Netballer Caitlin Bassett, singer Kate Ceberano and cricketer Kevin Pietersen are all living, Tweeting proof.

Last year each of these three stars was rejected entry to a Qantas lounge for failing to adhere to the airline’s dress code, and they all vented their frustrations via social media.

Each time a dress code rebel hits our news cycle, I cringe a little. I can’t help but wonder — often out loud within earshot of my husband — why the underdressed culprits think they have a case. If you want to attend a venue with a dress code you need to abide by that dress code. Simple, no?

But then my husband gives me that look. The one that says “oh sweet, innocent wife … is your memory really that short?”

He’s a patronising bastard, but he’s good looking so I’ll keep him. He’s also one of the most optimistic people I know and, in 2009, he taught me a life lesson that has served me well ever since. That life lesson is the advice I pass on today.

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The backdrop is an uncharacteristically sunny London. My husband (then boyfriend) is visiting from Sydney and I had planned an itinerary loaded with British icons. Next stop, high tea at the Ritz London.

You can see where this is going, right? I mean, of course, we were dressed nicely — we understood the sense of occasion — but, stupidly, we had not counted on an official dress code.

Men: collared shirt. My man: no collar.

From where we stood, rejected, I could see what we were missing and I could see those who were enjoying it without us. It was the woman in the pink parachute tracksuit and sneakers who riled me most. How could she be deemed more appropriately dressed than my on-trend date?

Said date could see this question rising and he knew it was about to bubble over. He gently squeezed my arm implying “I’ve got this” and I watched on as my optimist coolly navigated difficult waters.

He smiled. “OK,” he said calmly, reflectively to our host. “Is there anything you can do to help us?”

He went on to set the scene, calmly and with a smile. He took full responsibility for his error, calmly and with a smile. He reiterated his plea, calmly and with a smile: “Is there any way you can help us?”

Minutes later, over Earl Grey tea and scones — while wearing a brand new collared shirt the Ritz had back-of-house — he explained his strategy. It went something like this.

“Put the ball in their court … blah blah blah … give them the opportunity to be the good guy … blah … most people would prefer to help if they can … blah de blah … no one wants to help someone who is arguing with them … blah blah … cucumber sandwich?”

I was all ears, which was lucky because — unfathomably — I got myself into an almost identical position only months later.

Kate Symons negotiated her way into a pair of sneakers. (Pic: Supplied)

I couldn’t quite believe it when the host at The Peninsula Hong Kong said my sandals, which she deemed to be thongs, didn’t meet the dress code. My instinct was to argue the obvious sandal credentials of my footwear but I knew there was a better way.

I smiled. “OK,” I said calmly, reflectively to our host. “Is there anything you can do to help us?”


I dined in sneakers that day. They were borrowed from the hotel spa. Although white sneakers are quite the fashion statement today, it wasn’t such a great look in 2009. But the unexpected ensemble did provide plenty of giggles and a great photo opportunity.

It also validated my husband’s philosophy, one I would encourage anyone — celebrity or otherwise — to trial before resorting to the far-less-effective social media rant.

You never know, you could even end up with a new shirt…

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