Discover more from The Rhubarb Society
Vol. 31 - A Guide To Dressing (The Summer Events Edition)
as well as summer skincare and a podcast on the power of saying 'no'
Happy Wimbledon Finals Day to all those who celebrate! I hope you’ve had a lovely two weeks since we last spoke. A brief update from me on the merch; our current supplier is slower than a car with four punctured tires. On top of that, they are pretty gormless, and we have had to change our original design because of their ‘limitations’. Long story short, the whole process is taking bloody long, and we tried to do the right thing by going with a UK-based supplier, but it hasn’t worked in our favour. I know I keep saying this, but I promise that you’ll know as soon as I know when the hell this stuff is arriving. ANYWAY, the rhubarb society shop has reopened should you want a dashing keyring or some stickers to tide you over until we find someone who knows how to do their job! In the two weeks since we last spoke, I’ve spent two days at Henley Festival (one of those with Audi, who kindly invited us even though we already had tickets), I missed the Barbie and Oppenheimer Premieres, and I spent most of this week trying to survive the 38-degree heat in Rome with Elizabeth Arden. I may have even treated myself to a little something at the airport. Anyway, the events, the trips, and the blistering heat made me think about how we navigate during this time of year. Moods may change, but so do our products, outfits and social calendars, and for this issue, I wanted to cover as much of that as possible. I asked you guys on Instagram what specific topic you wanted me to cover this week, and a lot of you seemed to be having doubts when it came to dressing for Summer occasions which tied in perfectly with the themes of today’s issue. So, on that note, let’s start with my summer edit of beauty cabinet must haves…
One of the perks of my job is that I get sent a million different beauty products to try and test. A lot of them end up going to loved ones (and very occasionally to strangers who end up with one as a parting gift after visiting my home for something unrelated), but the rest are vetted by me. As you can imagine, a lot are very average and not worth singing home about, but there are also plenty worth of praise that I will then happily spend my money on once they become an ‘empty’. Over the last two months, these have been some of my tried and tested favourites and have served me very well during this heat we’ve been having.
Nuxe Tanning Oil SPF30 - Nuxe sent me a summer package the day after I left for our road trip, which was terrible timing because I could have done with every single item in the box for our trip. It’s scarce for me to love every single product in a PR package, but as you’ll see, I’ve included them all in this list because they were just so good. The tanning oil is brilliant because it has a clever combination of hydrating, tanning, and protecting. It’s not greasy and leaves no colour; you could even add a little highlight if you wanted to give yourself an all-over glow.
Nuxe After Sun Lotion - After tanning, I find certain patches on my body tend to get a little dry and scabby (for lack of a better word) looking. The Nuxe after-sun lotion is one of the very few that has prolonged my tan and kept my skin hydrated for a full day. It also smells nice, which is a bonus.
Olaplex Lash Serum - I’ve been using this every evening for around two months and didn’t think too much of it until very recently. I was at the tail end of my lash lift, where my lashes had basically dropped back to their normal state, and as I had to go to an event, I thought I’d make a little extra effort to look like less of a foot. I curled my lashes, applied some waterproof mascara and then realised just how long and thick my lashes looked. I went through a phase of wearing individual lashes for a few years, which wrecked my real lashes, and they were never fully restored to their former glory until I started using this lash serum.
Elizabeth Arden SPF Stick - I don’t care how easily you tan because we can all fall victim to a burned scalp. It’s an area I’ve neglected before, leading to instant regret. However, it seems that the options are limited to protecting your scalp unless you wear a hat or apply sunscreen that leaves you feeling and looking greasy. This stick is the perfect size and consistency to run along your hairline, leaving no colour or residue. It’s also small and discreet enough to fit into a pocket or a small bag, so you don’t have to worry about lugging a big, leaky bottle of SPF around.
Holidermie Collagen Coffee - Okay, so the morning coffee situation in summer is a load of ice, a splash of oatly single cream and a double shot of this collagen coffee from my Nespresso machine. I think it’s genius to not only have coffee with collagen in it (I was manually adding it before, which usually just made my drink clumpy) but to have it as a capsule so that it’s easy to use.
Nuxe Shimmer Dry Oil - Anytime I wear this, I’m complimented on how glowy and shimmery my skin looks. It’s liquid gold that adds a little something to any outfit, and as you can also use it in your hair after I’m done my body, I use whatever’s left on my hands to add a little sparkle to the ends.
Naturium Oil Hydrating Wash - I plonked this bottle in the corner of the shower and just started using it because the pump was easier than my screwtop shower gels. I didn’t really understand why everyone raved about it so much and just assumed the brand had done a big influencer push, and everyone was lying about how great it was. It wasn’t until recently, when I saw it pop up again and heard another influencer talk about how it had helped with her chronic dry skin, that I started to put two and two together. For years I have suffered from drier than normal skin on my shins, and I would often wake up in the middle and find myself scratching them, even if I had applied lotion before bed. I then realised that since I’d been using this wash to actually shave my legs with (for someone who is pretty well groomed, I am lazy as fuck when it comes to shaving), I hadn’t had any issues with dry legs at all. So yeah, I get the hype.
Kate Sommerville SPF50 Setting Spray - I’m not gonna tell you to wear SPF on your face every day because you should already be doing that, and if you’re not, grow up. However, the difficult part that I do fully sympathise with is reapplying it throughout the day, especially if you’re wearing make-up. This stuff is fantastic as it’s a setting spray AND an SPF, which makes it a win-win. Don’t spray it too close, though, because it comes out white and fairly heavy. Do short bursts from a safe distance, and you should be good.
BeautyPie Shinkai Moisturiser - This is a 3 in 1 gel/moisturiser/mask that looks like a mix between jelly and a bodily fluid but is SO good. Firstly, it smells great, which never hurts, but in terms of skin, it makes my face feel hydrated and tight, even though it’s a really light consistency. It’s also great at healing sunburn, so I think it must have some magic restorative properties in it too.
Fable and Mane Hair Oil - Another unbelievably gorgeous smelling product that could almost double as a hair perfume. A little goes a long way, and it’s great at smoothing stressed, overheated ends. I have used it pre-styling and post-styling, and I personally don’t think it does much pre-styling on damp/wet hair, but it really is fantastic on dry. I was sent a very small bottle, but I’ve seen that they do a large one, so I will repurchase that once my current one runs out.
Ahhh, Summer. Strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, peppered with expertly timed loo breaks and fighting for your life on the walk to the station post-match. A sea of tails, cigars, and cash (as well as also fighting for your life the minute you leave the royal enclosure) at Ascot. Picnic’ing from the boot of a car in Stewards and then realising that two sandwiches were not nearly enough to soak up the various bottles of wine you drank before stumbling in to watch the races at Regatta. Navigating the slightly sodden grass in stilettos without being accosted by metallic robots on stilts on your way to dinner, where you might see Theresa May dancing rather awkwardly to Tom Jones at Henley Festival. On top of that, various weddings, celebrations, and rogue garden parties often end up clogging our diaries. Between all of these dress codes and the weather, how the hell are we surviving?? I am frequently asked about how to dress and where to shop for Black Tie or ‘occasion wear’ for these events, and it is often a bit of a minefield for women. Black tie, Morning suit, Tails…for men, these are formulaic and easy to follow. Our options are nowhere near as cut and dry. I think adhering to dress codes is important because it’s not just a sign of good manners but also of respect for the venue/event/host, so getting it right whilst still feeling comfortable is vital. If you feel a little daunted by it all, hopefully, I can offer a little guidance.
Naturally, any established event will provide a dress code that’s fairly specific which is always a good place to start. For Ascot, The Royal Enclosure requires a certain length of dress, a thickness of strap, and a diameter of hat (strictly no fascinators, although a lot of women still manage to sneak in with them). Similarly, with Regatta, depending on which enclosure you are in, they will specify specific lengths of dresses/skirts, and a lot of places have even relaxed their dress codes, allowing women to wear suits. This should make it pretty straightforward, but surprisingly, it still leaves room for error. I think where a lot of people go wrong is when they try to reinvent themselves by wearing things they’re not comfortable in, in terms of cut and fabric. The last thing you want to do in the heat is where something stiff, constricting and shiny because you think it makes you look more ‘formal’. It doesn’t. As dresses are usually the choice du jour, I find it makes more sense to wear something lighter and a little more ‘floaty’ for ease of movement and general survival. One of my favourite brands is BA&SH, and I pretty much exclusively only buy from them in the sale. They have such a great variety of lengths, cuts and colours to suit pretty much anyone and to cover most occasions. For day events and ‘festivals’, you can choose something lighter (material-wise) and brighter to pair with neutral accessories. For a wedding, you can choose something more modest with a pattern. If you don’t feel confident in making a decision, the beauty of the internet means you can hop on social media, check the event location, and see what previous guests have worn. If it’s a more private event, there is no harm in double-checking with the host, and when in doubt, it is always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. Pay attention to the small details. Are you wearing the right bra? Will the straps show? Is the colour visible beneath your dress? Are there any stray threads that need snipping? Do your shoes need a quick once over to remove any marks? The beauty of event dressing (especially evening events) is that you can choose something simple and elegant, like a black silky maxi dress, and dress it up with the right accessories. For Black Tie, your best and most sparkly jewellery is always encouraged!
Accessorising is usually the make or break for an outfit. In particular, the shoes become an issue where feet are shoved into a pair of heels that the wearer is not used to, and they’ve underestimated the amount of walking and standing these events require. Whether it’s a sport you’re watching or music, it is never as simple as being driven to your seat, staying there for the duration of the match or race and then being whisked home. You are often dealing with strange terrains (river banks and racing tracks to carparks and an unbearable amount of stairs), and all of the key checkpoints are only accessible via foot. In Summer, both a wedge and a block heel are perfectly acceptable for formal events outside and a far more sensible choice if you are not used to wearing heels in your day-to-day life. If you have an evening event which involves a formal dinner, leave the wedges and block heels at home and opt for something closed, with a more narrow heel (unless your dress is floor length and you don’t have much visibility of the shoe!). This Compeed anti-blister stick is a much more attractive alternative to the plasters. If you’re at an event with a coat check or where a car is involved (such as Ascot or Regatta), take a change of flat shoes for the end of the day. Stick with neutral-coloured shoes, like white or tan, to help elongate the legs. Avoid anything that cuts you off at the ankle. Also make sure you have a sturdy pair of black stilettos in your arsenal to go with any evening outfit. I tend to find a slightly more pointed toe is the more flattering option. If an outfit requires a hat, matching the hat colour to your shoe colour is a simple say to pull your look together with minimal effort.
On the topic of accessories, handbags are another area where I see a lot of people go wrong. Perhaps the stress of finding the right dress means that the handbag is overlooked, but it’s a detail that can make or break an outfit. For Succession watchers, you’ll remember Toms's infamous Season 4 quote about Greg’s guest with a ‘ludicrously capacious’ bag and how it spread like wildfire on social media (mainly because the point rang true). Please don’t take giant bags to formal events. I am tired of seeing people drag designer totes and birkins around because they think it makes them look more expensive when in reality, it just cheapens the outfit. Whilst you don’t necessarily need a clutch (unless it feels suitable for the event and the outfit), a mini bag is perfectly acceptable. I hate clutches and try to avoid them where necessary because I don’t find them easy to hold; instead, I recently opted for this micro Bobbies bag, made in grained leather and in every colour possible. If you want something with a little more personality, Cult Gaia has some fantastic options (that are often on sale) that you can whip out for everything from weddings to balls and formal dinners. I am even known to use a sparkly bag I bought for under £25 on Amazon for events because it’s fun, size appropriate, and I don’t have to worry about anything happening to it. EBay also have some great vintage velvet clutches that are chic and unfussy. A small wicker or woven style bag looks great for daytime events and more casual outfits too.
Where the dress codes are far more relaxed, such as for Wimbledon or perhaps a garden party, there are still plenty of low-maintenance combinations that work. Monochromatic looks with summer accessories a la Claudia Schiffer, which you can edit based on your clothing preference. Switch the skirt for a pair of tailored shorts or a relaxed trouser, replace the fitted top with a shirt or layer with a light half zip. Belts, basket bags, and large sunglasses are always encouraged. If you’re wearing open shoes of any kind, are your feet moisturised and maintained, or do they look like trotters?
Weather permitting, you can throw a linen blazer over a shorts and t-shirt combination or a white summer dress to add a bit more structure. Wear your hair pulled back, and let a pair of statement earrings be your only accessory. The layers also work for all-day events that carry into the evening when the temperature drops. I’ve recently seen a lot of women wearing a waistcoat and loose trouser combination (both fully linen), which is a fun compromise between looking smart and feeling comfortable. None of this is particularly groundbreaking, but just to reiterate an earlier point, the attention to detail is what really makes an outfit look put together. No visible bra straps, nothing that is obviously ill-fitting, no overpowering (or inappropriate) accessories, skin and hair that looks moisturised and polished, and most importantly, being comfortable with what you’re wearing. The best outfit will never look as such if its wearer isn’t carrying it with comfort and confidence!
a podcast on the power of saying ‘no’
I had an interesting conversation recently with someone who told me that they were making an active effort to say ‘yes’ to everything that was presented to them, whether they wanted to do it or not. It was an exercise in making the most of every opportunity afforded to them and pushing them out of their comfort zones. As someone who has been a ‘yes’ person, I understood the reasoning and why it can be important to sometimes just say, ‘fuck it, I’ll do it’. However, I have recently made more of an effort to become a ‘no’ person and looorddd does it feel good. With most of us being pulled in several directions, more so during Summer when there are 101 things to do, I think it’s more important than ever to become a ‘No-er’. So, in today’s episode, I will be discussing just that.
And that’s all from the thirty-first issue of The Rhubarb Society! If there’s anything you’re keen for me to discuss, or if you have a podcast topic you’d like me to talk about, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below, via email or in my DMs. If there’s anyone you think would be an excellent fit for The Rhubarb Society, please do extend the invitation below.
Tamsin & Rhubarb