Rule number one when you come out of quarantine: don't tell anyone

I’m a convert to hiring a posh frock when needed, but it’s just as well a thorough dry-clean is included in the price

Life, Wedding Style

11/28/2021 3:02:00 PM

'What I wouldn’t do again is go to a party and announce that I’d been released from Covid-imposed isolation the day before' | Writes sophiamcoutts

I’m a convert to hiring a posh frock when needed, but it’s just as well a thorough dry-clean is included in the price

Since the groom is American and the guests would include a high number of immaculate American women, who (as a rule) take black tie more seriously than British women, I panicked. I felt like a Victorian scullery maid facing the invasion of those dollar heiresses who married impoverished British toffs. What to wear? Floor-length ballgown? Gloves? Tiara? Post-pandemic, my wardrobe resembles an attic fancy-dress box. Did I really once wear that? In public? How peculiar.

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Then I mulled over hiring a posh frock. For months, I’ve seen pictures of women – Carrie Johnson, fashion editors on social media – who do this and look splendid. I clicked on a few websites, perusing options (some are better than others: try Hurr or My Wardrobe, if you’re interested). Did I want a Versace dress at £78 for four days? A McQueen number for £66? And was this service really feasible? What happened if I ordered something and it arrived on the day but was too small or short? What if I dribbled red wine over it? Would I remember to send it back or leave it lying on my bedroom floor for several weeks?

Nervously, I chose a silver sequined jumpsuit from Alice Temperley that would cost £1,250 in a shop but which I could hire for £80. It arrived, as heavy and thick as a suit of chainmail, and fitted perfectly. I would go to the wedding dressed as Shirley Bassey. That would show those Americans.

The Chelsea Pensioners were presumably quite surprised to find their seats in the Wren Chapel scattered with sequins on Sunday morning. Knowing I was wearing an expensive item that needed to go back, I’d moved sedately, like a hippo sliding into its waterhole, but sequins kept pinging off anyway. Still, it was a thrill to be able to wear something normally only available to the sort of duchess who doesn’t blanche at dropping four figures on a party outfit, and I’ll definitely hire again.

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What I wouldn’t do again is go to a party and announce that I’d been released from Covid-imposed isolation the day before. I had queried this with the bride – her wedding marked day 12, so I was allowed out, but did she really want me at her wedding breathing over the canapés? She did, so I went, and was halfway through an anecdote about having had Covid at the reception (my small talk needs work), when the chap I was talking to paled. “You only came out of quarantine yesterday?” he asked, before leaping backwards and glaring as if I’d tried to mug him.

“It’s fine!” I wanted to protest, “I’m not infectious any more!” But I wasn’t sure this would help the situation. Later, talking to a couple of others, I fibbed and said I’d been set free a week earlier to allay their fears. In truth, the only thing I trailed behind me at the Royal Hospital was a sparkly trail of breadcrumbs from the chapel to the reception, and from there to my Uber. Luckily, a thorough dry-clean is included in the hiring cost.

Runners rejoice at the return of the Battenberg Exciting news: the Battenberg’s back. Not sure where it’s been. But ahead of next summer’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Lakeland says that sales of its Battenberg baking tins have surged 30 per cent. A peculiar snobbery surrounds this cake. Is it the marzipan? The gaudy colours? Its tea room connotations? I’m a long-standing fan, anyway. Some years ago, when I went through a marathon-running phase, I worked out that Mr Kipling mini Battenbergs had an extremely high sugar content and packed my running belt with the cakes, which I would rip off at mile 13 or 23 when I needed a hit. The marketing people at Mr Kipling learned of this one year, and I arrived at my office shortly before the Istanbul marathon to find they’d sent me a whopping box of the things. Top tip if you’re off for a jog any time soon.

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