Can you remember what you wore last time you ate at a restaurant? If it was at any point during the past month or so, then you shouldn’t have much trouble: how about layers of warm things, plus a gilet, topped off with a down coat or a teddy bear fur?
Were there cocktail rings and dangly earrings and a chunky necklace involved? Not likely; fingerless gloves and a draught- excluding scarf more like.
We were eating outside, of course, in the cold (the freezing cold), and it was fun in the way that rainy camping holidays can be. But looking good was definitely not part of the deal.
Well, as of today, we can come in from the cold. Finally, we can trade the windy pavement for a cosy candlelit table and swap the Arctic layers for flattering, skin-revealing, going out clothes.
Shane Watson shares advice for celebrating the easing of restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants in England by embracing the Doubling Up Dressing trend. Pictured left: Dress, £120, asos.com; headband, £18, getagrip london.com; earrings, £165, laurence-coste. com; gold rings, £27.99 each, pilgrim.net; pink ring, £5, asos.com; bag, £49.99, zara.com; martini glass, £4.99, zarahome.com. Pictured right: Dress, £29.99, zara.com; necklace, £90, essentiel-antwerp.com; earrings, £11.25, and large bracelet, £22, karenmillen. com; small bracelet, £27.99, pilgrim.net; rings, £92 each, heavenlynecklaces.com; glass (with olives), £24 for four, oka.com; pink plate (throughout), £7.99, zarahome.com; white plate (throughout), £20, oka.com
We’re not just free to meet up (party for 30 in the park, anyone?), we’re free to dress up, for the first time in a very long time.
The interesting thing about this back-to-restaurants moment is we’re in the mood to dress up in a way we haven’t been for years.
Pre-lockdowns, the unspoken rule of going out to eat was ‘a bit of an effort but not party levels’ — you’d spruce up, maybe add some jewellery and heels if you were coming from the office or, if it was a special occasion, you may get your hair done or put on a dress.
But, generally, eating out was firmly in the smart-casual zone.
Now, however, that doesn’t feel quite appropriate to mark our re-entry. This crucial milestone in the back to normal roadmap calls for something unexpected, something that says: ‘I’ve made twice the effort I’d have done a year and a half ago, because I’m making up for all the missed opportunities.’
This may, in time, come to be known as Doubling Up Dressing: wearing the dress you usually save for parties to the pub; taking the bag you’ve only previously used for weddings out to dinner; putting a bow in your hair and rings on your fingers just because it seems like a crime not to take full advantage of our dressing-up rights after so long stuck inside
Whether you opt for a dress, or a top and trousers or skirt, this first inside date outfit needs to say: ‘The dark days are over. Bring on summer.’
Pictured left: Dress, £49.99, zara.com; earrings, £8, asos.com; necklace, £9.99, hm.com; large bracelet, £27.99, small bracelet, £14.99, pilgrim.net; rings, £92 each, heavenlynecklaces.com; bag, £65, charleskeith. co.uk; tea cup, £9.99, zarahome.com. Pictured right: Dress, £125, tedbaker.com; hair slides, £8 for eight, asos.com; earrings, £145, laurence-coste. com; necklace, £56.25, and bracelet, £22, karenmillen.com; rings, from £78 each, cocoand kinney.com; bag, £30, riverisland.com
You want it to be uplifting, colourful, fun to wear, not too covered up because the whole point is we don’t have to do that any more, possibly quite far outside your usual style postcode and maybe even a bit OTT (for example, a one-sleeved, dramatic, tomato-coloured top such as the one pictured above).
Apart from that top, all the looks pictured here are dresses, which would strike the right note — providing it’s not one of our trusty floral midis — and feels distinctly different to the safe, useful clothes we’ve been wearing all year.
You might want to go bright and bedazzling in a canary yellow low-cut dress such as this one from Ted Baker. Or you may choose to go bare armed in something like the one-shoulder punchy orange number from Zara. That would certainly be a ‘Tah dah!’ re-entry move; add a chunky chain necklace so you don’t look too naked, and take a wrap in a clashing colour, in case you lose your nerve.
Maybe you’re more in the mood for wearing a long-sleeved dress, but want to ratchet up the impact with a Pucci-esque print in ice-cream colours, such as the one from Zara.
Pictured left: Blouse, £220, Aje at matches fashion.com; earrings, £95, merola. co.uk; gold rings, £27.99 each, pilgrim.net; pink ring, £5, asos. com; scrunchie (on wrist), £10, getagriplondon.com; bracelet, £70, heavenlynecklaces.com. Pictured right: Dress, £241.67, Bernadette at net-aporter. com; bow hairclip, £15, getagrip london.com; earrings, £225, laurencecoste. com; gold bracelet, £18.75, karenmillen.com; pearl bracelet, £5.99, hm.com; rings, £92 each, heavenly necklaces.com; bag, £25.99, zara.com
Or maybe you’ll want to celebrate shedding those wintry layers by layering up with extravagant-looking jewellery (big and bold doesn’t have to come at a cost) and, like the models on these pages, make your grand re-entrance in a baubleicious, candlelight-reflecting necklace or dramatic earrings.
One thing we learned during all the lockdowns were the basic rules of waist-up dressing, and what works for Zoom calls works for sitting at restaurant tables. Essentially, there is only one rule: make the most of what the person in front of you can see.
Don’t fuss about the flow of your skirt or the buckle detail on your shoes. Focus on shoulders and arms, décolleté and hands: wear a chunky gold chain, bracelets, rings and go for extra glossy hair adorned with accessories. Particularly if you wear your hair scraped back, they’re a neat way of adding colour and sparkle near your face.
What all the looks have in common is extra polish (including the nail variety), blingy jewellery, pretty colour, and something in the mix you wouldn’t have dreamt of wearing before our freedoms were curtailed — even if that’s just a slick of coral lipstick.
We’re coming out and it’s going to be . . . fabulous!