Festive dressing

What to wear, from cocktail socials to casual get-togethers

Wondering whether the feminine blouse you wore to your best friend’s baby shower works for evening cocktails? (Psst, it does.) I can relate: choosing an outfit for a holiday event isn’t an easy task. Most of us have enough trouble figuring out what to wear to work every day! So, here are some rules to help you decode holiday invitations and dress for any festive occasion.

Casual event

An informal gathering doesn’t mean you should show up in jeans and a T-shirt. Try mixing an item usually reserved for the evenings, such as a satin blazer or lace skirt, with a basic pair of jeans, black pants or a crisp white shirt. You won’t look out of place if you dress a chic item down; you’ll make a stylish impression.

Black tie

It’s time to make an impact and try a dramatic look. If you can, stick to a floor-sweeping dress. This style is more elegant than a knee-length number. Choose sophisticated fabrics like satin, charmeuse or silk (cotton or linen are best suited for daytime events). Luxurious accents such as a beaded shawl, metallic scarf or fur wrap are elegant companions that increase the wow factor. But adding something dramatic doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Trendy stores such as Le Château and H&M sell dazzling jewellery like chandelier earrings, beaded bracelets and multi-strand pearls at affordable prices.


This is the perfect occasion for the little black dress. Choose a shorter length than what you’d wear for a formal event, but go with the same fabric (satin, velvet, silk, chiffon, jersey). Turn your outfit up a notch by adding bold and trendy accent colours such as bronze, silver or deep purple in jewellery or a cover-up. If you don’t want to show off your legs, sophisticated evening pants paired with an embellished jacket and show-stopper shoes are a perfect alternative.

Business casual

This type of description usually means the event is work related. So, stick to your workaday suit but jazz it up by swapping your pinstriped shirt for a jewel-toned camisole, or trade in your suit pants for a flirty skirt. Stores such as French Connection, Jacob and Banana Republic have a range of options you can choose from, from feminine to sexy. Simple accessories such as a glittery bag or heels can also dress your regular suit up for the evening.


These can take place in the afternoon, so leave your party gown at home. Your best bet is a classic shift dress, skirt suit or dressy pants to anchor your outfit. Add one of fall’s top accessory trends, such as a glossy clutch, fringed scarf or patent leather pump, to take your outfit from classic to fabulous.