Tête-à-Tête: Teri Agins

Robin Givhan, Teri Agins and Anna Wintour

Teri Agins (center) with Robin Givhan (left), fashion critic at The Washington Post, and Anna Wintour (right), editor-in-chief of Vogue

Hey doll, I’m so glad you stopped by. Fashion Week in New York kicks off on Thursday and we’ve got Teri Agins, one of the fashion industry’s most knowledgeable writers and revered insiders, here dishing about everything from the salliest gals on the party circuit to the 10 best ways to look fête-fabulous. The popular “Ask Teri” fashion columnist at the Wall Street Journal, our au courant pal has just published her second book, Hijacking the Runway, a fun and breezy read about the intersection between celebrity, fashion and commerce. Full of insidery details, fun historical facts and giggly gossip, this book is sure to be a hot topic at cocktail parties this fall. We should know, darlin’, because we got a sneak peek at the galleys this summer and read the baby in one rosé-filled sitting. Grab your gimlet, doll, and join our tête-à-tête.

We’re heading into the fall party season. What do you see as the major trends?

Fit and flare silhouettes that offer a fresh take on the sheath and pencil skirt; dark floral and bold abstract prints that deliver visual texture, booties with high heels and sweater dresses. I just bought an ankle-length, black turtleneck sweater dress by Rick Owens that will be my go-to party dress this winter. It’s slinky and sophisticated.

Dark florals for fall

Bold floral patterns against black are a key fashion trend for fall

Anna Wintour stipulated “white tie and decorations” for the men at this year’s Costume Institute Ball. Do you think we’ll see a return to traditional formal attire this fall?

People dressed very formally at this year’s Met Gala to support the theme, which always dictates the dress, but I don’t see it starting any trends. People have loosened up a lot over the years where formal attire is concerned. I went to my first Costume Institute Ball in 1990. That was the era with Pat Buckley and Nan Kempner and it was all pretty formal and stuffy and dressed up. As Anna and Vogue became involved, and more Hollywood people infiltrated the party, the tenor changed. Women didn’t just wear long gowns. Some wore tea length dresses and the models wore really short, kicky dresses. Today, people want to look chic and dressed up, but no one wants to look super formal.

What do you think of the more relaxed take on formal party attire?

I love it. It’s relaxed-dressy and people look better. When women have their hair very done and sprayed and they’re dripping in jewelry, they can look very uptight, like they’re going to a prom in the ‘70s.Today, most women wear their hair to events in much the same way they wear it to work and just add a bit more makeup and some sparkly evening accessories. They look more like themselves.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone sported a more casual and textured coif last week at the Venice Film Festival 

What caused the trend away from very formal party attire?

In 1992, Alcoa, the aluminum manufacturing company, instituted a casual wear policy for two weeks to raise money for the United Way. They had 87% participation during the drive and broke all fundraising records. Alcoa never returned to formal office wear after that. That was the seminal event that changed the way we dress. Three years later, IBM moved to casual everyday dress at the office. After that, there was no going back to very formal dress codes. Women still wear gowns and cocktail dresses to parties but, for men, the cummerbund as a requisite part of a tuxedo has virtually disappeared. You might still see a very formal look in Europe at a big black-tie gala, but there aren’t many of those in the U.S. anymore.

Who are your favorite party dress designers?

I love Carmen Marc Valvo. His cocktail dresses and gowns are flattering on everybody. He knows how to design for women, particularly American women. He understands that we workout so our arms are bigger and many women have breast augmentation so they need room for alterations on top. He also cuts his sleeveless dresses to cover that awkward bit of skin where your shoulder meets your armpit. I also love Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Tadashi Shoji, and I get a good fit with Cavalli.

Carmen Marco Valvo

Teri, Katie Couric and Vanessa Williams are just a few of the fashionistas who love Carmen Marc Valvo’s little black dresses. These are from the designer’s Fall 2014 Collection.  

Who are your favorite party shoe designers?

Manolo Blahniks are the best—I’ve loved them for 25 years, because you can stand or dance in them for more than a couple of hours. Vince Camuto shoes are also comfortable party shoes. I also have a pair of black patent-leather Gucci stilettos that I love. They have a four-inch bamboo heel, but they’re remarkably comfortable, a really good fit.

Who always looks great at parties?

I love checking out Sarah Jessica Parker. She is an adventurous dresser and always looks fun and festive. Cate Blanchett and Shala Monroque, who wears a lot of Prada, are also risk-takers with great personal style. Tory Burch dresses pretty and classic with big, interesting earrings to punctuate her look. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, always looks divine and sophisticated. Helen Mirren never fails. She has a beautiful figure, shows just the right amount of skin and looks chicer than just about everyone else at a party. Others I love seeing are Christine Baranski, Genevieve Jones and Lynn Wyatt, who has a dynamite figure and perfect posture. And let’s not forget Kate Middleton—she hits a home run in every ball gown.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker was one of our best-dressed picks at this year’s Costume Institute Gala

Teri, you’ve been to more than a thousand parties and hobnobbed with the most fashionable people in the world. Give us your top 10 tips for looking fête-chic.

1. Stick with what looks good on you. Know what trends you should sit out. Don’t let yourself be a fashion victim.

2. Alter everything. It’s the reason Fred Astaire always looked so good. I always say, go to the gym and spend your money on alterations.

3. Wear bold colors. Look at the invitation and wear one of the colors you see. Most people play it safe, but it’s boring when everyone is in a little black dress.

4. For a quick change from a day to evening look, put on a darker lipstick and a pair of evening earrings because those are what will get noticed across a table. Adding a pair of heels and a small evening clutch bag are imperative.

Dark lips for fall

Deep plum lipsticks like those from Audacious by Nars (shown above) are de rigueur for fall.

5. Wear shoes that match your skin tone to make you look taller.

6. Avoid bulk by cutting out the lining from your pockets and stitching them down.

7. Take selfies when you shop to see how your dress photographs. I never buy anything that doesn’t photograph well.

8. If you’re going to a party in another city, Google party photos from that city to find out what people wear. For example, in Washington, DC, black-tie always means a full tuxedo for a man.

9. Avoid the Christmas tree look. Some women feel that they’re not dressed up if they’re not super embellished, with earrings bracelets and necklaces. but dressing up does not mean piling on the bling.

10. Avoid strapless dresses. You’ll never find the right bra and you’ll spend the entire night pulling and tugging on your dress.

Teri Agins with Tom Ford

Teri with designer Tom Ford

Not ready for the party to end? Join us for more party patter on any of our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.  

The Sally Award: Lizzy Caplan

Lizzy CaplanHey, doll. Come on in. We’re handing out this week’s Sally Award for the best party look of the week. Our winner? Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan who proved on Monday night that she’s also a mistress of fabulous style. While there were plenty of very sally ladies walking the red carpet on television’s biggest fashion night of the year, it was Lizzy in a Donna Karan Atelier gown who took the prize.

Black and white, modern and classic, provocative and ladylike, soft and structured, and sleek and flowing, this beautiful gown was full of perfectly harmonious contradictions. Styled by the enormously talented Ilaria Urbinati who also dresses Shailene Woodley, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds and Nina Dobrev. Lizzy’s winning look included Neil Lane jewels, Brian Atwood shoes, and a Judith Lieber clutch. Her sleek, low bun and simple, classic make up allowed the statement dress to shine.

Photos: Ilaria Urbinati/Elle

Très chichi, Lizzy. Inspired by Lizzy’s winning look? Try these five party dresses on for size. We feel a black-tie party coming on.

J. Mendel Black and White Silk Gown at Bergdorf Goodman

Carmen Marc Valvo

Carmen Marc Valvo Sequined Waist Cut-Out Gown at Neiman Marcus

Cushnie et Ochs Cut-Out Gown with Pearls at Moda Operandi

Valentino

Valentino Black and White Gown at StyleBop 

 

Cushnie et Ochs

Cushnie et Ochs Gown with Cut-Out Waist at Bergdorf Goodman

Party Hopping: 2014 Emmy Awards

Jon Hamm and January Jones

Jon Hamm and January Jones at the post-Emmy party, The Governors Ball

The soirées: The 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theater, followed by the Governors Ball at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the AMC and IFC Emmy After Party at Boa Steakhouse.

Swellest moments: Walking the red carpet, bien sûr; the palpable sense of joy and excitement that came from gathering together so many who share a passion for television; Billy Crystal’s personal and heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams – you could hear a pin drop; the assortment of L’Oreal make up and hair products in the ladies rooms for the taking; and Cheryl Cecchetto’s production of The Governors Ball, which featured gorgeous tables with linens that matched the flowers, a delicious menu catered by Patina Catering, and entertainment by The Voice‘s Judith Hill.

Governors Ball

Governors Ball

 “Kaleidoscope of Color” was the theme for the Governors Ball

What you didn’t see on the Emmy broadcast: The funny and touching video vignettes from past Emmy broadcasts that were shown during commercial breaks; the genuine sense of collegiality among the comics Seth Myers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel; and the seat-filler “machine” – formally-attired men and women came out en masse during the commercial breaks to sit in the 40 to 50 seats that were left empty by those going to the restroom or leaving altogether because their category had already been announced.

Din-din: The first course was a delicious grilled peach and heirloom tomato salad with figs, burrata, peppermint, basil and Marcona almonds served with a 2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Sauvignon Blanc. The main course was a perfectly prepared filet of beef with artisan grapes, squash and crispy kale served with a 2011 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was a chic and delicious take on s’mores featuring a whipped ganache, torched marshmallow fluff, graham crumble and chocolate-covered pop rocks served with a 2012 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Napa Valley Port.

Dessert at the Governors Ball

S’mores like you’ve never had them at The Governors Ball

Looking super sally: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Lena Headey, Lizzie Caplan, Matt Bomer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Juliana Margulies, Claire Danes, Idris Elba, Halle Berry, Sarah Silverman, Sarah Hyland, Octavia Spencer, Seth Myers and Bryan Cranston.

Aaron Paul and Lauren Parsekian

Aaron Paul and Lauren Parsekian at The Governors Ball

anna gunn

Anna Gunn at The Governors Ball

calire daines

Claire Danes in the color of the night at The Governors Ball

Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks on her way into the AMC and IFC After Party

Not ready for the party to end? Stop by and visit with us on any of our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.  Toodle-oo!

Sally Award: Janie Bryant

Janie Bryant

Peter and Janie Bryant at the 2014 Creative Emmy Awards

This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to “Mad Men” costume designer, Janie Bryant, at the Creative Emmy Awards on August 16th in Los Angeles. Looking every bit as glamorous as the movie stars she dresses, Bryant shined in a silver beaded and paillette-covered KaufmanFranco gown. Bryant’s hair – side parted and softly waved – and dark, smokey eyes added the perfect old Hollywood touch to the look and showcased her impeccable sense of style. Completing the retro-glam look were a Nancy Gonzalez clutch, David Yurman bracelets and a very-today dark purple manicure. Bryant’s red carpet moment was confident and dazzling. Simply put, we were mad about it, doll.

Mad Men

Janie Bryant’s formal looks for the characters of “Mad Men”

Not ready for the party to end? Stop by and see us on our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest 

Thomas Hamel Birthday Party on Capri

Gina Lollobrigida

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Grab your Limoncello, doll, and let us tell you about internationally-known interior designer and author Thomas Hamel’s chic birthday party on the Italian isle of Capri. Talk about la dolce vita, baby.

La fête: A birthday party to celebrate Thomas’s milestone birthday. Incidentally, his debut furniture collection for Jean de Merry will be featured in the September 2014 issue of Elle Decor. Here’s a sneak peek just for you, amore.

L’ambiance: The celebration began with a garden party in Capri’s historic Gardens of Augustus followed by a boat ride to the beautiful Conca de Songa restaurant for lunch by the sea. Later, a stylish poolside supper was held at Capri’s La Scalinatella Hotel.

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Le décor: Allowing Capri’s magnificent natural beauty to set the tone, Thomas added simple, elegant and tasteful touches like large baskets filled with the same local herbs that were used in the meal. Sprigs were also used to garnish the place settings. The dinner tables were adorned simply with glass hurricanes and Capri’s famous local lemons.

Thomas Hamel

En vue: In addition to Thomas and his partner, George Massar – both such dapper gents, we spied a chic crowd of international socials from New York and Nashville to Vienna and London. They included Capri icon, Renee Myers; Australian philanthropist, Fiona Myer; Australian financier, Simon Cary and stylist, Howard Steeves; interior designer, Kate Hume; photographer and furniture designer Frans van der Heyden; interior designer, Tamsin Johnson with her husband Patrick, founder of the eponymous bespoke tailoring company; Australian television personality, Chyka Keebaugh; and Brent Wallace, founder of the chic luxury travel blog, Where’s Brent Been? 

J’adored: Given Thomas’s talent for creating perfect, well-edited environments, we were not surprised by the refined less-is-more elegance that carried seamlessly through every element of the party. We were particularly ga-ga over the invitations and the custom-made leather and canvas bags that were gifted to each guest.

Perfetto, baby. Buon compleanno, Thomas.

Introductory photo: Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon & Sheba (1959)
Introductory quote: Mae West

 

Madame Helvétius

3-Mme Helvetius Doll, come on in and let us tell you about a gorgeous dame who had great panache, lived life to the fullest and threw a heckuva party. Madame Helvétius was her name, but let’s call her “Minette” (which means pussycat en français) as all of her close friends did. Not only did Minette have a very successful 18th century salon – even Napoléon was a guest! – but our gal also set prominent tongues wagging across the pond by capturing the heart of one of our own Founding Fathers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Anne-Catherine de Ligniville d’Autricourt was born in France July 23, 1722, one of 21 children of Jean-Jacques de Ligniville and his wife Charlotte de Saureau. At the relatively late age of 29, Minette married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed quite a fortune as a tax collector. The couple settled in the tony Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette began her salon, which included some of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment.

Claude HelvétiusClaude Adrien Helvétius

Among the habitués of Madame Helvétius’s salon were our old salonniere friends, Julie de Lespinasse and Suzanne Necker (both of whom you’ve met, doll), great writers like Diderot and Volney, thinkers including Condorcet, d’Holbach, Turgot and Buffon and scientists like d’Alembert, Lavoisier, Cuvier and Cabanis. It was a veritable who’s who of Paris society. Others who would drop by included politicians like Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who was quite the ladies man, doll, but we’ll get to that.

These salons were put on with such éclat and whimsy that it was not surprising to see in attendance all 18 of Minette’s prized Angora cats, dressed to the nines in their silk ribbons. It was also not unusual, évidemment, for Madame’s dogs and canaries to attend, because everyone should get into the salon spirit according to Minette.

Monsieur Helvétius died in 1771 after 20 years of marriage, and Minette carried on with her salons, choosing never to remarry. But our gal had no shortage of suitors. Madame was said to have been so beautiful that a 100-year-old man paid one of the most famous compliments of the era: Ah, Madame, if I were only 80 again.

AuteuilAn old postcard of Auteuil, which was also home to Victor Hugo and Molière 

In her 60s, Minette made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, who was serving as the US ambassador to France, and it was not long before he became smitten. Rumor has it he even proposed marriage. They were avid letter writers and Franklin, who affectionately called our gal “Notre Dame,” wrote this to her in one of them: If Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights.

4-benjamin_franklinBenjamin Franklin

Quite saucy, n’est ce pas? But not everyone succumbed to Minette’s charms. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, was shocked by Minette’s behavior when she met her at a dinner in France following the successful negotiation of the Treaty of Paris. In correspondence, Abigail noted scathingly that our gal kissed Franklin on the cheeks and forehead when she greeted him, held his hand during dinner and occasionally threw her arm around his neck: I should have set her down for a very bad one altho 60 years of age and a widow. I own I was highly disgusted and never wish for an acquaintance with any ladies of this cast

Madame Helvétius died at Auteuil in August of 1800. But what a life she lived, doll, so full of exuberance.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Raucous Royals

Sally Award: Taylor Swift

mgid-uma-image-mtvThis week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Taylor Swift who looked dynamite in a red and blush-hued Monique Lhuillier gown at the August 11th New York premiere of The Giver. Our first two-time Sally Award winner, the super-chic Swift paired the gown, part of Lhuillier’s Resort 2015 collection, with sleek and elegant nude pumps from Casadei.

Taylor-Swift-The-Giver-New-York-PremiereSwift kept her jewelry modern and minimal with a Sylva & Cie ring and pink quartz Brumani earrings. Her flawless make up – featuring her signature black liner and red lip – and Veronica-Lake-inspired side-swept ‘do had us goo-goo eyed and proves that old Hollywood is very much alive in young Hollywood.

"The Giver" New York Premiere - ArrivalsTrès bonne, Miss Swift. Until next time.

What do you think about Taylor’s party look? Come on over to our party on Facebook and let us know, doll.

RSVP: Alexa Hampton

Alexa HamptonPull up a chair, doll. You’re just in time to meet our fabulously chic friend, Alexa Hampton, a world-renowned interior designer and the president of Mark Hampton, the design firm founded by her late father, one of the all-time great interior designers. A perennial member of Architectural Digest’s AD100 and House Beautiful‘s Top Designers list as well as a member of Elle Decor’s A-List, Alexa is also the author of two fabulous books on interior design. Talk about talent running in the family. As if that weren’t enough, Alexa, who told us she wishes she could go back in time to attend a Parisian artists’ salon in the late 1800s, was also named one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s “fun, fearless females.” Clearly, she’s our kind of dame. So, what do you say, sugar? How ’bout we raise a cold glass of red wine – we’ll explain – and listen in as our friend and designer-extraordinaire spills her secrets on everything from how to make your home a great entertaining space to her favorite dinnerware collections.

Your entertaining style?
I like lots of wine and loud laughter and not being too dressy. And I love beautiful surroundings.

Best or most memorable party you’ve ever attended?
My wedding in Greece was pretty great. Four hundred people on a cliff overlooking the Aegean with a full moon, fireworks, DJ Johnny Dynell, lots of wine and shots passed around on the dance floor. We dance the danced night away until 7:30 am.

Alexa Hampton

Alexa with her husband, Pavlos Papageorgiou 

Dream dinner partner?
My father. I’d like to see him, kiss him, hug him and tell him all about his grandchildren.

How do you stay party ready?
I always have to go out beforehand. There’s always wine at our house but, unless my guests were to want chicken noodle soup, Cheerios or egg white omelets, I’m unprepared. I’d run out for olives, hunks of Parmesan and Manchego, some Brie, rice crackers, a baguette, broccoli rabe, sausages, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Boston Bibb lettuce and porterhouse steaks on the bone. My husband is our house chef and he is fantastic!

Best way to make your home a great entertaining space?
Have lots of chairs kicking around in corners. Beyond that, be happy. If the host is relaxed and happy, the guests always have a better time.

Alexa Hampton

Room by Alexa Hampton

Your top tip for getting your home party ready?
My best tip is to have your house look great all the time, full stop. Have candlesticks and a centerpiece of some kind permanently located on your dining table. That way you’ll be ready to go. Just grab some fresh flowers on the way home.

Best conversation piece in your home?
My husband. He is really fun and always keeps the party going…until he falls asleep, sometimes even at the dinner table. Our friends have come to expect it. At that point, I take over. I’m the night owl.

Let’s play favorites…
Color – My favorites are expanding. Blue is the longest standing one. Purple is a new fave.
Flower – Anemones
Champagne – I’m not a huge champagne person. I invariably get a headache from it. However, Veuve Cliquot is nice. I also like Krug.
Linens – Leontine Linens

Leontine Linens

Monogrammed cocktail napkins from Leontine Linens

Party food – Bread and cheese, pigs in a blanket, cheddar cheese burgers, Pasta Bolognese, cheese soufflé and caviar pie
Cocktail – Red wine on ice. Repulsive, I know, but I love it.
Dishes – Aptware. I’m also in love with Spode’s Greek and Queen Charlotte patterns.
Glassware – Baccarat Harmonie, and I love – but don’t have – Puiforcat’s silver champagne goblets

Baccarat HarmonieHarmonie by Baccarat

Party resource – Glorious Foods caterers
Comfy shoe for dancing – Prada sky-high heels are, strangely, very comfortable.
Party dress designer – Oscar de la Renta or Issa
Hostess gift – A bottle of wine or champagne.

Three party pet-peeves?
If I’ve gotten myself so stressed out that I’m sweaty
If it rains and there’s no cover
If I forgot I was going to a party on grass and I’ve worn the kind of heels that sink into the dirt

Three party must-haves?
Good company
Good music
Good food and drink

What will you wish for this year when you blow out your birthday candles?
Another year of health and happiness for my family and friends.

We’ll drink to that. Thanks, doll, for stopping by.

How to Host a Classic New England Clambake

Clambake
Every one of you listening to my voice, tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking. Keep watching the skies.

Nothing says summer like a New England-style clambake with all the traditional fixings: steamed lobsters, clams, corn on the cob and a sunset. But clambakes are also a wonderful way to entertain in the early fall. In fact, Susan Warner, the founder of Nantucket Clambake Company, a leading catering firm that has been serving up traditional New England clambakes for more than 25 years, says September is her favorite time of year for clambakes. Says Warner, “September sunsets are spectacular.” For nature’s great encore, we recommend scheduling your clambake around a full moon. Moonlight is the perfect party lighting.

Clambake under the moonClambakes have a long history in North America. It is believed that the practice was originated more than 2,000 years ago by Native American tribes in the New England area who cooked lobsters and clams in sand pits lined with seaweed and hot rocks. Passed down through the generations, the tradition continues to be an important part of our heritage, history and culture.

Winslow Homer, A Clam-BakeWinslow Homer’s A Clam-Bake, 1873 

While there is nothing as beautiful as a clambake on the beach, backyard clambakes can be just as fabulous. The key is to serve traditional fare and use seaside touches in your décor. Try nautical rope down the center of a long table, driftwood for name cards, ball jars and driftwood hurricanes for candles, linens in a sandy hue or nautical stripe and plenty of shells. Of course, it won’t hurt to have a nice glass of rosé in hand and a glorious sunset in view.

ClambakeTable for 80 by the window? No problem, darlin’. Right this way.

  • Clambake place setting
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  • Clambake welcome bar
  • Lobster
  • Clams at clambake
  • Clambake menu
  • S'mores
  • Clambake under the moon

Introductory photo: Lana Turner
Introductory quote: The Thing (1953)

Clambake photos by Nate Coe for Carla McDonald

The Sally Award: Charlotte Le Bon

This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Canadian model-turned-actress Charlotte Le Bon at the New York premiere of her new film, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Held at the Ziegfeld Theater last Monday, the stunning 27-year-old looked youthful yet sophisticated in a sheer and lace bell-sleeved dress from Elie Saab’s Pre-Fall 2014 Collection. Charlotte echoed the geometric lines of the pretty white frock with strappy white stilettos that added both an innocent and slightly edgy touch to the look.

We also went a bit doll dizzy about Charlotte’s glamorous side-parted hair, simple eye make up, soft berry lip, and berry-colored floral button earrings. All seem so effortless, but these well-chosen touches complemented the silhouette, texture and style of the dress perfectly. Doll, this week, Charlotte proved that she certainly is le bon.

What did you think about Charlotte’s look? Post a comment on our Facebook page, won’t you?

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