When it comes to party dressing, we have some basic rules. It’s ok to go for a statement, ‘out there’ piece, provided you can see yourself wearing it on more than a couple of occasions. Also, bold texture and colour can work in the evening and, lastly, timeless party wear you will love forever doesn’t have to be boring.
We love the look of a slick suit in the evening, but for those of us on the petite side, with narrow shoulders, it can be a challenge to find styles that don’t swamp us. However this suit (from Topshop, believe it or not) is beautifully cut and will look great on most smaller frames. The jacket is snug on the shoulders but nice and long, giving your whole body a lengthening effect. The high-waisted trousers are perfectly cut on the ankle and the fabric is just divine: smooth, supple gold velvet for a dramatic effect. Pair it with gold hoops, a festive slogan jumper and platform heels.
After a statement flat, we love a statement skirt. This version is about as WOW as it gets! Surprisingly though, the bold colours and sequins are quite flattering on – mainly due to the width of the lines and the mix of vertical and horizontal stripes. The great thing about this skirt is that it barely needs any dressing up; all you need to add is a heel and a simple knit.
Although we are huge fans of a beautiful heel for the evening, we also love the simplicity of a statement flat. There is a certain Cinderella element to these glittery shoes from L.K.Bennett that drew us to them. They work brilliantly in updating a velvet suit or silk maxi dress and are a lot more comfortable than a glass slipper.
When it comes to adding comfortable height to a outfit, nothing does it quite as well as a platform. Revived from their 90s slumber, platforms are once again on the party circuit. Our advice is to invest sparingly in this trend. As much as we love these now for their comfort and leg-lengthening abilities, we don’t see them as a forever buy. (Or if they are, you’ll have to put them in storage and showcase them every 20 years or so.)
A flamenco skirt is top of our list for eveningwear separates. It’s eternally flattering and makes your hips, waist and thighs look tiny, while adding a little excitement to your look. This Alice + Olivia version is something we can imagine pulling out in the day, too, with boots and a chunky knit. It’s one of those not-just-for-parties buys that we love to invest in.
When looking for timeless eveningwear, Emilia Wickstead is your one-stop shop. Her simple yet striking designs often feature stretched silhouettes, long sleeves and covered-up necklines, achieving an understated and elegant look. This frothy, macaroon-pink dress is a vision to see and a dream to wear, cut beautifully on the waist with billowy long sleeves and a full skirt that follows your every movement (we love how it’s cut slightly shorter at the front to show off the tip of your shoes – so clever). It’s just the right side of sexy and fabulous, all wrapped up in one perfect pink frock.
A box clutch is eternally useful when it comes to accessorising your party favourites. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to find one that won’t bankrupt you. We were so excited when we spotted this version at the Marks & Spencer press day. It’s fun, structured and big enough for all your essentials.
When it comes to maxi dresses, especially 70s versions, I feel I am quite the expert. This Ghost piece ticks so many boxes – elegant, flattering and timeless – which is what you need from a dress that you will possibly only wear once or twice a season. It’s also made from a heavy satin which drapes and falls rather than clings. So you can go for that second helping of pudding.
At times where less is more, a beautifully cut pair of trousers and a soft cashmere roll neck paired with statement accessories (or not) is just what you need. These L.K.Bennett black velvet trousers have been a fantastic discovery and can be worn time and time again with any party top. We also love the mesh polka-dot courts from Kurt Geiger and glitter clutch for an all-black look with a point of difference.
A kitten slipper has become a recent obsession of ours. Dressy enough to upgrade the most casual piece to evening-appropriate, they are also so easy to wear and slip on. This velvet pair from Marks & Spencer stole our hearts, as they are the perfect fit, with a certain Marie Antoinette quality. They are also selling out quickly, so make sure you don’t wait too long.
Nothing says eveningwear like tulle; there is something about this fabric that will forever take us back to our dressing-up boxes as little girls, and isn’t getting ready for a party just the grown-up version of those moments? This Isa Arfen polka-dot tulle gown with sweetheart neckline and gathered sleeves is the perfect princess dress for the modern woman.
I find a wrap dress endlessly practical. It can be dressed it up or down depending on the accessories you pair it with, and this version can even be worn over trousers for extra versatility. We are also having a little fan moment for velvet and midnight blue, as both make for effortless evening dressing.
A clutch is an obvious evening bag option, however we love a mini bag as an alternative – and especially a mini bucket bag. The delicate tassel detail on this Kayu number really lifts a black dress and gives your outfit something a little extra.
As predictable as it may seem, a little red frock is just what you need to face the never-ending stream of cocktails, parties and events in the run-up to Christmas. You can trust Alexa Chung to design the perfect mini dress to show off your legs while also being demurely covered up – check out this ruby-red, crushed velvet frock. Pair it with thick black tights and gold jewellery for a fabulous festive ensemble.
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