Years ago my wardrobe resembled a scene out of 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl. I had a closet dedicated entirely to occasionwear dresses. They were not bridesmaids dresses but they were not far off it – they were dresses I wore once, maximum twice, and yet they were monopolizing my precious wardrobe space without any return on investment. I have since said good-bye to most of them and never went back go to the same way of shopping when it comes to occasion gear.
I have to say I hate shopping for formal dresses for myself. Like, with a passion! My brain runs ahead of me every time calculating the cost per wear and I get buyer’s remorse before even hitting the shops. Years ago there was no pressure on having a new dress for every wedding/special occasion but in today’s world of social media, once you wear the dress, it is all over Facebook and Instagram photos. Even if you think it is the prerogative of the rich and famous to worry about not wearing the same dress twice, you hardly want to appear in the same dress in family or friends photos time after time.
So let me share some practical occasion wear strategies with you that I turn to on a regular basis for myself and my clients.
The key criteria I look for in occasion wear is versatility – you want to be able to get wear out of those pieces after the occasion. I’m not talking about just wearing the dress to another wedding, but rather looking for pieces that can be re-invented in a variety of ways. So here are a few approaches that could work:
While buying a dress might seem like the easiest option, look for separates instead. Tops and bottoms can create a variety of looks letting you tap into different colour palettes, styles and silhouettes. The two collages below show how the same skirt can be paired with different pieces/accessories for a fresh vibe every time you wear it. With the right separates the combinations are endless!
LOOK FOR DRESSING UP/DOWN POTENTIAL
You will get a truly great return on investment if you buy pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on what you put with them. Usually clean silhouettes in block colours work well as they serve as a blank canvas, but you can sometimes come across prints that are just as versatile. The key idea is to look for something that can be dressed up for your dressy occasion as well as dressed down for more laid-back outings.
I’ve worn the floral two-piece in the featured photo in so many different ways. It looks quite dressy when worn together but I wear the top to work on a regular basis teamed up with jeans or cream trousers. The skirt looks great with a denim shirt or a slouchy sweater for a feminine casual look.
Don’t forget that dressing up/down is not just the case of adding flat shoes or heels. Layering can have a huge impact on the final look so take that into consideration.
And another little remark – experiment with a jumpsuit instead of a dress. It can look just as dressy but has a bit more of an edge.
The beauty of accessories lies not only in their capability to finish off the look, but also in their supreme power to distract the eye. Accessorizing is the easiest way to create focal points. How often can you remember the whole outfit someone wore head to toe? Rarely. More often than not you remember certain items that particular jumped out to you. This is exactly one of the jobs the focal points perform brilliantly. In the first collage below the dress is taking the center stage even though the accessories are quite vibrant. However, when you compare it to the second look, you will see that all of a sudden there are a lot more pieces competing for attention and when the blazer is put on, the dress plays the part of the second violin.
Now, I’ve taken as bold of a dress as I could find just to demonstrate the concept. If you opt for something less loud, you will find even more opportunities for efficient accessorizing as well as layering.
DON’T BUY – RENT
This tip has nothing to do with anything above but is also a great way how to nail your wedding guest look without spending a fortune and getting stuck with the dress in the closet. This is also the option that will allow you to forget about practicality and go for a show-stopper of a dress at just a fraction of its price. Rental service for occasion wear has become very common in the last few years so there are a good few places offering it. Just do a Google search for your area!
Hope these tips will help you to spend your money wisely while getting dolled up for a special event. Occasion wear typically has the highest cost per wear in your entire wardrobe if you do it without a plan. Stick to these principles and you will quickly see how many more options your occasion wear wardrobe will deliver. Would love to hear what you think in the comments!