How To Find The Perfect Occasionwear Dress for your Upcoming Events

What I’m Wearing

Dress by Needle & Thread  // Earrings by Monica Vinader // Necklace by Monica Vinader  // Bracelets by Monica Vinader // Ring by Monica Vinader

Something for your next Soirée…

Don’t you just wish it was acceptable to wear dresses like this every day?! I absolutely adore occasion wear, and any excuse to dress up – I will. I dress smart on a day to day basis, always turning up to events just a little bit over dressed, but when the dress code on the invitation says ‘cocktail’ or ‘black tie’, there’s no holding me back! Far from the racy body-con dresses, extravagant fascinators and clunky wedge heels that come up when you search ‘occasion wear’ on Google, this post is all about finding beautiful outfits that suit your style, and suit your upcoming events perfectly. So whether you’re attending a day at the races, a wedding, engagement party, a ball  or prom, a red carpet event or something else along those lines, here are my tips for mastering occasion wear, no matter your usual style.


But first, let’s de-code those dress codes! Take note of the dress code on your invitation to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for your upcoming events.

White Tie – this is extremely formal, the dress I’m wearing in the imagery here would be perfect for a White Tie event. You should opt for a full length ball gown, and optional gloves. As for the chaps, dressed in tails with a white waistcoat and bow tie would be appropriate, along with black leather shoes, or military uniform if applicable.

Black Tie – the secondment formal after White Tie, this is the ‘usual’ dress code for weddings, and usually for evening events especially. Ladies; cocktail dresses or full length gowns are acceptable unless the dress length is specified, and men should wear a tuxedo with bow tie and leather shoes after 5pm.

Black Tie Optional or ‘Formal’ – it makes me chuckle when I see this on invites, it’s a little bit ‘undecided’ but traditionally a tuxedo can be worn by men but it’s not obligatory. Us girls can wear a long gown, or a formal cocktail dress, or if the event is in the morning, a smart tailored suit or separates outfit would work too.

Lounge Suite – a very typically British wedding dress code, this for men is simply a suit, usually black or grey with a white shirt, and forewoman a cocktail dress at knee length is perfect while a long gown would be a bit OTT.

Morning Suit – usually this would be for a very traditional wedding. We should opt for knee length dresses or a skirt with a jacket and a hat,and men can wear a grey or black morning suit, striped trousers, waistcoat and shirt; top hat optional!

Cocktail Attire – usually the dress code for evening events and evening weddings, opt for an elegant frock that’s neither too formal or too casual. I wore the dress from this blog post from Needle & Thread to recent events with this dress code. Make sure you don’t end up looking like you’re going clubbing – that’s NOT what cocktail dress means! And men should wear a dark suit.

Casual – despite how this sounds, you really can’t just turn up wearing whatever you’d like! Jeans are not appropriate at most formal occasions, and us girls should still opt for a summer dress, or a pretty blouse with a skirt or smart trousers.

If the invitation does not specify, I’d opt for something ‘safe’ like a midi length dress, and a suit for the boys. For extra re-assurance, reach out to the bridal party or host to find out what the dress code will be – after all, those wedding pictures last forever!!

Occasionwear Etiquette

Never wear white to a wedding – duh! Unless you’ve been specially asked to by the bride.

Do not show too much skin. Mini skirts, bosoms on display, and tight or see-through dresses are a big no!

Do make an effort! Weddings and other special occasions take a lot of planning, so it’s not nice to turn up looking like you’re not that bothered.

Don’t dress too loud or OTT. As a guest at a special event, let the host or the bride take the limelight.

If you’re wearing gloves, do take them off when eating at a formal wedding.

How To Dress Up Your Occasionwear

Up Your Outerwear Game – while your new Allsaints suede jacket is perfect for a Summer BBQ, smarter occasions require something a little smarter. If it will be warm, opt for a cashmere cardigan or a short bolero jacket, but for Winter weddings and formal occasions you might want to invest in a smart coat. My current favourite is my Ted Baker floral coat that I featured in my Romantic Lookbook!

If you live in casual attire and can think of nothing worse than putting on a girly frock, opt for a pastel jacket and trouser duo. The highstreet has some beautiful options, from Mango to Reiss. Add a gold belt and a pair of fabulous heels like the Valentino Rockstuds and you’re good to go!

Re-wear last years special dress! A special occasion dress needn’t be a new dress, in fact, you’re probably less likely to turn up wearing the same as someone else if you re-wear an old favourite! Add a voluminous blow dry, new jewellery and a bronze fake tan and you’ll instantly revive your well-loved dress.

What are your tips for getting dressed up for special occasions?