump?” is not about to replace traditional business introductions and exchange of cards. While using Bump and similar smartphone apps to share data is popular amongst Generation Y and beyond, this technology will unlikely replace the need for a business or personal card in introductions and doing business face-to-face any time soon.

The business card scene in American Psycho (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cISYzA36-ZY) is one of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema. Christian Bale (playing Patrick Bateman) literally breaks into a sweat when his card proves inferior to his colleague’s as font, colour, texture, thickness and printing technique are all subtly observed, scrutinized, compared–and judged.  How would your card compare?

Business Card Impression

Corporate business cards normally follow specific company format and leave the individual cardholder no choices. Some organisations even dictate how the name is to appear (e.g., given and family names, initials only, use of earned degrees only or none at all, etc.).

The company name or logo dominates (not unusually in coloured ink) and sets the image the company wants to convey. Such cards are designed to reflect the company and your position within it. But you will find those at the top of the corporation do not themselves carry these standard issue cards.  Their card stock will be thicker, the printing will be engraved copper plate, the logo may be subtly blind embossed.

You may have no say in your corporate card but you can take full control over your personal card and what it says about you. Personal cards have a long history of quaint and anachronistic traditions – a gentleman’s card noting his London club in the lower left corner, a lady’s card indicating her “At home” day.

Today, personal cards are amongst your personal props and an integral part of your image.  You wouldn’t carry a Biro or Bic pen, or wear a watch you bought on a street corner; don’t carry cheap cards, either.

Personal Cards create an Elegant Impression

Personal Cards create an Elegant Impression

The information you include on your card is your choice but at a minimum it should state your name and how you wish to be contacted.

If you want to be addressed as something other than Mr or Ms, include your preferred honorific with your name. Most will prefer to be contacted by e-mail or telephone and these items are easily recognised without labeling them “E-mail” or “Telephone”. You may not want your residential address widely known and there is no requirement to include it.

Your personal card is part of your stationery wardrobe and although it does not need to match exactly, it should be compatible in style and quality (key words: style and quality) to your letterhead, correspondence cards, etc.

When you present your personal card (always carried in a hard case to ensure it is pristine) the recipient will subconsciously judge the weight and texture of the card stock and feel the print (flat, raised or embossed) before noticing the colour and lastly, reading the text.

Don’t let that subconscious impression scream “Cheap!” Let your card reinforce your image; select the best you can afford.

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