Well as you know, last night we went to the HEIST education marketing awards. They are held in a different city each year and, conveniently for us, last night they were in Manchester at the very splendid Palace Hotel. As you can imagine, I started thinking about black tie chic when I knew we’d got through the elimination rounds in April. Like everyone I have various cocktail dresses that I’ve only worn a handful of times but with the slender chance that we might win something, I wanted to make sure I was wearing something special. Equally though, I didn’t want to splash out on a new dress when I’m still busy trying to update my core wardrobe – all funds need to go in a sensible direction. With this dilemma in mind I searched for dress hire agencies and came across Wish Want Wear

Wish Want Wear have a selection of all kinds of dresses for different events and I spent ages poring through them trying to choose one. Their brands include Temperley London, Sass & Bide, Missoni, Just Cavalli and Halston Heritage and they do accessories such as hats and bags too. Apologies to anyone who works in education and is superglam but my feeling was that the event wouldn’t be quite up to the Cheryl Cole level of glitz, so I was looking for understated chic. I’m not really a maxi-dress / long dress kind of person – having all that fabric round my legs gets on my nerves – so that immediately eliminated about half of the dresses. Strapless and spaghetti straps don’t work with my broad shoulders so that cut it down even more, I also didn’t want anything very short, I’m the wrong side of 45 for that.

In the end it came down to 2 dresses, this one by Alice Temperley

black tie chic


and this one by Milly

black tie chic



In the end I chose the Milly dress because it was slightly more summery with its lighter silk lining and shorter sleeves, plus I liked the detail of the lacework around the hem and neckline. I also found a shot of Kate Middleton wearing it in navy so that helped to tip the balance. The way it works is that you place your order for the 4 days around the date of your event. You also have the option to order the dress in another size at no extra cost just in case the fit is non-standard which I did to be safe. That’s it, you then forget about it until the time arrives. I have to say I started to feel a bit anxious at the beginning of the week that the dress simply might not come, but then I received several texts to let me know when the courier would arrive.

It was really exciting when it was delivered on Wednesday – it was like guilt free shopping knowing that I wouldn’t be keeping it! It was really well packaged in a large box which was great because it didn’t need ironing. Everything was a bit hectic because it was the first time that we’d decided to leave the boys overnight without a babysitter. Given that the eldest is nearly 18 and heading off to Uni in a year it made sense to take advantage of his offer to look after the smalls but it did mean that I seemed to spend the Wednesday night writing lists of things of things they needed to remember which gave me next to no time to play around with the dress. Before going to bed I quickly popped the one in my usual size 12 on only to find that it was as tight as a cheesewire around my waist, the rest was ok, if a bit ‘fitted.’ Luckily I had the 14 that I’d ordered as back-up and it was much looser all over so, much to Mr MC’s disappointment (and in the interests of being able to breathe on what was going to be a tense evening), that is the one that I decided to take.

It was a mad rush to get ready the next morning, we needed to get into Manchester early because Mr MC needed a new dinner suit (typical man deciding that at the last minute), we also had plans for a leisurely lunch but I was determined not to miss my Kettlercise class first. This meant that it was mayhem when I got back and I literally threw my things into the car as the engine was being revved! We had a lovely afternoon in Manchester, a late sunny lunch at the Chop House with a bottle of Prosecco and we even managed to pop into House of Fraser just as they marked the Whistles stock down to 50% off (more about that another day). Pure serendipity.

We were staying at Abode, Michael Caine’s boutique hotel and by the time we’d had a good look round and a coffee in the lounge we were running late. Panic ensued – shower, hair, make-up, just time to get the dress on only to discover it was the smaller one – aaaaargh! Whether it was my mistake or some devilish meddling from Mr MC I don’t know but any kind of deep breathing or slouching was out for the evening. Anyway here are some shots of the end result:

black tie chic

black tie chic

  • Dress: evening dress hire, £65 for 4 days (retail value £445)
  • Velvet twist heels: Boden (past season)
  • Beaded evening bag: vintage Selfridges
  • Pearl earrings: vintage Selfridges

I decided not to wear a necklace with it because I didn’t want to spoil the neckline but in hindsight, looking at the pictures, I should have done – never mind.

Here’s a new friend I made on the way in!:

black tie chic

So, we met up with our clients and had a lovely dinner although the nerves in the room were noticeably rising. As you know, we were shortlisted for 2 awards and yes, we did win one – a silver for best UK prospectus. As I said last time, it was a project that Mr MC and I both worked really hard on to the extent that a huge hard drive came to France on holiday with us last summer and we were still finishing it off by the pool. It was disappointing not to win the gold, but still great to come second, especially when places like Cambridge Uni and all the other big boys were in the mix. We had a great evening and were entertained by Jon Culshaw (from Dead Ringers) and my friend from the shot above who turned out to be a multi-talented singer and dancer! It was fascinating watching what people were wearing as they went up for their awards, the women were mostly 40 plus ( I guess the whipper snappers don’t have the seniority that commands £160 per head) and the outfits were much more creative than the usual corporate black tie frocks. The one that really stood out as chic for me was this Ted Baker skirt: worn with a black, high necked, sleeveless top.

black tie chic

Today thankfully all I had to do was put the dresses back into the ingenious box they came in and drop them off at the post office. Much easier than the usual trip to the dry cleaners – it’s definitely worth hiring a frock from somewhere like WishWantWear for black tie chic.

I’m now going to sit quietly in the garden and regret the decision we made to celebrate quite as enthusiastically as we did because we have another busy weekend of socialising ahead! Happy weekend everyone.