Dinner for two

“It is only shallow people who don’t judge by appearances”
Oscar Wilde

Do you dress for dinner?  There has always been an etiquette, but for only those in the know, so to speak. Wearing the right outfit could open doors, and the wrong one would close them. Just try to get into any London restaurant looking “wrong” and you will see that not much has changed in this respect.

Depending on the event, our appearance sends a message. More like a whole speech actually. Would you wear the same clothes to appear in her majesty’s court as you would to go to a Camden club?

Rule no. 1# Clothes are communication for the occasion.
Clarify the message! Is it valentines dinner with my loved one, or a hostile business event with the borgias? Write it down as if creating a Film character.

Rule no. 2# the correct hair style
My wardrobe is very small, most of the time the clothes I wear to work, have to be adapted for going out to dinner. Changing the hairstyle – say to a chignon can totally change the vibe. My own hair is coloured and highlighted within an inch of its life, so I find a weekly hair masque to be a life saver and essential to restore shine and bounciness!

Rule no. 3# Choosing the right handbag.
Everyone knows that right? For a smart dinner event, best not to carry a giant tote stuffed with the kitchen sink! Leave the birkin at home and carry something smaller. I used to carry a Kelly 28, but now prefer a pochette. ( the London lady needs a core collection of 4 handbags to suit any occasion.)

Rule no. 4# shoes transform the outfit & and strengthen the message
I have strict criteria about shoes, in the sense that I really do have to be able to walk in them. (Preferably cycle too) For boozy dinners though, One may choose something a little bit lower on comfort and higher in beauty- and get a taxi. I don’t believe my satin manolos have ever touched the London pavement…

Rule no. 5 # high quality clothes are more versatile
Of course most people think they buy high quality clothes. It’s very rare to meet someone who admits, ‘yes actually, My aim is to buy disposable rubbish , made in sweat shops’.  Nonetheless the sad reality is that most clothes nowadays are poor quality and made in appalling sweat shop conditions. One has to actively seek out quality, reject the whims of fast fashion and make sure every single purchase serves a purpose. I like to shop for items with a bit of longevity, though it’s good to remember that even the best purchases have a ‘sell by’ date. Most items in my wardrobe get culled after a 7 year cycle, as I refresh my look – even the beloved Kelly’s had to go. Items such as a plain, black cashmere v neck, can be adapted almost indefinitely, though at some point the shape may look “off”.

Rule no. 6 # Adding some  ‘faux’ bijoux
A cocktail ring, a Vintage brooch or leather cuffs. I don’t wear much jewellery, but is nice when is used as an exclamation mark, to whatever story the clothes are trying to tell. They can also be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to update an outfit.

Hope you all have some great plans for a casual or formal dinner -and do let me know. Do you still dress for dinner?

© Ladysarahinlondon
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Making a grand entrance or exit - How to be suitably dressed for any occasion. Etiquette and the rules

16 thoughts on “Do you still dress for dinner?

  1. Helena

    Love your kelly pochette and I do agree its the perfect dinner handbag!I do like to make habit of an effort when going out for dinner, even at our local pizzeria.

  2. Antonia

    One day I hope to have a beautiful pre-owned Kelly!! I always like to put a little effort into getting dressed to go out to dinner or anywhere else for that matter. You just never know who you will run into! 🙂

  3. Mary O

    Funny you posted this, we are just going out for dinner, inspired to make the effort. I will still wear jeans but upgrade the shoes and the bag of course😄. I meant to ask if you can suggest any good london restaurants?

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Enjoy your meal out! The restaurant in the pic is Caribbean food, lovely fresh fish. It’s called the mango room in north London, the food is amazing and very fresh. Though I fear it will be no more. It’s about to become an art gallery.

  4. Susan

    There is an old saying, “dress for success.” I quite agree with this. Appearance matters. Most people are very visual. Appearance speaks volumes. Appearance, like it or not, sends a message. That said, dressing for the occasion is key and requires some thought. I do not subscribe to over dressing which can make the individual look well dressed, but very out of place. In my opinion, knowing your venue and making good outfit choices requires both thought and skill.

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Your comments are always so insightful Susan. ‘ I do not subscribe to over dressing which can make the individual look well dressed, but very out of place. ‘ you are so right about the skill required to make the correct outfit choices. What do you think would help someone? Perhaps researching the venue in advance?

      1. Susan

        Considering the venue is always helpful. Also important is the group of people you will be joining and the particular occasion. For example, attending a fundraising dinner at $1K a plate at the Ritz or Taj, generally attire is high end. Most will be dressed to the T’s. I agree entirely, It is always key not to appear out of place. This sends yet another message. I love people watching and when out I like to really look at individuals and think about the message they send. This process has helped me make outfit decisions for different occasions.

  5. dottoressa

    A great post!
    I agree with you and Susan-I like to dress for the evening but think very carefully about the occasion, the company and about the message I want to send.
    I like pieces that could be dress up or down and feel better if I have some upgrade,different hairdo,silk scarf….just for me
    “It is always better to be slightly underdressed”-it took me some time to learn this C. Chanel’s wisdom (but than there is also: ” A girl should be two things-classy and fabulous”)
    Classical music concerts are almost only events for dress more formal here (and,luckily, I love both :-))
    P. S. My comment from yesterday got lost

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Thank you, I have no idea where the comments go. 😄I looked in the spam folder but could not find them

      I also try to think carefully about the occasion and the audience. I agree that is better to be slightly underdressed, rather than over. It’s rather complicated actually and different cultures have such different rules.

  6. justina

    love this post! I tend to like wearing ‘good’ jeans and dressing them up a bit with shoes and a tailored coat. Please do a post about what to wear in an upscale restaurant


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