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 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.

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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.

SOME OF MY FAVOURITE FAIRYTALE DRESSES

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

ICONIC DRESSES IN HISTORY

Here are 10 frocks that created unforgettable moments in history.

PORTRAIT OF MADAME X

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.

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A NEW LOOK

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.

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DIAMOND’S ARE GIRL’S BEST FRIEND

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.

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BLACK MAGIC

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.

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THE MONDRIAN DRESS

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.

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DVF WRAP DRESS

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.

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THE REVENGE DRESS

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.

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THE SAFETY PIN DRESS

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.

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THE J-LO MOMENT

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.

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ROYAL WEDDING DRESS

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.

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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.

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Hemlines

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

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The LLD

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.

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Frills and Folds

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

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Floating

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

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Monochrome

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

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White is Right

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

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Pretty Sorbets

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

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Brights

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

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Prints

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

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Stripey Girl

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

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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:

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Glamourous evening styles:

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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.

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Accessories

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

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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.”

With the advent of hyper-styling and an almost ‘anything goes’ attitude towards fashion, a few occasions remain where certain style edicts still apply, one being the high tea.

High teas conjure images of flowers, frocks and femininity and your look must accompany the occasion and your surrounds and above all choose a style that says ‘elegant chic’.

A high tea provides you with the perfect opportunity to bring on 'the pretty' and the ultimate style accoutrement to champagne and delicate nibbles is a gorgeous frock in a pretty and feminine style.  No other outfit fits the occasion more appropriately and if you choose a ladylike frock with a nipped-in waist, a fitted ‘pencil’ or flowing skirt, delicate neckline and pretty sleeve, you may enter Best Dressed with confidence.

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Soft fabrics of silk, chiffon and lace are best as are beautiful brocades and polished cottons in floral or delicate graphic patterns or pretty pastel hues.  For a little extra chic you may wish to add a few subtle embellishments such as sequins (but beware overkill).

If a 2-piece ensemble is more your style, then apply all the style rules above to your top and skirt and you will be sitting perfectly pretty whilst sipping your Perrier-Jouet.

Pants are also suitable option but strict rules apply, i.e. soft tailoring in fabrics that flow in wider leg or 'palazzo' styles.

4Vintage-fashion is also a popular style for high-teas (think Mad Men) in full-skirted 50's style frocks or figure-hugging “Lana Turner-esque’ styles.  Complete the vintage-look with a string of pearls, dainty gloves and a pretty hat.

High-tea accessories should be elegant; 'delicate' jewellery such as pearls, crystals or fine silver or gold and please leave all chunky, ethnic or boho styles at home.  A hand-held clutch or small envelope-style bag in metallic or embellished finishes add a pretty statement.

5For winter high-teas a classic pump is the perfect piece de resistance or for summer soirees opt for an elegant sandal.

6Beauty rules for high teas are strict; aim for radiance with soft contouring and subtle illumination in soft shades such as nude, pink and apricot.  Finish off high-tea beauty with soft red lips and lots of fluttery lashes.  Avoid overdone makeup and save the glitter and winged eyes for Friday night clubbing.

Hairstyles should be elegant and groomed; a lovely chignon, Veronica Lake waves, or a fashionable pony-tail are perfect choices.

7So what are the fashion faux pas for high teas?  Sharp tailoring, mini skirts, garish satin and too much skin.

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