Photo: Claire Pepper

“The ticket says ‘dress glamorous,'” came the text message from my friend about a red carpet event in London. At the last-minute, I’d been drafted in to take her twin teenage daughters to the premiere of Oceans 8 (terrible film, don’t bother). I know what you’re thinking – a red carpet event is hardly relaxed but with no time to waste, I opted for Casual Glamour. Confidence comes from feeling comfortable and feeling like yourself, and for me, that often means a low-key approach to dressing up. In London, particularly for after-work events, there is a tendency to underdress rather than go overboard. Besides, I was never going to turn up, on public transport, in a floor-length gown. Casual Glamour worked for the twins, too. Their supercool tomboy style garnered compliments from fellow guests as we swanned down the red carpet trying not to loose our cool when Helen Bonham Carter and her mum showed up. None of us had stepped out of our comfort zone.

Teenage Tomboy Chic on the red carpet

Sartorially speaking, special events can be a challenge. So, my advice for this summer’s invitations? Wear what you feel comfortable in, then whoop things up with one showbiz piece. It’s the fool-proof fashion formula I use again and again. Easy-to-wear, effortlessly chic separates form the basis of the look – a pair of white jeans, wide-leg trousers or a maxi skirt – then I crank up the glamour-factor with a showpiece blouse, velvet jacket, glitzy flats or statement earrings. All it takes is one standout item to create an outfit that works both day and evening, indoors and out, and is appropriate for all those tricky ‘smart casual’ dress codes. The desired effect is to look modern, chic and stylish. To look like you haven’t tried too hard.

Casual Glamour on the side street.

One of my favourite showbiz items is the pull-on-and-go top – something I can throw on with jeans and a pair of loafers or sandals, if I’m rushing to go to a meeting or event. Pattern, print or sequins all whoop things up. Using my one-in-one-out rule, this new tuxedo shirt replaced the armpit-bothering kimono top (that now resides in the local charity shop). It’s from La Double J and having had my eye on it for a while, I pounced during the Liberty sale. The tuxedo shirt was still quite expensive but it’s a good ‘un and made from the finest Mantero silk. (La Double J is the fabulous brainchild of Milan-based journalist JJ Martin; also available HERE).

For special occasions, when there’s a lot of standing around, apply the zero-tolerance approach to uncomfortable shoes. I can’t handle high heels – and the twins were totally flummoxed by Cate Blanchett’s extreme stilettos, ‘Look at the angle of her feet!’ they gasped standing comfortably in their trainers and brogues. Good girls; they Know Their Style. And there are tonnes of fancy flats available: metallic loafers, cocktail trainers, velvet slippers, flatforms, kitten, block or mid-heels. No one ever looked glamorous with sore feet.


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16 thoughts on “Casual Glamour: what to wear for a relaxed summer event

  1. Such cool kids! To dress that well at such a tender age – it must be your influence on them, Alyson. ‘Glamourous’ is a very ambiguous word – if I dress conventionally glamourous I feel a total nincompoop (polite term but you get my drift!). Old style glamour (that lovely Hollywood stuff) is glorious but always feels like raiding the dressing-up box. I would rather attend events as myself and not ‘in character’. An aside – have just got membership for the Curzon cinema in an attempt to actually see some decent films.

  2. I think you need a whack of style credentials as well as chutzpah to get away with what you do Alyson. Us mere mortals get no leeway. That being said I did juniors grad today in 32 degrees c ( we’re in Scotland, so clearly that kind of heat does not happen at all ever!!!) I ditched my outfit plan and went all Alyson inspired wafty shirt dress and sandals. For the first time ever someone said I looked chic! Chic! Moi! I am so chuffed I could burst.

  3. Lord! (When you’re desperate for a different Mississippi expression, use that one.) You guys look great, Alyson. I also like your sandals very much — especially the black / caramel contrast.

    And those kids really are the Queens of Tomboy Cool! Their rags seem to cross several generations. I would mimic both of their looks. And have. But they’ve raised the bar in several ways for my next graphic teeshirt/blazer and floral tuxedo presentations. 🙂

    Ann in Missouri

  4. Thank you! I am attending a beach wedding on the Outer Banks and the forecast is for hot! I have been catching grief from my MIL that my silky mumu with white jeans and jeweled sandals is inappropriate. I want to be comfortable and not pass out. Thank you for the emotional backup. I shall be strutting about in my comfy and cool outfit with happy feet!

  5. My first thought on reading ‘dress code glamorous’ would be to decide to stay at home but I can get behind your white jeans and a sensational blouse mandate. I have a blue silk shirt which does the job in multiple social situations, with white jeans and pearls. I need to have a couple more in my wardrobe.

    Those girls look fabulous. Such confidence and style at such a tender age – they will go far.

  6. I was really hoping the film was going to be good, ah well. Love your looks for this, always nice to see some laid back London style! Where are your tan sandals from?

  7. Alyson, you have just put a smile on my face! As I logged on to TNMA and saw you in a green top and white jeans I instantly felt that for once in my life I had got something right in the fashion stakes, having just bought white jeans and a green patterned top (although my purchases were somewhat cheaper than yours – Thrift Shopping at the moment, but it’s quite a buzz when you get something good, jeans are Jaeger!) Shame about the film, enjoyed the Ocean’s 11 etc.. and was hoping this would be just a good.

  8. Love your outfit – you look great. The La Double J shirt is amazing, that’s one of my favorite prints of their’s. Will look equally good with black jeans for a winter red carpet event!

  9. You look great and the twins are awesome but I’m still banging the drum for us short-arses. All these wafty dresses – at 5’2″ I could trim two feet off the bottom of the current Preen collection in Debenhams and still break my neck on the hems!

    1. Hi Catherine, thanks for commenting (I have been known to trip up in a maxi skirt). Did you see my summer dresses feature? It includes a wider selection of dress styles and Sandria the model is 5’4″.

  10. I thought the film was good….and most of my friends thought it was OK…but my teenage daughter thought it was fab and then I thought maybe us more mature women don’t see it in the same way as kids do……….Our daughter asked us afterwards if we would support her in any career choice she made !!!! The film obviously inspired her enough to both look cool, be cool and ..steal expensive Jewels too.

    1. Ah, that’s cool. The twins enjoyed the film – and it has an amazing cast – unfortunately, I just lost interest halfway through. Enjoyed the first bit with Sandra Bullock leaving jail etc but my overall feeling was that maybe it had been rushed out….

  11. Hi Alyson. I live in southwest France where it really does get hot in summer. Your look is perfect for just about any occasion. I had also decided on white for the basis of my summer wardrobe and now have five pairs of white jeans in various lengths and leg widths, and a pair of sandals very like yours in tan and black leather that I bought in Madrid. I’ll now be searching for the perfect shirts too. Thank you for your inspirational ideas.

  12. I’ve been signed up to the double J newsletter for a while. Enjoy reading about the people, interiors and seeing her colourful clothing range in silk. Inspired initially I think by vintage prints. There is a section on vintage clothing and jewellery on her website.

    You look good as ever Alyson. But in this heat it’s hard to wear jeans and long sleeves.
    I was away all weekend in Manchester for an event in which I was literally centre stage and had to come up with an outfit to wear all day on Saturday in extreme heat In the end I close a cheap poplin Zara shirt dress from last summer with a vertical stripe, floaty skirt very much in the vein of those long dresses you featured recently. Elbow length sleeves with ties double knotted a tied sash belt. Nothing budged all day This semi fitted dress met the bill completely but was smartened up with Mexican silver necklace, very like Frida Kahlo one and two Najavo silver bracelets one studded with turquoise, a teal handbag and navy ankle strap Arche sandals with a small wedge heel. Had toes done professionally in a coral red polish. Felt good, the clothing worked and was photogenic without being too try hard. I chose correctly after trying on many outfits to see what would work in the heat without being too revealing of arms,legs etc. Preparing adequately and knowing one’s style clearly the way to go.

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