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No Glass Slippers Allowed: What to Wear to Buckingham Palace

By Amalah

So here’s my dilemma. I live in London and have been lucky enough to be invited to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party this year. July 22, to be precise. Which suddenly seems very soon.
I got the dress sorted freakishly easily – saw it online, went to the shop, tried it on, found that it fits nicely, twirled around a bit and then slapped down the MasterCard. The dress isn’t my usual style but I like it and it conforms to all the rules about what one wears to the Queen’s house (wide straps, no plunging neckline, demure length etc – picture attached).
I even have the hat sorted as one of my friends has one that I’ve not seen but which she promises me will go with the dress perfectly. It’s cream and looks kind of like the hat in the picture attached.
Which brings us to shoes and the fact that I have gone out and bought a purple dress without having any clue what colour shoes to wear with it. Purple to match the dress? Cream to match the hat? Presumably not black, right? Also, the more I look at the dress, the more I don’t even have any clue what style of shoe will go with it. Skyscraper heels are out as it’s a garden party in England in July, which equals soggy grass. But then I suppose flats are out also, as it’s a party that the Queen is hosting so it is presumably going to be kind of formal. Are stockings required? I don’t know. I’m confused. SOS.
Thanks so much!

07101872_large.jpgAh, hats! It’s a shame no one wears hats anymore. I wouldn’t have to get my roots done so often.
Since hats are definitely more of a throwback item these days, there aren’t a lot of hard-and-fast rules and guidelines to them anymore — including having your shoes always match. HOWEVER, I must completely and utterly nix the very idea of purple shoes. No. That’s just entirely too precious and matchy-matchy, not to mention a complete waste of a pair of shoes, since you will likely never wear something like that again.
Cream shoes would be absolutely fine — I prefer that shoes generally not match the dominant color of my outfit, but I do try to pick up a color of an accessory I’m wearing, be it a belt, purse, hat or jewelry. So provided you aren’t opposed to wearing light-colored shoes in a grassy area, a nice off-white or bone-colored shoe would very much compliment your outfit and the summer season.
Another color option would be a soft grey or matte pewter– colors that looks fantastic paired with lavender and other shades of purple. You could then add a similarly-colored bracelet or small handbag to tie it all together. (I would probably try to avoid having your hat, bag and shoes all be the exact same shade of cream, by the way. If you go with off-white shoes, I’d carry a grey or purple bag, I think. Three cream-colored accessories veers too closely to that matchy-matchy realm and says, “Yes, I WAS in a panic about my outfit and DID totally overthink it, thank you for noticing.”)
I couldn’t find ANYTHING about hose or stocking being required at the palace these days, so I’d feel free to default to your personal preference. Whatever you’re more comfortable in. I DO think heels are the way to go here — flats would ruin the lovely line and party feel of your dress. Not skyscraper heels, by any means, but just a nice pump height. I’m sure you’ll see EVERYTHING at this party, from old-school Easter Sunday shoes to strappy sandals to lucite stilettos and oh lord, I can only HOPE for civilization’s sake that you don’t see any flip-flops, but even that wouldn’t surprise me.
Hat.jpgPersonally, I’d go with a nice peeptoe heel with this dress — they’re insanely easy to find in every color these days, and would be just a tad dressier and more formal than say, a wedge heel, but not quite as fussy as a high-heeled strappy sandal. If you’re worried about the grass, consider a patent-leather pump, which is really easy to wipe off and less likely to get completely ruined if there’s rain or mud on party day.
(Oh, and if you do go with an open-toed shoe of any kind, pleasefortheloveofGod promise me you won’t paint your toenails purple. If you’re over the age of 10 and no longer using sparkly Tinkerbell nail polish, you are too old for the precious matchy-matchy pedicure. The End.)

Published July 11, 2008. Last updated July 11, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Meghan

    July 11, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I hate pantyhose. I haven’t worn them to the plethora of spring/summer weddings I’ve attended this year, and honestly I can’t remember the last time I wore them. Yes it makes my mother cringe, but the times they are a-changing.
    However, an audience with the Queen is about as formal as it gets, regardless of it being a garden party. I would DEFINITELY wear pantyhose, no matter how you would typically dress if you were wearing this (gorgeous!) dress if a friend were hosting a garden party. Also, wear a slip. A little half-slip for the skirt portion. There are some foundation garments that can be ignored about 98% of the time. This is that other 2%.
    The way I see it: If your mother or grandmother would cringe at the thought of NOT wearing these items, then you should definitely wear them for this occasion.

  • Lisa M

    July 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I love this dress! Great find and totally appropriate for the event and other uses. Love it.

  • Stephanie

    July 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I have to agree with Meghan about the pantyhose. I hate them, too. HATE them. And haven’t worn a pair in many years. But if I were going to meet the Queen of England, I’d definitely suck it up and wear pantyhose. And absolutely wear a slip, too.

  • Joci

    July 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I’m with Meghan. You have to wear hose to meet the Queen. And she’s dead on with the slip too. It sucks to wear hose, or nylons, as my grandmother calls them, but this is the time.

  • Sara

    July 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    London is a bit different from the US- because, in fact, hats are very normal at formal occasions in London. I have been to an event at Buckingham Palace in the gardens! It is very likely that you will not be on the grass most (or much, or any) of the time, unless you want to be. I love your dress. I would pair it with sandals and not wear hose – but if you want to be conservative, hose are fine. Have a great time!

  • TasterSpoon

    July 11, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I was hoping Amy would recommend grey or silver shoes. I was JUST telling a friend for whom I was a bridesmaid that her proposal that we get silver shoes was brilliant because I wear them all the time. They go with everything, even to work with grey slacks and skirts. Mine are Nina, similar to this one:
    They don’t seem too high, and they’re supportive enough that one could mince around on squishy grass without driving too many aeration plugs into the lawn.
    I kind of agree with Meghan about the hose. Wear some sheer ones, and if nobody else is wearing them, you can stuff them in your bag. But you’d hate to be the only tramp NOT wearing them.
    Have a Pimm’s for me!

  • Leah

    July 11, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I’m so impressed that people will be wearing hats! My SIL married an English bloke a few years ago and all of us American got in a tizzy over picking a hat and flying thousands of miles with a hat, and what do you know but we were the ONLY ONES there who were actually wearing hats. Not even the little old ladies from the tiny village were wearing hats!

  • Suzy Q

    July 14, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I saw an article about this party in Sunday’s paper and I was squee-ing for you that you got invited to such an event! I am SURE you looked lovely, and I hope you felt lovely, too.
    Tell us about it! Was the cake delish?

  • boofyq

    July 14, 2008 at 11:02 am

    So how is it that one gets invited to an afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace!? How exciting!! I hope you have a blog and post pictures and stories.

  • Anonymous

    July 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Why cant you give me a recipe for a facial to make me feel relaxed? But no you have to add more stress!!!! Thanks for nothing. I want a facial and you give me stuff about PREGNANCY!!! I am only 8! Havent you ever thought about children on this site!!! But you are not like most other websites you dont have xxx porn or hardcore sex or gay porn videos but the other sites at least have recipes!!! All i want is a flipin recipe so i can relax!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • emily

    July 22, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    now hear me out: consider fishnet stockings in a neutral color. They are supported, ventilated, and classy. If you can find them in a nude, that’s perfect. The smaller the net, the classier. But in any case, in nude or something neutral, you will look classy, not trashy. And they are SO MUCH COOLER in the heat than regular stockings.

  • secrect person

    July 28, 2009 at 11:29 am

    ok listen, 4 over 50 you need to wear grey linen trousers good bye