A London guide

Virtual London - A London Guide

What to Wear

The climate in London is generally fairly temperate throughout the year, with frequent cloud and rain, but also spells of settled, fine weather.

The rainfall is less than most people expect though, at only about 22 inches per annum, and there is seldom any fog and virtually never any snow!!

Temperatures range from 12 to 25ºC in the summer, down to 2 to 12ºC in the winter. We would recommend that you bring sensible clothing, but also be prepared for rain, umbrellas can be useful!

On the whole, London is particularly casual. Despite the fact that people generally tend to wear darker colours than they do in the States, during the day the basic rule of thumb is to wear what you feel comfortable in.

I have to admit that I do don a blazer when strolling around Knightsbridge or Brompton Cross - they are perhaps the only places where one can actually feel underdressed when shopping!

Knightsbridge is a particularly smart area but it is also a magnet for tourists and continental schoolchildren keen to bring a Harrods trinket home for 'maman'.

You won't be out of place in jeans therefore, but you might feel more comfortable in slightly smarter gear, which will guarantee your access to Harrods (they have been known to turn away people wearing jeans). Incidentally, jeans have recently been voted as the most 'out of date' item in the British wardrobe, they are certainly fairly scarce now amongst trendsetters and followers.

Pashminas and sunglasses casually perched on the head seem to be particularly chic amongst the ladies who lunch in Chelsea. Black is always a mainstay. Chaps often go for the chinos and open neck shirt look, with jumpers and blazers or jackets in the winter.

Pop up to Camden or Portobello Road though, and it's an entirely different kettle of fish! Anything goes here, with the accent on 'designer dross'. It's fine to look like a scruffy mutt, as long as you've taken time creating the effect and know exactly which designer created exactly which 'stressed' item of clothing.

Then comes the difficult part. Although the English are on the whole happily bohemian when it comes to what they wear during playtime, business and formal wear is another matter.

In the City, dark grey or navy suits are the norm, with pinstripe being about as creative as it gets, some companies allow slightly more casual gear to be worn on Fridays, but if in doubt, stick to a suit. Never wear a button down collar with a suit, and never sport a striped tie unless it means something (old school or club membership for example).

A waistcoat (vest) should always have the bottom button undone. This last foible apparently came into being when King George III became too fat to do his waistcoat up completely and his Court obediently saw this as a new fashion, as did the rest of the country!

Although theatres and concert halls see all sorts of apparel gracing their auditoria, I always feel a little underdressed without at least a jacket and open necked shirt. Jeans and trainers are definitely not the order of the day.

If you are going to the Royal Opera House, then make sure you wear a jacket and tie at the very least, as some like to wear black or even white tie, but the London Coliseum is not quite so formal.

Restaurants vary, but most accept any sort of clothing, having said that, you would probably feel uneasy going into some of the more fashion conscious establishments (such as The Pharmacy or Titanic) without looking a little swish.

Furthermore, a number of smarter restaurants do have a jacket and tie policy, so if you have decided to push the boat out on a meal, it is advisable to telephone and find out the dress code first.

Formal events present a veritable spider's web of what's right and what's wrong to wear. It is best to follow a simple and traditional code; not only will you look better, but you will avoid the whims of fashion that could be an embarrassment both at the event, and in the subsequent photo album!

If you have been invited to anything for formal, your invitation may sport one of the following notes: Lounge Suit, Morning Dress, Black Tie or White Tie.

'Lounge Suit' is simply another term for a business suit as mentioned above.

'Morning Dress' is a form of dress almost wholly restricted to the UK and the Commonwealth. Most British weddings utilise this form of dress to a greater or lesser extent, and it is also seen at major social events including Ascot and garden parties.

To be utterly correct it should consist of a tailcoat (black or sometimes grey in summer), single or double-breasted waistcoat (buff, grey or black), shirt with stiff white detachable collar, silk tie, black and grey striped trousers and well polished black shoes. Black top hats usually accompany the ensemble, although grey will sometimes do.

'Black Tie' doesn't mean a normal necktie in black, it actually means the same as a 'tuxedo'. Again, to be correct it should consist of a black single or double-breasted jacket with silk lapels, black trousers with black silk stripe down the side, white shirt with wing or turndown collar and a black bow tie. If you go for the single-breasted jacket, make sure you also wear a low cut black waistcoat. Cummerbunds are just about acceptable.

'White Tie' was the general form of eveningwear before 'Black Tie' came along, and is worn at very formal occasions only. It consists of black evening tails and trousers, a white Marcella waistcoat, white Marcella bow tie, white boiled front tunic shirt and detachable wing collar.

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