May is here and so is a mantlepiece of wedding invitations. The summer months might not mean the traditions of deb balls and regattas anymore, but they do still bring formal dress codes and the urge for something ‘new’. Embrace this all-too-rare chance to dress up (even if you end up barefoot on the dance floor after midnight!). But cast aside doubts that hosts and guests might notice if you wear an old favourite: the hosts will just be hoping you are having fun and frankly, if friends judge you on double-wearing a dress, they need to focus on having more fun themselves!
Regardless, there are times that call for the pure joy of the new. The searching for it only adds to the anticipation of the party. These ideas are here to kickstart just that quest. It was not the easiest undertaking: brands have moved on leaps and bounds since my first article for Eco-Age but glamorous pieces do seem to be an underserved category with focus more on statement design than on ethical craft. In researching this piece, I was confronted with cornucopia options for day and holiday wear but sadly few for times when you want to be the best-dressed guest. You could rent or go vintage, both of which I explored for the festive party season. But for the here and now of summer, read on…
For a city wedding… The pastel suit
Weddings don’t have to mean floaty floral confections, especially in the city. This suit by Stella McCartney references the traditions of classic Savile Row tailoring with a relaxed-fit blazer that will give you some serious swagger from drinks to dinner. McCartney has long been a pioneer in the ethical fashion space; she is the leader that luxury brands look to follow. Her Sustainability Director Claire Bergkamp is a thought leader in sustainable innovation – listen to her interview with Clare Press on the Wardrobe Crisis podcast.
This suit, with its classic cut and linen mix, is the tailoring to return to summer after summer. Also, the pastel pink is fun but not so punchy that it might grow tired… Use it as the base onto which to add eye-catching accessories like this headband by Germanier. It is crafted using reclaimed crystals… I can just imagine it in the sunshine and then under the dance floor lights. Dazzling!
For a country wedding… The print maxi
Sometimes you want to channel Cara Delevingne in her dapper suit at Princess Eugenie’s wedding, sometimes you want a return to romance. A feminine, floor-length maxi dress like this one from Beulah is the answer. The founders, Lavinia and Natasha, are passionate in their determination to counteract modern day slavery. Empowerment is the buzzword of the brand: they continually develop skilled craft techniques and sustainable employment in order to break the cycle of poverty. What’s more, they know just what it takes to be the best-dressed wedding guest: their Instagrams are awash with photos from fabulous weddings, wearing Beulah of course. But a slip of silk is ambitious for England even in July. Throw this glorious coat by Mother of Pearl over your shoulders. It’s an update on the traditional trench, with their signature pearls handsewn between exquisite folds of fabrics replacing the usual buttons. As fits the brand creative director Amy Powney’s ethos, the coat is traced from fabric to final creation.
For a garden party… The floral mini
Midi lengths may get most of the airtime nowadays, but a shorter style can be just as elegant. This one makes me feel ready to drink Pimms under the trees and then dance barefoot late into the night. The long sleeves balance out the shorter hem, then there’s the meadow print (almost camouflage beneath this blossom!) and the tiers that catch the air. This headband by Philippa Craddock riffs on the floral theme while fulfilling my desire to dress up for any occasion (which hits me the moment the clocks go forward!). Craddock is a London-based florist who has supplied flowers for everyone from Dior to McQueen. She has now turned her talents to hair accessories, each hand-crafted with the same care and skill as her bouquets. As for shoes, I have had these wooden platforms for 12 years – Chloe spring / summer 2006. They were a steal in the Paris sales back when the pound was strong. The quality is remarkable: they have probably walked more steps than a marathon and danced to more tunes than a Spotify mega mix. They have never needed to be fixed or even polished. Now, that’s a shoe for summer.
For an all-out party… The party piece
It’s midsummer, the sun doesn’t set before 10pm and even the most reserved are ready to party. Those rare days call for a dress like this. Dresses where the moment you zip them up they transform your mood. The silk georgette panels of this wonder by Saloni contrast all of my favourite shades of pink and red. And then – oh – the embroidery! Silver to shimmer while you shimmy through the evening. Saloni works closely with a factory in India that it has partnered with since the brand’s conception. It is a member of Sedex, seeking to continually improve performance in responsible business practices. The brand will be working with co-operatives throughout India to create textiles and embroideries for future seasons, and has an upcoming collection using upcycled leftover production materials. Embellishment of this level of skill and craft is obviously reflected in the price tag. But an investment like this will be one to enjoy for decades to come, sharing not only the story of its craft but of the nights you have danced from summery dusk to sun-drenched dawn.
Dress by Saloni, exclusive for MATCHESFASHION.COM
Headband as before
Photographer: Moeez Ali. With thanks to The Hari London and to my dear friend Laura Stojcevic for use of her garden.
See Rosanna’s pick of five brands that are as Instagrammable as they are sustainable and her party looks to sparkle without sequins.
Watch Rosanna Falconer and Ronald Van Der Kemp in conversation about why you cannot have clothes for the price of a cappucino.