FASHION HONESTLY 

To overdress or underdress, that is the question

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Posh top and jeans vs tiered organza frocks – Frankie Graddon and Hannah Banks-Walker on the matter of going out

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Frankie Graddon: “If I’ve buggered up the dress code, at least I’ll blend into the tablecloth”

Oscar Wilde once said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated,” and while I agree with the latter, I’m afraid, dear Oscar, that I don’t agree with the former. I shall tell you why.

It was New Year’s Eve 2000, I had just turned 13 and I’d been invited to my first grown-up party – a drinks soirée at the neighbours’ house with my parents. Not only did the evening promise to be utterly chic (the neighbours ran a modelling agency and had underfloor heating in their loo), their two twentysomething daughters were going to be there and they bought their clothes from London – aka the Holy Grail for a 13-year-old living on the Buckinghamshire border.

So, big night, big dress, and I had just the ticket: a red, all-over-sparkly, halterneck dress that came down to my ankles and had a little split in the skirt. It was from Bay Trading and I had a matching bag. I wore it with cork wedges from Ravel and made my mum curl my hair. It was the business. Crunching down the gravel drive to the neighbours' door, I had butterflies in my tummy – this was it, I was finally entering the world of fabulousness.

I have spent most of my twenties going to parties in jeans, jumpers and ankle boots with messy hair. I will stick a red lipstick in my bag for “Oh, shit, it’s black tie” emergencies (which has happened twice; one of those times I was wearing flip-flops)

Except not. On walking into the party, it became quickly apparent that I was OUTRAGEOUSLY overdressed and everyone was staring at me like I’d gone mad. (I’m sure, in reality, this wasn’t the case, but you know the feeling.) All the guests were wearing chic, understated trouser and top combos, and the two twentysomething daughters were in Miss Sixty jeans – which any noughties teen will know were *the* jeans to have and infinitely cooler than a red, spangly frock. Urgh. I hid behind my mum for the rest of the night.

It is because of that night that I live in fear of being overdressed. While I love dressing up and making an effort, when it comes to attending any sort of social situation, I am terrified of getting it wrong. And thus I have spent most of my twenties going to parties in jeans, jumpers and ankle boots with messy hair. I will stick a red lipstick in my bag for “Oh, shit, it’s black tie” emergencies (which has happened twice; one of those times I was wearing flip-flops), but beyond that I am just happy in the knowledge that if I’ve buggered up the dress code, at least I’ll blend into the tablecloth.

Now on the cusp of my 30th birthday, I’ve decided that I need a little rethink. After turning up to a swanky hotel dinner in a sweatshirt a couple of months ago (in my mind very Isabel Marant, but in reality very scruffy), I’ve promised myself I’ll try and ditch the overdressed complex. For now, this means a pretty midi dress with a pair of heeled boots and a giant, snuggly jumper over the top to dial it all down. Or a T-shirt, jeans and blazer affair (I’ve got one from Karen Millen that is one of the most flattering things I’ve ever worn) with a pair of fancy shoes and some earrings. Of course, there is also my favourite – a jumpsuit. I’ve got a red, cropped-leg one, which I’m wearing with fishnet tights underneath, a pair of black heels and a leather biker jacket over the top (which I’ll probably keep on for the entire evening). Old habits…

Click here for Frankie's low-key party edit 

 

@FrankieGrad

Hannah Banks-Walker: “Putting on something glitzy makes me feel that I’m living my best life”

I think it’s quite easy to sum up my approach to dressing up by my reaction to Alessandro Michele’s very first collection for Gucci, presented back in 2015. It was a riot of colour, print, pattern, texture and more accessories (most of them realised in glitter) than you could shake a stick at. Most people I know thought it was fun but whacky and a bit bad taste. I took one look and knew I’d just seen my dream wardrobe on the catwalk. That’s not to say I don’t like classic pieces – one of my favourite things I own is a simple, black dress bought years ago from H&M, which makes me feel elegant in every which way. I dress up for work, weekends and everything in between. It’s not because I feel under pressure to look a certain way and it’s not because I’m obsessed with how I look – it’s simply because clothes are fun, they can express whatever you want them to and, if I feel dressed up, I feel better about life. So, you can imagine how I feel about party season.

There’s one outfit I’m really coveting this year. It’s from Kitri and it’s a pair of black trousers with feather trim, complete with matching, feather-trimmed top. It’s excellent. It’s chic, black (read: universally flattering) and just a tiny bit ridiculous. I’d obviously wear both items together for nights out but, beyond that, I’d wear the top on its own with jeans or the trousers with a plain roll neck (the benefits of which are innumerable). I like the fact that it reminds me of Prada’s feather-trimmed two-piece, naturally. It’s not just feathers, though. I want to wear sequin tops like this one with jeans, which I think allows me a daytime-appropriate outfit that I don’t have to worry about changing for a night out. I want to wear all-out party dresses that fill me with glee. I want to wear sparkly shoes that cheer everyone up, one step at a time. I want to dress up, before I spend the whole of January dressed down.

I, for one, wholly embrace the idea of putting on my Sunday best, on a Wednesday, and facing the world in pink organza. Or burnt orange silk. Or maybe even yellow satin

Don’t think I frown upon those who prefer a more casual approach to life; I sometimes wish I was more of a jeans-and-a-top girl like my good friend Charlotte, who spent our entire adolescent life schooling us all in how to pull off this exact combo for quite literally any occasion. Part of it is that I’ve always felt more comfortable in dresses, which people seem to assume means that you’ve made more of an effort. But I would disagree – for me, nothing is easier than throwing on a midi dress, whereas if I wear separates (particularly jeans) I’ll spend ages deciding what to put with them, partly because I just don’t feel as comfortable.

I suppose another part of it is the element of fantasy – even if I’m just going to work on a dreary Monday morning, with no evening plans of which to speak, putting on something glitzy makes me feel that I’m living my best life. I think we’re too confined by dress codes – people no longer think it’s “cool” to dress up, to look as though you’ve made an effort. But I, for one, wholly embrace the idea of putting on my Sunday best, on a Wednesday, and facing the world in pink organza. Or burnt orange silk. Or maybe even yellow satin. Because, really, when it comes down to it, life is too short not to dress up.

Click here for Hannah's dressed-up party edit 

@hlbw

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Photo: Getty Images 
Tagged in:
fashion
fashion advice
fashion honestly
Frankie Graddon
Hannah banks-walker
partywear

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