How to Style with Upscale Party Wear

As the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours” – and in April, it not only pours, but the temperature has a habit of flipping back and forth between crisp and cool, and hot and balmy on a daily basis. This is the season for celebratory affairs: bridal and baby showers, music and cultural festivals, garden parties and work outings fill the calendar days, and each requires a precise form of dress. Ladies are often left in the lurch with difficult decisions on what attire is most appropriate for both appearance and weather, while compensating with layers for both cloudy days and sunshine. If you’re left debating between party outfits, here are a few tips on how to choose the ensemble to make you look and feel your best.

Top to Bottom – When in doubt, high-waisted skirts and shorts and long shirttails are an elegant way to make for a cute yet conservative ensemble. When selecting a top, choose something with short sleeves on nice days, and three-quarter sleeves on cooler outings. Avoid super clingy materials or sheer pieces – there are better ways to grab attention! For example, a crop top is a trendy alternative for casual affairs, when in the company of friends (and maybe even family, too, although certainly not someone else’s). Opt for one that exposes only your midriff, and does so in a way that is classy and chic, like many of these pieces from GoJane. In a more traditional crowd, instead select a blouse with a unique cut, embellishment, or one that has an interesting back that is attractive without revealing too much skin.

For skirts and shorts, best practice says to go with the public school rule: the hem should be no shorter than where your fingertips hit when your arms are fully extended by your sides. Casual mixers and BBQ parties are perfect opportunities to bust out last year’s full-length maxi skirt, or dress up this year’s pair of Bermuda shorts with a pair of heels and well-placed jewelry.

Dressy – The Little Black Dress is slightly out of season during springtime, so girls need to get creative with their ensembles. Forego the spaghetti straps and plunging neckline, and select a dress that tastefully covers both your chest as well as your shoulders, with at least an inch of fabric afforded by the straps. A-line wrap dresses are a popular getup this time of year (Nordstrom has an awesome collection of plus-size options), and tunics have made an undeniable splash in the spring/summer 2014 runway collections. While retro style swing dresses and pencil skirt pieces add a touch of whimsy to more lighthearted engagements, an empire or deep V-neckline are classic choices for more upscale functions, such as galas or wedding receptions. It is important to remember when choosing your dress to tone down your look if the event is in someone else’s honor – a birthday, bridal or baby shower, for example – so not to upstage the bride, bride-to-be, or mama-to-be!

Layer Up – Buffer the breezes with a light jacket to complement your ensemble and help you to easily transition between in and outdoors. For garden parties, a simple cotton cardigan in white, gray, or pink will keep out the chill; networking events, a buttoned blazer will look stylish and put-together. For fancier affairs, pair your dress with a silk shawl or scarf, or, depending on the length and cut, with a cute cropped jacket that falls just below the bust.

Knee-length and thigh-high boots can give the edge to shorts and skirts in a more liberal setting while offering warmth not provided by sandals. Additionally, colored tights can transform those outfits into a whole new look; and for an extra layer, add a camisole underneath your blouse to match your top.

Final Notes: When walking the fine line between letting loose on nights and weekends and still maintaining appearances, you can let down your hair but not your guard! Keep your locks off your face with an embellished headband or cute clip, like the adorable combs and sticks found at France Luxe. In the springtime, your best bet is to don muted pastel colors in agreeable tones, and add volume with bright accessories including handbags and jewelry. Preserve an air of professionalism outside of work with a feminine watch like those from the Stuhrling Original collection found at ShopHQ. And if you’ll be in the presence of managers or executives, avoid form-fitting dresses and instead go for a full skirt or a shift dress, cinched in at the waist with a stunning belt. Keep jewelry seemingly simple from afar, yet interesting upon closer inspection, and complete your look with wedges or open-toe heels for dressy occasions, and flats and nice sandals for weekend parties and outings with friends.

About the Author: Alicia Sloane is an undergraduate journalist and fashion editor living out her dream in the Big Apple. She is a connoisseur of house music and cronuts, and loves spending her time window shopping in SoHo and grabbing a bite with friends in Brooklyn.