The special occasion is one of the hardest to dress for.
What to wear?
As much as I love a special occasion, the what-to-wear is the bit that sends me into a panic.
Knowing what to wear is one element but shopping for it is where the trouble starts.
Occasion dressing is so much harder than every day dressing.
A special event requires planning and there is very rarely anything in the wardrobe that is suitable. If there is the vague possibility of an outfit coming together my experience tells me I either don’t like it, it doesn’t fit or I don’t feel good enough in it.
The problem is twofold.
Most of us don’t dress for enough special occasions and that means we don’t willingly invest in special occasion wear. See the problem? Don’t need it; don’t buy it. Need it; don’t own it.
My signature style tends to stop at day wear and a dressy dinner, so when it comes to formal wear or out of the norm celebrations my wardrobe is a little lost. This is where I have been going about it all wrong.
The way to solve the special occasion dilemma is to dedicate a small part of the wardrobe.
Time spent understanding what dressing for a special occasion requires and what suits us is truly time saved. Leaving this kind of investment to the last minute is never successful and searching days and even hours before an event usually turns into a disaster. I never find what I like, let alone what suits and I end up wearing an outfit that doesn’t really make me happy or make me feel I have made the right amount of effort.
So many occasions have turned that way for me.
Instead of feeling fabulous (because I didn’t spend the time) I have made do. I don’t want to do that anymore. Generally special occasion dressing is just that; the moment is one to remember, one to cherish and therefore worth dressing accordingly. If nothing else, think of the photos.
What’s the solution to special occasion dressing?
Leave behind the idea that a “special occasion” is not worth the cost.
This mind-set is the death knell for creating a wardrobe of special pieces that can take you where you need to go regardless of how dressy. Dressier pieces will cost more but if wisely bought they will last and not only save the day but also save money on a cost-per-wear basis.
Special occasions are worth the investment of both time and money.
Do not buy for a specific event; buy when you find the right outfit.
It is easy to ignore the formal section or the seriously grown up dinner dresses and tuxedo suits when shopping, for all those reasons we share. I can hear them in my head now as I write, ” I don’t need this”, “I will never wear this again” or “I will look when I have somewhere to wear such a beautiful gown”.
This kind of logic has done me a disservice and I still regret today not finding something fabulous for my daughter’s birthday party last year. I planned the party, forgot about the dress. The excuses came thick and fast but actually I was disappointed not to have found the right gown and if I am still thinking about it a year later then there is the proof.
If I had bothered to spend the time when I had the time I would have not had to wear a dress I wasn’t so thrilled with.
Whenever possible, don’t leave special occasion buying until the last minute.
Know your signature style.
A special occasion does not mean we dress in a way that is entirely unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
I think this kind of dress-up is a more elaborate, thought out version of us. A time when we can throw a little caution and make extra effort. I don’t think the mother of the bride has to wear what she doesn’t like and I think she can be true to herself. A black tie event or formal gala has many solutions.
The element in common is the knowledge of how we want to look. If classic and elegant is your mantra, then that’s the point to start. A bohemian and colourful style means just that.
Don’t be frightened of the special occasion.
Sometimes the thought can send us into a spiral of indecision. That’s the worst place to start. It is more helpful to view special occasion dressing as a challenge, an exciting one. Accept the wardrobe needs these pieces and keep an eye out for what might work.
What’s in the wardrobe?
There is one piece I believe essential to the special occasion and can go a long way to solving the what-to-wear drama.
I find the dress, in varying lengths, is the easiest piece to wear and to work for a special event. The length can change the story remarkably.
Knee length or above works for the less formal special occasion but is difficult to pass for many black tie events; the mid calf dress can 9 times out of 10 get you through. The mid-calf can also double as a more formal dinner dress.
A long evening gown is worn less but the right one can go everywhere and for years to come. A classic shape, with or without sleeves makes it through most seasons with the addition of a short jacket or shawl. The dress can be accessorised to make it feel different for each wear.
My answer to this question of what-to-wear for other than everyday is to wear a dress. I have learned that the dress is really one to love, the dress won’t let us down and the dress will fit in. It’s the one to wear when in doubt.
Don’t wait; there will always be a special occasion, xv.
Style Notes: The Special Occasion
images of suzy parker by richard avedon
thank you matchesfashion.com for the inspiration and for the constantly superb curation