Wardrobe crisis number two: what do you wear to visit the Queen? Was invited to the grandest ‘At Home’ ever. Buckingham Palace, 6pm, Tuesday. The dress code was ‘Day Dress’, which was simple enough. But, the invitation stressed, that was ‘for guidance only and not intended to preclude other smart dress’. In a fashion crowd, that could be ballgowns.
No time to shop, so I wore one of my favourites. And in any situation where you feel you might well be overwhelmed, my advice would be the same: it’s not always wise to shop for something new that might make you feel even more uncomfortable or insecure. Opt instead for something tried and tested and loved. So I went for my grey jersey, cap sleeved, drape fronted, knee length dress. Yes, Grazia Girls, I wore my McQueen to visit my Queen.
Met Antonio Berardi on the way in who had come over shy. We’d both let our taxi drivers go at the gate, even though we had car passes, because the security procedure looked like an MOT test. So we tiptoed across the gravel together: him in a rather fabulous grey flannel lounge suit which matched my dress and Louboutin shoes perfectly.
Inside we were ushered to the throne room (no kidding…..perfect place for a gathering of queens, no?). And immediately came upon the fabulously frank Louise Wilson, Professor of Fashion at St Martins who’s been to the Palace before to collect her OBE and who warned us there’d be Dorritos (there were bowls of them everywhere: on the grand piano, on the side tables).
Along came Jonathan Saunders and Roland Mouret: hard to find two men who wear suits better. Jasper Conran entertained us with stories about the furniture (‘it’s fabulously camp in here because Queen Victoria moved all these red velvet pieces up from the Brighton Pavilion: where two hundred years ago George IV had parties that would make Mahiki look like a creche.’)
One of the most fantastic things about the whole experience is how we were shepherded to the places we needed to be without ever feeling we were being pushed around. So it was that I found myself in the receiving line with Marios Schwab and Todd Lynn.
I’d never met Todd before, which is odd because I am a fan, and, from today, he is about to be starring in a weekly documentary series on Grazia Daily. But we’d only just said hello when I heard my name called by a man in tails, had to bob my clumsy curtsey, remember ma’am rhymes with calm and not ham, and not say something regally naff, like ‘pleased to meet you’. And, before I knew it, I was out the other end having said ma’am like ham and something unspeakably gauche like ‘nice to see you’ and Todd looked stunned, like Prince Philip had just told him there was no more black leather in the world. I can tell you, we have formed a very special bond.
We both went in search of wine and hooked up with Orla Kiely who was glad she had suppressed an urge to tell Prince Phillip that her son had just joined his school’s Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme and was having a fabulous time.
Another glass of champagne on and I bumped into Clare Waight Keller the incredibly chic and unfeasibly young designer who is turning Pringle into an international fashion force. We were chatting away when Princess Michael of Kent barged in. (Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up). I introduced myself and she told me she ‘adored’ Grazia and wished her friends would buy her a subscription for Xmas instead of the usual Country Life and Horse and Hound. I said I’d see what I could do.
She connected enthusiastically with Claire over their shared passion for cashmere and seemed a bit disappointed that Claire wasn’t wearing any, but I assured her the kilt skirt Claire was wearing was about to be an iconic piece for winter 2010. They swapped business cards so if you see Princess Michael of Kent in a kilt this winter you’ll know who’s to blame. Before moving on she got out her iPhone and showed us a picture of an elephant she was painting for a charity project in her good friend, Tracy Emin’s studio.
By now I was almost giddy with excitement. Wasn’t sure I didn’t need a glass of hot milk and an early night and ran up to Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro to say as much when an equerry from central casting: 6 foot 5 inches, ramrod straight, cut glass accent, military bearing, knee trembling charm, cut me off just as I spotted the familiar silver hair do, looking tiny in the centre of the gathered semi circle of guests. I had been about to break in on Suzanne and the Queen! Her Majesty had finished with the receiving line and was now working the room.
I’m used to fashion show security. If it had been a Marc Jacobs show, I’d have been in an arm lock by now, but instead, I was asked to join the next semi circle. And within minutes, the Queen was there asking Graeme Black ‘….and what exactly dooo yooo dooo?’ and listening to some shoe manufacturers from Northampton explain why their business was so difficult right now.
When it was my turn, I’m afraid the best I could do was say ‘Hello Your Majesty. My name is Paula Reed and I am the Style Director of Grazia magazine.’ She looked at me. I am sure she smiled, a bit. Then she said, ‘hmmmmm,’ and left.
But you know what: I was happy with that. I could have told her she was on our best dressed list last year and asked her how she rated the Dolce & Gabbana collection she inspired, but you’d never have forgiven me…..would you?