Flashy fashion parties are one of the perks of a fashion writer's life. The downside is the duty to come up with a suitable outfit every time.
Fashion talk: If you can't stand the heat, reconsider the couture
One of the perks of my job is, most definitely, going to flashy fashion parties. The pitfalls? Coming up with suitably knock 'em dead frocks to wear to them. Best events always begin post-work - as in too late to go home and change. If I'm out and about reporting - which is inevitably the case - I have to wear certain components of my outfit (minus heels/bling/false lashes etc) many hours before the actual party action starts.
For such occasions I have a small wardrobe (painted gold on the inside) that is entirely devoted to fashion party occasionwear, not to be confused with occasionwear of any other sort. For instance, you wouldn't carry a leather stegosaurus-shaped handbag to, say, your sister's wedding reception, but you would to a fashion party (Daahling! It's a Giles!). Jackets make up around half of the wardrobe's contents, collected over the years with flamboyant fashion parties in mind. Most are vintage, which can earn you serious style points at gatherings if the decade from whence they hail is being referenced at that particular time.
I have a beautiful gold lamé 1940s jacket, which once caught the eye of Miuccia Prada's chief assistant when I wore it to a post-show party in Milan (her collection was very 1940s-inspired at the time). Another of my great "reach-fors" is a cream silk frock coat by Selina Blow, the sister-in-law of the late Isabella, that looks like an 18th-century museum piece and equally "now" courtesy of Dior's autumn/winter 2010/11 collection.
If this all makes me sound well-stocked in the wardrobe department, you might wonder why receiving an invitation to the Net-A-Porter 10th anniversary soirée in London brought on a panic attack. It isn't just because I knew that the Natalie Massenet thrash would attract fashion's finest, hot off the Eurostar from Paris, having just witnessed mind-boggling couture. It is more that most, if not all, the party pieces housed in my collection, although exquisitely designed and much loved, become unwearable if the temperature soars to 30C (a balmy breeze in the UAE, but a scorching heatwave in London), which it was on the night of this party. Blistering heat and designer high fashion are a tricky combo.
Most trendy events in the British summer take place outdoors in order to cater for the ever-increasing fashion pack, who are notorious for dragging along their friends. This lot don't appreciate being crammed like sardines into nice air-conditioned hotels when it means they have to teeter outside on stiletto Manolos to smoke. Unlike parties in autumn/winter, when you can start to experiment with new-season trends that aren't yet in the shops, from mid-June to August, it's impossible to be fashion-forward without fainting.
Right now I can hardly bear to look at images of the tight-fitting Mark Fast knitwear, Chanel yeti fur or high-waisted Chloé wool trousers (am now fanning my face with my hand) that are starting to appear in fashion magazines. Only a handful ever pull off looking cool when they are most certainly not feeling it, and Anna Wintour is one. For the Net-a-Porter evening I was determined to be another. Initially, I reached for a blue silk chiffon vintage frock, which is knee-length and waisted: a look Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs are rocking for next season.
It's also jewellery-encrusted, so I wouldn't need to wear any additional baubles. But when I spied the original 1960s polyester lining, I quickly put it back. Even my Chloé LBD, that is rolled out for so many occasions, somehow just seems wrong in July. I was tempted to head out to the sales to buy a white blazer. Kate Moss has been wearing a Stella McCartney style recently, which updates everything she wears, frock or trousers. I feel, however, in this heat any jacket, no matter how dazzling, would simply end up unworn, flung in a corner or hanging limply from my arm all evening.
In the end, the best option appeared to be to apply the same logic that I do to my credit card. When in doubt, max it out. Nothing says summer soirée more than a full-length flouncy dress (preferably by Erdem).