Sartorial Panic Attack.


So rather wonderfully, someone has nominated me for the Debrett’s 500 – a list of the UK’s 500 most influential and inspiring people across a range of industries.

Thanks, Mum.

As with all these things, it’s nice to be nominated, and although the final list won’t be published for a few weeks yet, I’ve been invited to a party to mingle with other nominees in London.

Who wouldn’t want to go and meet a boatload of inspirational and innovative people?

Or at least, that’s what I thought until I saw the dress code:

“Lounge suit/cocktail”


Proper, genuine panic.

I work from home. This means my wardrobe mostly consists of variations on “Converse, jeans, t-shirt, sweater’.

If required to be smart, I might upgrade the wardrobe to: “Clean Converse, smart jeans, cashmere sweater, slick of make-up”.

Once in a blue moon for a special date or occasion it might even be: “Black top, skirt, boots”.

Friends, I do not own a cocktail dress.

I don’t even own a dress.

I wore a dress once, for a family photo. I was about two years old. If you look carefully you can see the red-rimmed eyes from the one-hour tantrum I had before agreeing to wear the dress. Apparently, I stood at the top of the stairs and screamed, “I HATE YOU!” at everyone, before I was allowed to wear trousers under the dress, for as long as it took to get the photo.


As to why I was being made to wear such hideous trousers in the first place? Well, let’s gloss over that, shall we? It was the 70s, after all.

Oh, and I wore a dress on my wedding day. Look how that turned out. And no, I’m not sharing the photos of the wedding dress.

I showed my wedding album to a fellow blogger once, and she said I looked like an “amputee midget”. So you can just imagine how great the dress was.

Basically… I’m not a dress person.

So this blog post is a cry for help.

What do you do if you really, really, REALLY aren’t a dress person but you’ve got to go to a swanky event like this?

I can’t possibly be the only person who finds comfort in a great pair of jeans and a woolly sweater, and goes clammy at the thought of taffeta? What do I do?



34 thoughts on “Sartorial Panic Attack.”

  1. I genuinely feel for you – I am a live in jeans girl who loves nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles with the kids. I have an uber posh wedding to go to in August with a similar dress code and I am already breaking out in a cold sweat! I have heard that personal shoppers are the way forward!

  2. Oh dear friend I am never EVER going to live that down am I? You are amazing, your sartorial elegance shines out from you and I think you should go in sparkly converse and a lounge suit. If you dont want to wear a dress then you don’t have to! I would just say do what you would tell Flea to do.

    But wow what a thing to be nominated for – go you.

  3. Congratulations on being nominated, what an accolade. Sartorially speaking, I’m a bit rubbish at giving advise, but as I’m also not a dress person I’d probably go for a simple black sheath dress (not fitted, so doesn’t feel like a dress).
    Hope you find something suitable, and good luck.

  4. You can never go wrong with a L.B.D. – AKA ‘Lovely Black Dress’ – I’m a size 16 and as the delightful Meghan Elizabeth Trainor put’s it “I’m all about the bass, no treble’

    A below the knee black A-Line jersey dress (anything in Ponti Roma – fabulous fabric, hangs well and holds you in) fitted at the top, swings out from the waist (just google Adele Dresses and take a look at how amazing she is at rocking a LBD) with some lovely diamante dangly earrings and some heels is all you need (or black patent flat pumps if heels are not your thing)
    Sheer black tights only, not opaque (black on black is not a good look, you need to break the black up otherwise you’ll look like a Ninja)
    After 25 years in fashion I hope that helps?
    Anya x

  5. It’s only guidance isn’t it?

    Glam converse, not jeans, clean tophalf and tah dah? Unless you want to send one of us as an alternate Sally in 4 inch heels, tights and a clingy LBD?

  6. You don’t need to wear a dress. Smart floaty black trousers with boots or shoes underneath (no converse though) and a tunic length smart top. I’ll try and find some pictures for you. Dress it up with some jewellery and makeup.

  7. That’s AMAZING Sally, congratulations!!

    I’m afraid I don’t have much dress sense, but my advice would be to wear something you’re comfortable in.

  8. Smart trousers and a DJ? I read something by Caitlin Moran in The Times recently where she says that she’s never wearing high heels again and is opting for trousers and a DJ and flat shoes for posh event from now on. How about booking in with a personal shopper at one of the big department stores? The main thing is for you to feel like you and to be able to enjoy it.

  9. What about an evening jumpsuit ? Less stuffy than a suit, you can look cocktail and still wear trousers, you may need to ditch the converse though.

    I like this one but there are loads about in black if you prefer. You might even pick something up in the sales 😉

  10. Congratulations, wonderful news. Get a personal shopper, is there an independent clothes shop near you? Let them stress about it (they don’t charge for their time). You will be amazed and surprised what suits you and I guarantee it will be the one thing you look at when they show you and you’ll think ” yuch” and guess what you’ll put it on and look amazing. DJ’s, flat shoes are the coward’s way out. Also, find out if they’re planning to include other people from the same sector (group photograph anyone?) and find out what they’re planning to wear so you look fab and don’t clash. Good luck.

  11. congratulations!

    I never wear skirts, and have a backside that Kim Kardashian would envy, with cleavage to match. That’s where the comparison ends.

    I have an event to go to in October and I’m looking into a DJ with a sparkly top or a plain top and a statement necklace. I’ll be wearing flats with some bling on them.
    My trick is that I know I won’t be able to get a suit that fits me off the shelf, so I’ll buy something that’s a bit big, then go to a seamstress and get her to tailor it to me.

    I’ve a couple of business suits that she’s done and everyone says they look made to measure, they were from Ann Harvey in the sale.

    Saying that I have one, floor length black dress with a floaty chiffon overlay. It’s beautiful, I’ve had it for 10 years and everyone has borrowed it. Sadly unless you are 5ft 7 or above it would be too long. Contact me if you want to give it a try! I’m local enough!

  12. Sally, well done! What an exciting thing. I agree with all the stuff above. A black shift dress with tights and flats with a bit of sparkly accessorising would still be really comfy. Or, a tunic with trousers would work too – you don’t need a dress if it’s not you. I love that family photo by the way – glad you’ve shared it with us! Hope you enjoy the event – at least if the dress code gets too much you can console yourself at the bar.

  13. Congratulations, that’s really awesome news. Personally I can just about handle a tunic over trousers in these types of situations. Something a bit fancy but with the security of trousers underneath. For me the fear comes from having been caught out as a child wearing a dress, cartwheeling and realising (too late) that I had forgotten to wear knickers. So main tip, don’t forget your knickers!

  14. First of all, well done Sally! I love dresses, and used to wear them more often before having children. If you are not a dress person, why not to go for a nice pair of black trousers and shirt/blouse? Cannot wait to see a post about the big night 😉

  15. Massive congratulations! Have an amazing time!

    You KNOW I’m a dress person… but you can look just as cocktail in a good suit with some bling. And as for your boob reply on someone else’s comment… get them out! I’d be celebrating if I had big boobs!

    Alternatively, you could wear whatever you feel comfy in and distract people by making further use of those “feel me” stickers! 😉 x

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