“I don’t know what to wear!” I hear it all the time. From weddings to weekends, boardrooms to black tie, it’s a sartorial minefield out there. The good news is that there are no rules any more; the bad news is that working out appropriate dress codes can now seem more complicated than cracking Fermat’s Last Theorem. Gone are the days of dark tailored suits in the boardroom, of black tie meaning a long dress, and if you happen to be asked to something as quaintly old-fashioned sounding as “drinks”, what exactly – I ask in the name of fashion – is one supposed to wear between 5pm and 8pm, especially if coming from the office or a an afternoon soiree ?
Once, the rules were clear. 1. A figure-flattering LBD took you almost anywhere (but how old-fashioned does that idea feel now?). 2. Wear gloves to town. 3. Take your watch off in the evening. 4. Matching bags and shoes are good. 5. Long – and often velvet – is appropriate when changing for dinner in smart country houses. And so on.
Role models also helped us along the way. They helped us to visually make sense of the way we dressed for occasions. Grace Kelly epitomized the perfect princess bride; her wedding in 1956 was watched by 30 million people around the world and her style emulated by women everywhere. Years later, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy ushered in a new kind of chic at her 1996 wedding, changing the mode of dress for a generation; no lacy tiered-cake confection – instead, a simple strappy bias-cut silk-crêpe gown by Narcisco Rodriguez. She wore flat Manolo Blahnik sandals, her hair pulled back into a loose knot. Not what you would expect from America’s new princess. Kennedy had rewritten the rules and set the bar for the seemingly effortless style (nothing ever really is) of the Lauren Santo Domingos of today.
This side of the pond, our own Diana, Princess of Wales, shrugged off her Sloane Ranger frilled collars and started to play with fashion for formal occasions, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was known for her rather simple yet classic sense of style . The message was that one could be more relaxed and informal.
It’s easy to be thrown when out of one’s sartorial comfort zone and one I was put in a similar situation, that made me realize : there are no rules. Wear anything with authority and everyone – including yourself – will believe in it. I was attending Amazon India Fashion Week Last season, in midst of my own wedding shopping and attending regular day soirees where I was expected to be dressed in my most fine. While everybody dressed in their street style best, I, on the other-hand decided to just follow my own book of style. I headed out straight from my own bridal shower to attend a show at Fashion Week in my elegant oxblood gown. Only I changed into comfortable wedge heels, replaced my diamond earrings with my all time favorite Suhani Pittie earrings and kept rest the way it was.