Formal events and important parties demand a dress that’s appropriate for the occasion and there are a lot of ways to go wrong. If you’ve ever watched the Hollywood glitterati hit the red carpet at the Oscars, you’ve probably said to yourself, “What was she thinking” more than just a few times.
Those women have professionals who dress them and access to all the latest fashions. (By the way, having access to all the latest fashions can be a quick ticket to complete failure, see tip #2 below.) What you need are five tips for choosing the perfect formal for any occasion, and these need to be tips that stand the test of time.
1. Choose a Good Fabric
Nothing deep sixes your looks as quickly as a bad fabric. It’s tempting to say to yourself, “Heck, I’m probably only going to wear this dress one time, why spend the money on an expensive fabric?” First, with this attitude you’re backing yourself into a corner and guaranteeing that you’ll only wear the dress once. A cheap fabric makes a dress look cheap and by extension, that impression will also tarnish the woman who’s wearing it. Further, cheap materials do not flatter the body as well as good fabrics.
2. Don’t Follow Trends
Chaperone a high school prom sometime. You’ll get a feel for trends in formal gowns. If you can’t do that, dig up your high school yearbook and look at the pictures from your prom. Don’t the overly trendy dresses look horrible today? It’s the same with adult formal wear. Stick to classic looks that are always flattering and always in style.
3. Get the Right Color
If you haven’t had your colors done, you can find places on the web that will provide this service or connect with a local consultant. There are some do-it-yourself guides that will give you a good idea of the direction you need to go. I also need to put in a plug for the black dress. It can be either the classic Little Black Dress or a longer black dress. With the right accessories, these can easily be dressed up to match the occasion.
4. Think Body Shape
As with every piece of clothing in your wardrobe, when you start flipping through the racks you should be looking for designs that work with your basic body shape. Here are some simple guidelines:
Hourglass figure: Pick a dress that comes in at the waist.
Straight up and down: Find a dress with some detailing around the top and that cinches in at the waist. Show off your legs.
Apple shape: If you carry a bit of weight around your tummy, accentuate your bust and legs—however don’t get too sexy, keep it tasteful. Find a dress that holds you in some.
Big shoulders: Wear a dress with volume below the waist to balance your shoulders.
Pear shape: Get a dress that cuts in under the bust, like an empire line. Volume in the shoulders is also a good idea.
5. Avoid Trains
Much of the impression you make at formal events is how you carry yourself and interact with other guests. Don’t handicap yourself immediately by trying to deal with a train or a fishtail hem. These make life difficult for you and can even cause problems for those around you.
As a final word of advice, going more simple is often preferred. With the right accessories you can dress yourself properly to meet the style requirements for a wide range of events. You’ll be able to get real value out of the investment you’ve made in your formal dress.
Carrie Thompson is a marketing strategist for Zando: http://www.zando.co.za/women/dresses. They have a wide selection of shoes and clothing available for purchasing online to help you avoid crowds and long lines.