A visitor’s guide to dressing to impress at some of London’s most exclusive venues

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There’s a very good reason why, along with New York, Paris and Milan, London is one of the style capitals of the world. But it also means that if you really want to look the part when you visit the city you’ll have to think carefully about what clothes to bring with you. There are lots of things to take into account from the activities you’ve planned to the time of year that you’re visiting.

Plus, if your trip’s going to involve any of the capital’s more exclusive and luxurious venues, it becomes more complicated still. This is because many of them have dress codes, written or unwritten, and if you fail to conform then at best you’ll feel uncomfortable and at worst you may be quietly taken aside and refused entry – an embarrassing experience for all concerned.

So, to spare your blushes, we’ve chosen five of the sorts of places that might be on your “must see” list and put together some sound sartorial advice for you.

The Savoy

The Savoy Hotel first opened its doors in 1889 and ever since then has been regarded as one of London’s most famous hotels. The list of the rich and famous who have stayed there is almost endless, from Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles to Barbra Streisand.

The style of the hotel underwent a £100 million refurbishment in 2010 to restore it to its art deco glory. Even if you’re just visiting for one of their famous afternoon teas, men will need to wear a lounge suit with shirt and tie at the very least and, for women, a dress or a trouser suit.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to dine in the Gordon Ramsay-run Savoy Grill they do publish a formal dress code which is surprisingly relaxed. While shorts and sportswear of any kind are not allowed, smart trainers and denim are ok. But it’s also worth thinking a little more carefully about your wardrobe as you’ll be spending around £150 for two to dine there so it’s worth turning it into a special occasion by wearing a classic Paul Smith suit or a designer dress from a label like Stella McCartney.

Mahiki

In a city that’s literally teeming with nightclubs few have quite the mystique or reputation as Mahiki. You’re as likely to find a distant member of the Royal Family on the dancefloor as a celebrity like frequent visitors Rihanna, Lady Gaga or Kelly Rowland. But don’t be put off. The club has what it calls an “egalitarian” door policy so as long as the fashions seem to fit the doorman should soon be waving you through.

The dress code for men is no sportswear of any kind – but what else would you expect? But given the bright and brash décor it’s going to take more than a smart shirt and trousers to stand out. So go super colourful with a well-tailored shirt – not quite Hawaiian, but you get the idea. For women a shimmery cocktail dress and strappy heels would be perfect.

Crockford’s Casino

While many casinos now follow the brash and lively style of Las Vegas, London still has a number of more discreet and exclusive gaming houses and Crockford’s is a prime example. It first opened in 1828 and today occupies a stylish Curzon Street townhouse near to where the original gentleman’s club was located.

It prides itself on providing elegant, discreet and unique surroundings including a number of private “salles” where high stakes poker games take place. In keeping with this exclusive ambience the dress code is nothing if not rigid. Suits or dinner suits are mandatory for men with women expected to wear formal or cocktail dresses with definitely no trousers permitted.

These are certainly rather draconian rulings. However, some casino games can be affected by what the players are wearing. For example, how you choose to dress for a game of poker can really help your game, opposition players are always weighing you up, and catching their eye with a sharp suit could be the difference between winning and losing.

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The V & A is widely regarded as being the world’s greatest museum of design and decorative arts housing over 2.3 million objects that range from books to ceramics and tapestries to jewellery. Of all the museums clustered along Exhibition Road in South Kensington it is undoubtedly the most exclusive and refined.

It’s also especially well known for its history of fashion through the ages and a centrepiece of this is the Costiff Collection that was acquired in 2002 and which includes examples of designs by many of the UK’s leading fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant, Hardy Amies and Jean Muir.

So when you’re wandering through the museum’s many galleries, not simply the fashion ones, you’re going to want to look your stylish best. For men this could mean a casually cut jacket and tailored trousers from a label like Reiss and for women the casual stylishness of a Karen Millen dress and cardigan could be perfect.

Hampton

Last, but not least, here’s somewhere that may not have a formal dress code but where it’s important to wear the right sorts of clothes. Along with St James’, Hampton Court is one of just two of Henry VIII’s palaces still standing. In his time, it was surrounded by countryside so it was an escape for him from the pressures of ruling the country and somewhere to indulge his passion for hunting.

As well as having magnificent state rooms and servants’ quarters to visit there are also gardens and grounds to enjoy too. In fact, the Royal Horticultural Society even holds a flower show at the Palace each summer and there is also an equally famous maze to explore.

This means that a great deal of your visit will be spent outside so, whatever else you wear, make sure that you have a good, warm jacket too. A Barbour would be perfect for men and women, and some comfortable shoes are also a must as you’ll be covering quite a lot of ground even if you don’t get lost in the maze!

So hopefully this has given you some useful guidance about what to wear at these five places. It’s also vital to think about the dress codes for anywhere else that you might be planning to visit too. Because a moment spent checking before you go could ensure that you look and feel the part from the moment you arrive.

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