It is only now that I realised how long I have been attending diplomatic events – National Days in particular. For someone who’s not a diplomat per se, I’ve had my fair (ok, maybe more than fair) share of diplomatic parties back when I was working as a journalist.
When I married my husband, it was like sealing the deal: I’ll be attending these things for the next couple of decades or so. Not that I’m complaining. I find such events fun and very informative – a chance to learn about other cultures – and to make new friends.
To be honest about it, Diplomatic Events (be it National Days or cultural showcases) are very important. Whether you show up or not can be deemed a statement (so always RSVP!), friendships are made, bilateral relationships are strengthened, meetings are set over food, introductions that can lead to new and important projects between governments and private organisations are made, ideas are born, and some important talks and exchanges of views between diplomats are done on the sidelines. It’s not just a party as how some people would describe it. It’s so much more.
In Manila, I always had it covered. When my friends (fellow reporters) and I get invited to a diplomatic event or when my then-fiancé now-husband will take me as a +1, I usually know what to wear and who I will be seeing that night. The diplomatic community in Manila is a rather warm and tight-knit bunch and I knew almost all the Ambassadors and their wives. They were all nice and rather friendly to the point where we share jokes and tell each other about our daily lives.
One Ambassador in Manila was always early for parties. He arrives earlier than most of the guests (even the journalists), would mingle and talk to people prior to the event itself, stay for the opening, the toasts, and the speeches, and leave right away. My friend Michaela and I would often arrive either on the dot or a few minutes into the speeches. Blame it on our work schedule and the horrible traffic but we always make it to these events anyway. One time, at Bastille Day, Michaela and I made a joke to the Ambassador – “Sir! Why are you leaving already? We just got here. Are you avoiding the media today?” (Context: Some reporters in Manila are avoided by some diplomats for being too pushy. No, Michaela and I are not like that. We like to think that we’re part of the chill and friendly media crowd. Wink, wink.) He laughed and said “Well you two are always late! I have another appointment tonight so I’ll catch you at the next one.”
In our defence, we had a couple of stories to do that day before heading to the party. Stories come first (as our editors would want us to say) before anything else. 😉
Fast forward to 5 August 2014. The Egyptian National Day – our first here in Kuala Lumpur. Not our first event (we’ve attended quite a number of events the past weeks – MH17 memorial, Korean Folk Dance showcase, etc.) but our first, actual National Day.
Ack. What to wear? As a journalist, you can come in smart casual, violate the dress code a bit, or even wear dresses with short skirts to an event hosted by a conservative organisation. No, that’s not right and I personally don’t do it. I find it disrespectful. But journalists do get away with a lot of things. We always have that “Just came from a different coverage” card (which I guess could be okay if you really came from a different coverage where a cocktail dress was not practical). I’ve seen a reporter in sneakers during the EU Film Fest opening (Black tie event) in Manila about a year ago. It was awkward for her but people from the delegation made sure to make her feel welcome despite the inappropriate attire.
I’ve always made sure not to make a fashion faux pas that can be embarrassing to me as a professional, and now to my husband and the Embassy we represent. However, it is also against my will to sacrifice my love for classic pieces that highlight my features that I am rather comfortable with. I also make sure to hide my tattoos (on the back and near the navel) during formal events – especially if they are hosted by a conservative organisation or if there will be conservatives around. I always strive to find a perfect balance among these criteria.
I know Egypt as an Arab republic, predominantly Muslim with a good percentage of Christians (Coptic Christians, mostly. My husband told me that night). So, I guess it’s best to go for something classic and skip the skimpy. So I decided to pull off an Audrey Hepburn. In my humble opinion, you can never go wrong with her as your style inspiration.
All the pieces were bought in Manila. The black turtle neck is from Spanish brand Shana which recently opened in the Philippines. Do they have it here in KL? I have yet to check. I am a huge fan of basics for easy mixing and matching and they have a great line with varying colours and cuts.
The skirt is from Apartment 8 Clothing, a Filipino brand that makes beautiful pieces ranging from classic to girly designs. I purchased several of their designs before leaving for KL as the quality and the fabric are all top grade.
The shoes are from Charles and Keith. I fell in love with it’s vintage appeal and was greatly thrilled when I brought it to the counter only to be told that it’s at 60% off. Who doesn’t love a sale? And you know what’s better? There’s Charles and Keith here in KL! Yay for affordable shoes and bags with great design! 😀
The woven clutch with the intricate design that I am holding is from Kultura – Filipiniana themed clothes, accessories, home decor, and craft heaven. It’s our go-to store for a lot of quick buys and gifts for friends from different countries.
I tied my hair and placed a black ribbon barrette on it from Evita Peroni on my hair so as not to make it look bare.
The accessories and jewellery were all gifts – from the silver + black-blue Swarovski earrings (friend), the silver necklace with a girl from the Victorian era as its pendant (aunt), and the silver watch (husband). Thank you! <3
As for makeup, I decided to keep it minimal and natural-looking. Sticking with Benefit Cosmetics‘ Brow Zings, Gimme Brow, and Benetint for the brows and cheeks. For the eyes, I used eyeshadow from my Chanel Les Ombres 4-piece palette in Spices (my current favourite) and some eyeliner from a brand called Hema which I got in Amsterdam (which is super affordable and long-lasting). Dusted my face with MAC‘s Studio Fix Powder in NC25 (used to be an NC20 girl but I wanna look a bit darker!) plus the Enchanted One Lipstick from the Alluring Aquatic collection.
The lipstick was a birthday gift from a dear friend (Love you, Armi!) and is such a great nude colour. You can hardly see it in this photo so I’ll just make a separate review for it later on. I miss writing makeup reviews.
All in all, I liked our first National Day here in KL. At first, I felt weird not knowing anybody but we were able to make friends with people from different embassies right away. I loved the way Marriott Hotel decorated the ballroom for the occasion. It was very elegant and they had a miniature display of the Pyramids of Giza at the centre of the dessert buffet. I don’t have photos of this as I didn’t bring my camera and my Android phone isn’t churning out good photos. Boo hoo. I should get an iPhone soon so I can snap photos even though I don’t have my Sony with me. But I’m gonna wait for the new model since it’s bound to come out in a couple of months anyways. I wouldn’t want to buy the current model then regret it as soon as the iPhone 6 comes out.
Tonight, we’re going to the Singaporean National Day and I’m still deciding on what to wear but I’m gonna have to go get ready now.
More later. 🙂