Happy New Year to CharityDO readers.

I hope you have had the most wonderful and relaxing holiday season filled with love, family and friends.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions (as I usually break them) but this year I’m doing something new – actually a lot of things news. I’m making 2015 the year for a ‘new me’. A healthier, stronger and braver version who is going to dive out of her comfort zone, face fears and break some rules.

Sounds exhausting! But it’s time for a challenge and a new fashion voice and I’m ready to give 2015 a red-hot go. How about you?

January is not only an exciting time of new beginnings – in the fashion world it’s the much-anticipated time for the Spring-Summer haute couture collections. So to give you some style-inspiration for your upcoming charity events, I’m featuring my favourite collection from fashion week so far and one that signified a ‘new way’ for the designer.

Chanel Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2015 collection – just the sound of it makes me ‘fashion giddy’.

After watching the show I felt amazed and moved in equal measure. Amazed at Karl Lagerfeld’s continued ability to conceptualise his fantasies and dreams in fabric and design, and moved that the beauty and artistry that is haute couture remains, thankfully, still in existence.

A few words here won’t convey the sheer brilliance of this collection. To fully appreciate and understand the essence of the collection, you must view it in its entirety on www.chanel.com.

Here is a snapshot. After nearly a year in the making, the fashion stage is set with a grey and barren tropical garden, origami style, in a futuristic city where the trees and flowers have long died from some apocalyptic event.

The show commences with Chanel’s muse, Baptiste Giabiconi, as a gardener in Tom Sawyer-esque garb who waters the garden from a CC-branded watering can and viola the dead blooms come alive and colour and life burst onto the stage.


Monsieur Lagerfeld said the show came to him “one morning in bed, I saw it in a second” and from this flash of genius came the futuristic garden that he wove into this stunning collection.


Instead of Chanel’s usual black and white, Monsieur Lagerfeld said that “something was in the air” and instead he chose strong colours, the colour of flowers, for the collection.

Lagerfeld’s 21st century modern twist on classical Chanel took form with a floral theme in graceful movement.

With an uncanny ability to keep his talented fingers firmly on the modern pulse, Monsieur Lagerfeld gave the collection into a 21st century feel interspersed with the classic Chanel. A stroke of brilliance that will appeal to 20-something It-Girls and to his long-standing clientele.

The classic tweed suit came with a hip twist – lavish fringing, floral trims, shorter jackets that bare the midriff, and slouchy midi skirts.


It-Girls will love the low-slung belted sequin ballerina skirts (SO beautiful) and his established clients will fight for the pink sequin princess coats. Accessories were hip too with beanies, sock booties and long patent leather belts. A classic shape also got ‘Channeled’ – a wide-brimmed ‘Lady of the Manor’ hat covered with tulle.


But the best of all were Lagerfeld’s flowers that adorned everything from jackets to skirts, shrugs and beanies. Rich with colour, crystals and sequins, the floral artistry of this show was unbelievable. The wearer will surely feel as if they have shrouded themselves in a beautiful floral garden.


The finale featured a bride in a dress that takes your breath away. The floral bridal train took 15 seamstresses to make and untold hours. The bride was followed by four ‘gardeners’ (Tom Sawyer again) as bridesmaids carrying tropical bouquets.


Welcome to Karl Lagerfeld’s world of fashion genius. Breathtaking.


The Melbourne Cup Spring Carnival commences on Saturday and excited fashionistas around the country are preparing their wardrobe for a week of high style.

If you want to be ahead of the style stakes this Melbourne Cup, then adhere to the specific dress codes for each carnival.

Here are some style tips for how to dress for each race day.

Derby Day, Saturday 1st November

Black and white is the dress code for the first day of the Melbourne Cup Spring Carnival. Monochrome is a major spring trend so there is plenty of choice to create a striking look.

Stylist tip:  Siren-red lips are the perfect beauty accoutrement for monochrome styles.

Ginger & Smart dress; Olga Berg clutch;  Gregory Ladner large fascinator;  Nine West heels;  Adorne bracelet. (see Above)

Melbourne Cup Day, Tuesday 4th November

Be bold and bright.  Melbourne Cup day is all about colour and high-style.  Go all out with colour from head to toe or add bright pops of colour with your accessories or opt for an elaborate, but elegant, up-do.

Stylist Tip:  With all that colour, neutral and soft beauty tones are essential.

Alex Perry dress;  Max Alexander pillbox hat;  Oroton clutch;  Mimco crystal studs;  Tom Ford lipstick inmc14-2

Crown Oaks Ladies Day, Thursday 6th November

Elegant and glamourous is the style-rule for Oaks Day.  Opt for feminine dresses of lace or silk and accessories with lady-like jewellery – it’s the prefect time to pop on your pearls girls.  Summer’s sorbet colours of peach, pale pink, lilac and mint will provide a soft and chic silhouette.

Stylist tip:  A soft and elegant do is the perfect hairstyle for lady-like elegance.

By Johnny dress;  Mimco earrings;  Colette Hayman clutch; Jimmy Choo pumps; OPI nail enamel.mc14-3

Stakes Day, Saturday, 8th November

The end of the Melbourne Cup carnival allows for a more relaxed feel to dressing.  This season’s jumpsuit is the perfect style-choice for Stakes Day but elevate the style with heels and smart jewellery so as not to be too casual.

Stylist tip:  A stylish wedge is a jumpsuit’s BFF.

Country Road jumpsuit;  Tony Bianco heels; Samantha Willis cuff, Colette Hayman clutch;  Forever New hat.mc14-4

 I have to admit I’ve been completely caught up in the fairytale and glamour of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s wedding.

The sumptuous setting, the show of wealth, the beautiful A-list celebrities, the display of love – I’ve been hooked.  I’ve fallen for the fashion fairytale and have developed a serious case of fashion envy.

Amal Alamuddin’s wardrobe for the 3-day event is the stuff of style dreams. The Oscar de la Renta wedding gown, the red and black Alexander McQueen worn at the pre-wedding dinner, the gasp-evoking Giambattista Valli floral couture dress, the black and white Dolce and Gabbana sundress and the black and white palazzo pant ensemble topped off with that amazing Stella McCartney hat.


Her shining beauty coupled with a fairytale wardrobe has created a fashion-fantasy envied and admired by women around the world.  Lucky girl.

But now that Mr Clooney’s nuptial festivities are over (less face it for most girl’s it’s all about HIM) and we go back to our ‘normal’ lives, I’m stuck in a fashion-moment – Amal’s Giambattista Valli couture dress.  I ask myself two questions, what is it about a frock that makes for a fairytale and can a normal girl have her ‘dream dress’ moment (aside from our wedding dress).

To answer these questions I need to ask myself a few more.  Does the dress have to be designed by a world-famous fashion designer?  Does it have to cost thousands of dollars?  Can only a celebrity wear such a dress?  Can it only be worn on a red carpet or in lavish, wealth-strewn surrounds?

My stylist brain screams the answer – a resounding ‘no’.  Of course, wealth and celebrity are usually precursors to fairytale dresses and red-carpet moments but for everyday girls like you and me, it doesn’t take loads or money or fame to wear a dream dress.  A quote by the famous Vogue editor, Edna W. Chase says it best “fashion can be bought, style one must posses”.

It’s true.  Amal Alamuddin has access to wealth, couture designers and the best that money can buy, but that doesn’t mean she’s worthy of ‘style icon’ status.  What we witnessed over the last week that Amal possesses real style and essential ingredients that we can ALL emulate without the wealth and fame – style, attitude and confidence.  She wore it well, and so can you and I.

When you wear a dress that flatters your style and that you feel special in, it changes the way you move and gives you poise and elegance.

Proof in point – some years ago I was attending a charity ball and I had the most beautiful red gown made (by a very talented couture-trained dressmaker).  It was a copy of a Valentino and it fitted to perfection.  I felt so beautiful in the dress and it obviously showed and at the ball a friend said to me “you look like a movie star”. There was my red-carpet ‘dream dress’ moment.

When you wear a dress that makes you feel beautiful and confident that’s your dream moment.  When you feel like you can conquer the world, seduce your lover or walk your own red carpet moment, that’s when your dress has created your special moment in time.

I know I can never wear THAT Giambattista Valli couture dress and I’ll never marry a movie-star, but all I need is a copy of red Valentino dress and I have my own movie-star moment at home in my own closet.


Last week I showed iconic dresses that created history-making moments in time.  This week I feature a few of my favourite dream dresses.  What are yours?

Firstly, Sarah Jessica Parker in Chanel couture at 2003 Emmy Awards.  Complete with diamond Chanel camellia accessories it was a pink cotton-candy dream.


As one of history’s most stylish women, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had many a fairytale moment.  One of her most famous is the Valentino mint off-the-shoulder dress that she wore for an official visit to Cambodia in 1967.  Jennifer Lopez re-created the moment in 2003 at the Academy Awards.


There is one ‘dream dress’ that every stylish woman yearns for – a red Valentino.  Valentino Garavani created the most glamourous, elegant and drool-worthy gowns and dresses for the rich and famous for 50 years until his retirement in 2008.  His signature red dress was, and still remains, on the ‘dream list’ for stylish women around the world.


Countless fairytale-moments were created for film and real-life by famous Hollywood designer, Edith Head.  Perhaps the most recognized are two dresses – the famous blue and white dresses created for Grace Kelly in the 1955 film To Catch a Thief.  Her granddaughter, Charlotte Casighari, paid homage to her Grandmother when she wore an amalgamation of the two dresses at an official dinner for her Uncle Albert’s wedding in 2011 created by Giambattista Valli.


Another revered Hollywood designer was Helen Rose who created the famous white dress for Elizabeth Taylor for the 1958 movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Fifty-six years later it’s still a dress that all women wish they could wear as well as Liz.


Another Valentino but this time black velvet worn by Julia Roberts at the 2001 Academy Awards.  If you know fashion, then you’ll know that this dress was just one from Valentino’s simply spectacular Fall/Winter couture collection from 1992.  It remains one of my favourite collections of all time.


Do you remember when you first saw the now famous green silk dress that Kiera Knightley wore in Atonement?  I do.  I gasped with the beauty and colour and Kiera wore it so very well.


Design team Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig of Marchesa create the most beautiful red-carpet gowns.  Celebrating 10 years in the business, a Marchesa dress is an A-lister’s ‘go-to’ for red carpets events.


Every collection that Lebanese designer Elie Saab creates literally makes me gasp.  Saab’s feminine and romantic gowns are the stuff of dreams.



This week at CharityDOs we highlight how fashion’s most loved and worn item, the frock, can help in the fight against an insidious disease known as ‘the silent killer’.

The power of the dress is both simplistic and mysterious.  No other item of clothing can make a woman feel more womanly, graceful, sexy or powerful.  A dress is the universal symbol of femininity and is worn by women of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities.  It can represent the most important events in a woman’s life – love, success, friendship, family and heartbreak.

The dress represents moments in history that have pushed boundaries, created trends, changed cultures and brought about scandal in all genres from art, culture, celebrity and politics.

Closer to home, the fashionable frock has joined in the fight to find a cure for ovarian cancer and brought about an important fundraising initiative that began in Geelong in 2007 when a group of girlfriends donned dresses, went to their favourite pub, passed a stylish hat around and raised $200 to donate to ovarian cancer research.  This determined group of friends did not stop there and decided to get the rest of Australia involved too – and voilà, Frocktober was born.


Seven years later the Frocktober initiative has raised $800,000 for ovarian cancer research and next month, October 2014, you too have the chance to participate by simply donning a dress to help raise money for an insidious disease that will strike approximately 1500 women of all ages in Australia in 2014.

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ as symptoms can be non-specific and strikes without warning.  There is no early detection test available and usually the cancer has spread before detection and only 20% to 30% of women will survive beyond five years of diagnosis.  In comparison, survival rates increase to 80-100% when ovarian cancer is detected and treated early.

Frocktober helps to raise funds for research into ovarian cancer and their mission statement is:

“For the good of women's health, we'll
Raise our voices, and some wealth.  October, 10th month of the year, we'll
create awareness, knowledge share.  Kick up our heels, reject our jeans
Take Nan's old dress, take to machines ....
Our message is "We're
Beautiful – no matter size or shape".
 Enjoy the month, frock up and please...
Reach deep for FROCK-ing sake!!!”

There are so many easy ways to participate in the Frocktober 31-day challenge.  Wear a frock one day of the month, week, or fortnight in October or of course if you’re up for the challenge, don a frock daily.

As someone who likes a good ‘girlie-get-together’ filled with champagne and laughter, Frocktober’s event suggestions such as hosting a Frocktail party, a frock morning or afternoon tea or a frock swap, are just the ticket for fashionable party girls.

So this October buy, swap, beg, borrow or steal (only from the closets of relatives and friends) a frock for the month of October and help raise money for this important cause.  Visit the event page to find out more.


Here are 10 frocks that created unforgettable moments in history.


This little black dress caused scandal in Paris society in 1884. The painting of young socialite Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau by John Singer Sargent was considered highly suggestive in manner and dress and caused Gautreau to retire for sometime from society.  It also curtailed Sargent’s career as a portrait painter in Paris.



Coco Chanel remains fashion biggest influence and revolutionized the way women dressed in the twentieth century.  Chanel did away with the restricting corsets, elaborate headwear and long dresses of the day and gave women freedom in the form of short, uncluttered dresses in shades of black, white and beige.



In the movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe’s pink satin strapless gown and diamond accessories is a iconic cinematic moment.  Modern-day copies such as Gwenyth Paltrow’s pink Ralph Lauren dress for the 1999 Oscars have not come close.



You can’t have a list of history’s most iconic dresses without including Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Both the long black evening dress and chic day dress are perhaps the most famous and well-loved frocks of all time.



Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress was a masterpiece in tailoring and fit.  Inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian, the dress was a demonstration of the best of dressmaking skill and artistic genius.  The dress was a huge success with the well-dressed and wealthy and also a huge commercial success with the design being mass produced around the world.



The invention of the wrap dress in 1973 by Diane Von Furstenberg is one of the most successful fashion ventures to date and is still being created 41 years later.  The end.



Princess Diana’s LBD dress was dubbed the ‘revenge dress’ when she attended a Vanity Fair party after her separation from Prince Charles in 1994.  The sexy dress represented her freedom from the restraints of royal dressing and gave her ex-husband and his family a huge and well-deserved middle finger.



Both the dress and Elizabeth Hurley became a household name in 1997 when Hurley stepped out on the arm of Hugh Grant to attend the Four Weddings and a Funeral premiere.  Lady Gaga recently wore the dress but the impact shadowed in comparison to the original moment in time.



Another celebrity on the red carpet and another Versace creation, Jennifer Lopez’s revealing floral at the 2000 Grammy’s still lingers in our minds 14 years later.



Perhaps the most anticipated and watched wedding dress of all time, Kate Middleton’s magnificent Alexander McQueen bridal gown was loved by millions around the world, but her sister Pippa’s bridesmaid proved to be the most critiqued.



‘Culottes’ a simple word but which often strikes fear into the hearts of multitudes of women. But fear not. Style culottes correctly and they are a versatile and stylish option that work across the seasons.


That latest trend to hit the runways for this Spring/Summer is the culotte.

Culottes are usually described as “a split or divided skirt or any garment which hangs like a skirt, but is actually pants”. The fashion-set call them “wide-legged cropped pants” but whichever term you prefer, the culotte is a versatile and flattering option for women of all ages, shapes and sizes and a stylish choice for the many upcoming charity events listed on the CharityDos website.

Here are my style tips for how to wear and style culottes:

  • NO FEAR: Approach wearing culottes like an A-line skirt and wear them that way. Easy.


  • LENGTH: My most important style tip for ‘real women’ wearing a culotte is the length. The most flattering and versatile style sits on the lower calf which gives the appearance of a slimmer and longer legs.


  • STYLE: Again for ‘real women’ the most flattering style of culotte is a softer, more voluminous style, like a skirt. If you’re taller and slimmer, various lengths and styles will suit.


  • HEEL HEIGHT: Yes, the fashion trend for summer is flat sandals and brogues, and for the young and trendy go for it, but for ‘real women’ I recommend wearing your culotte with a mid or high-heeled shoe in softer, feminine styles such as ankle-straps or t-bars.


  • BALANCE: For most women, the key to wearing a culotte is to balance the volume down below with sleeker top. A slim-fit crisp white shirt, a fitted tee, or a defined jacket is the perfect balance.


  • STYLING TIPS: With the balance rule in mind, choose a style that suits your lifestyle or event. Are you going to a smart lunch? Opt for a crisper, classic style paired with a fitted jacket or cotton shirt. Attending a friend’s BBQ? A softer, more feminine version in a print or floral is perfect. Do you want to be directional and on-trend? Go for a wider-leg styled with short crop top.


Wear your culottes with confidence and attitude (like Ms Beckham) and they are a fashionable and functional option for your wardrobe all year round.




One thing is style-clear – when it comes to Spring Summer 2014/2015, it is the season of the dress.  Mini, midi or maxi, a gorgeous frock is style du jour this summer.

How wonderful then that the impending season of the dress is coming just in time for the many upcoming spring/summer charity soirees featured on CharityDos.

To make it easy, here are some of my favourite looks for Spring/Summer 2014/15 from Australian designers that translate into the ‘the perfect frock’ for your next charity luncheon, high-tea or evening event.

A Slim Silhouette

One of the most wearable trends for spring/summer is a slim-fitting mid-calf dress that gives the illusion of a leaner, taller shape.  Choose a style with a sculptural fold or frill at waist-level to conceal tummy issues.  Pair with the highest heel.



Mini, midi or maxi; asymmetrical or straight, hemlines run the gamut of style for summer.



Dubbed the “LLD”, the little lace dress is the perfect accoutrement to a smart charity soiree.  Brighter colours of pink, red and lime is the new way to wear lace.


Frills and Folds

Ruffles, folds and frills are all the rage this summer.



Floaty, feminine dresses in the softest georgette and chiffon are just the thing for summer soirees.  Opt for lady-like or boho-chic.



This powerful colour duo suits all ages, shapes and sizes.  This year’s monochrome reptile print is a favourite.


White is Right

White-on-white is a strong statement for summer.  The perfect accessory?  A golden glow.


Pretty Sorbets

Sweet sorbet colours of lavender, palest pink, soft dove grey and powder blue are a pretty change for summer.



On the other side of the colour spectrum, bright colours of tangerine, lime, red and cobalt blue make a vibrant statement this summer.



Prints that tell a story, prints that clash, prints that are pretty; prints make a powerful statement this summer.


Stripey Girl

Vertical, diagonal, horizontal, summer stripes come in a myriad of colours.




Just who invented the cocktail party is up for debate. Americans claim the invention as their own when in 1917 a Mrs Julius S Walsh of St Louis, Missouri, invited 50 guests to her house on a Sunday for a one-hour soiree after which a St Louis newspaper reported that “the party was an instant hit and within weeks cocktail parties had become a St Louis institution”. On the other hand, there is also suggestion that it’s origins date back to 1798 when the word was first used in a London newspaper.

Regardless of it’s origin, the fact of the matter is that what to wear is the crucial element in attending a charity cocktail party.

With the variety of upcoming day and evening charity cocktail events listed on the Charity Do’s website, it’s timely that the old rule of wearing a perfect knee-length dress and chic clutch is no longer de rigueur.

Fashion’s hierarchy is setting new rules for cocktail party dressing and you can shake it up and stir the style pot when choosing your ensemble – just remember the two key words for cocktail dress code, “elegance” and “dressy”, and you won’t put a red-soled foot wrong.

So what do you wear to a charity cocktail party? Firstly consider the type of event, is it:

  • a day or evening event?
  • modern or traditional?
  • formal or a little more relaxed?

Secondly, consider your moda-operandi – to frock or not to frock? Consider this tidbit of fashion history relating to the invention of the cocktail dress when making your choice; cocktail fashion for women began in the 1920’s marking a shift in their social role with a new-found freedom which came about from taking jobs in the First World War and from their ability to vote. Their liberty was said to have been expressed by dress, with shorter hairstyles and shorter hemlines.

So if you wish to adhere to nearly 100 years of style tradition and frock up for the occasion, the style of dress is perfectly explained by fashion’s ultimate style authority, Vogue:

“A cocktail dress can be many things—embellished or plain, jewel-toned or black, sleeveless or strapped, decollete or covered-up but it can never be long. Its abbreviated length is its defining characteristic, and what sets it apart from formal dresses that deliver codified glamour head-to-toe”.

Well said, thank you Vogue and point taken – formal wear including floor length gowns and tuxedos are not cocktail party etiquette.

So how to choose your cocktail dress? Here are some style tips:

  • The classic sheath dress or LBD to the knee remains the perennial favourite and is the epitome of lady-like elegance. Modernize the look with a lace-embellished version.
  • Peplum styles are also perfect for adding extra style élan
  • If you want to add a little sass and sexiness (but not too much), opt for a fit-and-flare style or if you have great legs, choose a shorter style above-the-knee
  • For evening parties, add maximum amounts of glamour and shine with sequins, embellishments and lots of bling.
  • Fabrics such as lace, silks and chiffons are great for daytime events. Eye-catching prints or delicate florals can add style-wattage as does monochrome looks that is so on-trend now.
  • Evening is the time for sequins, flounces and embellishments in either sleeker sheath-style dresses or softer more fluid options

Pretty cocktail style for day:

ct 2

Glamourous evening styles:

ct 3

Alternate Styles for Cocktail Party Dressing

On the other hand, if you want to shake it up a little and opt away from the traditional frock, choose from a number of styles:

  • Soft and fluid wide-legged pants teamed with a soft blouse and jacket is perfect for day or night. If it’s an evening party, opt for a sequinned jacket.
  • A jumpsuit is a great way to modernise cocktail dressing. For day choose a softer style with wider-leg pant, for evening choose a sexy fitted style with strappy sky-high heels.
  • A beautifully cut suit is a great (and comfortable) choice for evening cocktail dressing. Rev it up with a bright colour such as siren red or fuscia pink and pair with a beautiful evening sandal or jeweled pump.

ct 4


For day, beware too much bling – perhaps a lovely set of crystal earrings and elegant bracelets or cuffs. A cocktail ring adds a little glamour to day dressing and of course, pearls are perfect for day or night.

Evening soirees demand show-stopping jewellery so up the ante and go for maximum (but elegant) shine.

An elegant shoe with slim heel is your best choice and the perfect piece de resistance for both day and night cocktail parties is an elegant minaudière

ct 5

Whether your choice is a fabulous frock or more contemporary style remember to let your personality define your look and you can’t go wrong.

I leave you with a quote from novelist F. Scott Fitgerald who wrote what kicked off the Jazz Age was the general decision to be amused that began with the cocktail parties of 1921.”

In my previous blog on what to wear to a charity ball, I mentioned that a glamourous gala event gown warrants a ‘red carpet worthy’ handbag and a beautiful hand-held clutch, or more specifically a minaudière, is the perfect accoutrement to event dressing.

As Google states a minaudière is “a small, decorative handbag without handles or a strap” but in general terms today it is usually a small, hard-cased hand-held clutch (can include a strap) often embellished with crystals, jewels or decorative finishes and in textures such as satin or metallic.

van cleefThe creation of the minaudière dates back to the early 1930’s and is attributed to Charles Arpel co-founder of the Parisian jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels, who while visiting his socialite friend Florence Jay Gould, saw her use a Lucky Strike cigarette tin to carry her lipstick and other personal items.  Arpels was then inspired to design a metal rectangular evening bag that he called minaudière after his wife Estelle “whose mannerisms, or minaudières, enchanted her entourage” (as seen on www.vancleefarpels.com).

It is also understood that Arpels drew inspiration from bejeweled metal makeup boxes known as a "nécessaire de beauté" which at that time were highly decorative metal boxes to hold beauty essentials such as lipstick, compact, cigarette holder, etc.

Following Arpel’s creation, minaudières became covetable hand-crafted objets d’art made from precious metals and highly decorated with luxurious jewels and decades later, minaudières have become entrenched in fashion and celebrity culture and the essential piece de resistance on the red carpet.

With every new fashion season, luxury fashion houses design covetable hand-made limited-edition minaudières which fashionistas around the globe pay thousands of dollars to own; case in point, the Alexander McQueen skull-clasp box bag released in 2010 sold out around the globe in a matter of days.

Perhaps the most famous modern-day creator of minaudières is US-based Judith Leiber who for over 50 years has created elaborate, crystalised bags that have become the status symbol of wealthy women around the world.  Her whimsical designs include cupcakes, animals, fruit, plants and teapots.

If you’re budget and taste for the dramatic does not extend to Judith Leiber, there are many local designers and fashion labels that create beautiful minaudières (such as Colette, Mimco, Olga Berg and Adorne) for a fraction of the price but with maximum style.

A minaudière is the defining element for your gala event ensemble.  It adds elegance and a touch of drama and styles from elaborate jewelled creations to simple yet uber-chic styles.   Paired with your gala event gown, this beautiful little bag makes a very big and stylish statement.

Style Info:  1.  Colette by Colette Hayman Evie sequin clutch $39.95; 2. Lanvin at www.netaporter.com; 3. Judith Leiber at www.judithleiber.com; 4. Olga Berg diamante hard case clutch $119.00

 clutch 2

Last week was Paris Fall 2014 Couture and I’ve been consistently floating off to fashion heaven at the jaw-dropping and glamourous gowns shown on the runway.  As they are still ingrained in my fashion-psyche, I thought it’s the perfect time to provide CharityDOs’ readers with some style advice and tips on how to choose that perfect dress to wear to one of the many charity balls and galas advertised on the CharityDOs website.

A ball, gala or black-tie event is the perfect occasion for you to have your ‘Cinderella moment’ and wear a beautiful ground-sweeping gown, fairy-tale shoes, dazzling jewels and glamourous hair and makeup.  It’s the time for you to sparkle and be red-carpet worthy just like your favourite celebrity.

Whether you’re attending the Hear and Say Annual Thiess Fundraising Ball in Brisbane, the Ronald McDonald House Charity Ball in Melbourne or the Christmas in July Black Tie Fundraiser in Geraldton, Western Australia, by following a few hard and fast style rules you can be as dazzling and glamourous as the celebrities who walk the Oscars red carpet.

Comfort and Fit

What’s the most important style-rule in choosing a gown for your gala event?  Comfort – absolutely, unequivocally, non-negotiable.  If you’re starting point for your gown is not comfort and ease-of-wear then hang up your frock and sit this one out.  Your gown should be an extension of your daily personal style and right for your body, shape and age.  It’s not about choosing the most outlandish, extravagant, un-wearable gown – it’s about choosing a fit and style that works for you because what’s the point of wearing something that might look great but is uncomfortable and almost impossible to wear? 

This is not to say you can’t add a little ‘make-believe’ glamour to your black-tie style, just start from a point of fit and comfort and you’re not just going to LOOK like a princess you’re going to FEEL like one.


Elegant and shapely is the optimal style to choose for your ball gown – garish, over-the-top and showing WAY too much skin (anywhere on the body) banishes you straight to style-exile never to return.  If you’re young with a body like Rosie Huntington-Whitely, then show off your curves with a body-skimming sheath style and if you’re not then highlight your good points and hide the rest.

Some general style rules for various body shapes include an A-line or full-skirted gown to conceal bigger hips and thighs with a fitted bodice to balance out proportion.  Empire lines are generally good to hide tummy areas and for those with a smaller bust.  If you’re shapely you could choose a mermaid style that is fitted and flares out at the knees.  If you have a beautiful décolletage, show off your assets with a strapless gown.

Fabric and Colour

So very important.  Shiny, stiff or cheap fabric is your worst enemy and will highlight every lump, bump and flaw and will not encourage the paparazzi to photograph your journey down the red carpet. Sumptuous and quality silks, chiffons and velvets (for cooler months) are the best and most elegant options.

Don’t overdo the sparkle with over-done embellishments or sequins which will only scream ‘Liberace’ rather than Naomi and avoid too much fabric, i.e. a huge-skirted gown will make you look like a bad version of Scarlett O’Hara.  The colour of your gown should be flattering to your skin tone and age and for ladies over 40, avoid harsh, bright colours or trend-driven patterns. Often a soft pastel shade is a flattering option.

 Fashion-Ballsred carpet


Beware overkill and apply the KISS rule to accessories. 

If your dress is highly embellished, keep accessories elegant and minimal and opt for a ‘style duo’, e.g. earrings and a cocktail ring.  Gowns that are simpler in style can be paired with statement-style accessories such as chandelier earrings and a jeweled cuff or crystal bangles.  If you’re feeling a little bling-heavy, perhaps try Coco Chanel’s rule – take one piece off before you go. 

Shoes and Bags

Gala events call for Cinderella-style shoes so add a little sparkle and embellishment, using the KISS rule of course.  Elegant and classic styles such as sexy strappy sandals (think Jimmy Choo), elegant peep-toes or sling-backs with stiletto heels work best.  If sparkly is not for you, tone your shoe with your frock or go for nude to complement rather than detract. Under no circumstance does one wear chunky or closed-in shoes, boots or summer-inspired wedges!

There is only one bag to choose to complement your ball gown and that is an elegant hand-held clutch.  Whether the finish is embellished, metallic or unadorned, this is the only option.


There is a fine line between glamour and overdone when it comes to hair and makeup.

For hair, choose elegant and softer looks such as a tousled up-do or natural wavy tresses.  Always!  If you do want to try a more elaborate up-do, then please leave it in the hands of a professional and book yourself into your hairdresser.

Your choice of makeup is dependent upon age and skin tone however a well-blended smoky eye and soft blush is a fabulous choice.  A common error is to pile on heavy foundation which is instantly aging and unflattering.  A dewy, natural finish will always enhance and flatter your look.

Finish off gala beauty routine with a natural sun-kissed glow – provided by favourite tanning salon of course.

Red carpet perfection!

Finally, look to the runway or red carpet for style inspiration when choosing your ball gown.  Celebrities such as Rosie, Kate, Naomi, Julianne and Helen consistently tick all the right style-boxes and deliver red-carpet looks in an age-appropriate and uber-stylish way.

Back to top