What to wear to a summer party

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 34 Comments

WOWSERS. Can we please implement a slo-mo function on the rest of the year.

It’s all just a little too speedy for my liking.

And it seems November is the new December when it comes to parties and gatherings.

If you want to catch up with me in December, I’m good to go. November? I may have an opening two weeks from now for a coffee.

But most probably not.

With all this busy-ness, there are more than a few events or parties on the horizon so I thought I’d get the style juices flowing with some options for what to wear to a summer party.

Events and occasions at this time of year can be as low key as a barbecue with friends and their kids or a glitz and glam as a work Christmas cocktail party.

Maybe you have a summer wedding to attend? Maybe you’re catching up with girlfriends for lunch to celebrate the end of the year?

Whatever you have planned, I hope these three outfits offer some styling inspiration.

Remember, shopping from your wardrobe is very OK. You might be pleasantly surprised after you do your wardrobe edit to find some pieces that haven’t been out to party for a while.

If you are in the market for a new frock or accessory, think about it’s usefulness beyond the occasion you’ve earmarked it for.

Always keep in mind the “cost per wear” equation … you can bring down that cost simply by knowing in advance the new purchase will work for a number of different occasions.

Important in the cost-per-wear factor is that you actually do wear your purchase more than once. I think it’s time we all moved on from the outdated notion that something should only be seen once, yes?

Any piece of clothing, pair of shoes or other accessory that makes us feel fabulous should get an opportunity to do that many times over.

Let’s get stuck in.

The casual summer party outfit

If you have kids, chances are these are the types of Christmas and summer gatherings you’re most likely going to be attending.

Whether you’re at someone’s home, at the beach or in a park, the emphasis is on comfort and keeping cool. Flat sandals are the go, as are loose, breathable clothing pieces.

Opt for a simple summer frock (short or maxi) or a shorts and top outfit like featured below. If the temperature is cooler where you live, opt for printed pants and tank and a jacket.

Don’t forget a hat and sunnies if you’re outdoors. And if a pool is involved, opt for a cover-up over your swimsuit.

What to wear summer party - casual

1. Lee Cooper for Big W top $29 | 2. Seed shorts $79.95 | 3. Trenery hat $59.95 | 4. Cat Hammill bracelet set $79.95 @ The Iconic | 5. Trenery sandal $129

The girls’ lunch summer party outfit

There’s something about heading out for a long lunch with your girlfriends that feels a little bit decadent. For me, that’s it’s a no-brainer that it’s a dress-up occasion.

You’re dressing for yourself but also for the occasion.

Girlfriends appreciate the effort that goes into an outfit. They are also more likely to appreciate any fashion direction you might be taking with your outfit.

It’s been my experience that fashion direction in an outfit is either completely lost on a male – or they notice it but immediately vocalise their disapproval of said direction.

I do wear heels to a girls’ lunch. After all, it seems like an opportune moment to do so as you’ll mostly be sitting down.

A maxi or knee-length frock is the way to go. Nothing you can’t sit in for hours. And nothing that’s going to restrict you from saying yes to dessert.


What to wear summer party - girls' lunch

1. Embody dress $69.95 (sizes 12-22) | 2. Seed sunglasses $49.95 | 3. Therapy heels $49.95 @ Styletread | 4. Sportscraft bag $149.95 | 5. Witchery necklace $69.95

The cocktail summer party outfit

I love that my wardrobe is casual for the every day but give me a chance to glam it up and I’m SO there. It’s the only party theme I’ll accept due to my aversion to fancy dress.

My first thought is always an LBD – a summer version – but I’ll also look at navy and other jewel tones.

There is always some form of bling and a heel. It’s a bit of a formula but it works for me and takes any stress out of getting frocked up for a cocktail occasion.

If you’re more comfortable in pants, look for a streamlined silk pant and team with a top that comes with its own bling or is suitable for a quick addition of something that sparkles. Or channel your inner ’70s disco diva in a jumpsuit. All the cool kids are doing that.

What to wear summer party - cocktail

1. Leina Broughton dress $195 @ Birdsnest | 2. Adorne necklace $29.98 (on sale) | 3. Target clutch $40 | 4. Samantha Wills ring $79 | 5. Tony Bianco heels $149.95 @ Styletread

A word on dressing for a summer wedding

You may have a summer wedding invitation attached to the front of your fridge?

Depending on the venue, location and dress code, either of the second two options above might work for you.

Afternoon or lunchtime wedding? A variation of the girls’ lunch summer party outfit would work.

Fancy glam evening affair? Dress your best with a cocktail theme in mind – unless it specifies black tie or formal. In which case you may need to invest in a long gown.

So tell me Stylers, do you have any end-of-year or Christmas parties and/or gatherings coming up? What’s the dress code?

Comments 34

  1. How timely Nikki, i logged on to BEG for your styling you assistance. I have a ”Big Deal Fancy Pants” Awards dinner in two weeks time. Dress code states ”Evening wear with style” My problem is whilst dealing with my auto-immune / chronic health issues & medication over the last 12 months i have wacked on 12k and not evenly i tell you. I am a classic apple with an 16DD/18DD bust, 97cm waist (non waist really) and thankfully slim hips, butt & legs. Everywhere i have tried tells me to add a belt etc. Please, my tummy is the largest part of my bod, all this does is accentuate the fact. Any ideas would be most appreciated?

    1. Hi Sharon, I’m not a fan of the belt on me as I have a short waist (not much distance between waist and wide hips – so just accentuates the hips). Go for a pant, top combination. Show off your legs in streamlined pants. They can be a silk fabric that drapes nicely. Then go for a top that floats and skims the tummy and bust area. Something like this http://www.harlowstore.com/collections/tops/products/jungle-love-tee

      Or a shift style dress … like this one http://www.harlowstore.com/collections/dresses/products/crave-t-dress

      Hope that helps!

      1. Big hugs Nikki, I appreciate
        you taking the time.

        Ditto the short waist, which is one of the reason i
        clothes envy so many of the outfits you feature.

        I was thinking pants but am
        concerned they may not be dressy enough.

        Totally love that Harlow dress & have the perfect kick ass heels to go with it. BUT whilst searching through your previous posts, I came across the convertible Sacha Drake Greciandress (& the Solange jumpsuit) I may just steal your entire look for the evening. Wondering though if it
        will be flowy enough to disguise the tummy??

  2. Thank you for reminding me to think ahead about the casual part of my wardrobe. It used to range from special occasion to work wear, and then straight down to stained and ratty t-shirts and shorts and trackies. Since finding you, I’ve built up a considered collection of basics (some of which also help me out at work and special events as well. Bonus!) and invitations to a BBQ no longer necessitate a hurried shopping trip. Sounds crazy, but that was how it was.
    I love the first look, especially the top which could be worn so many ways (see – I’m learning) and the shoes in the last two, and will check out the Embody dress.
    Thanks again for covering varied price points and exposing me to looks and labels I would never come across in my tiny town or even our regional centre. The internet’s wonderful for researching but it’s so BIG it can be intimidating at times. You’ve given me so many great starting points and I’m really so grateful.

    1. It’s not crazy – if you don’t have a regular need for casual, it’s tricky. You’re not in the groove of thinking casual. Took me awhile to adjust when I started working from home! But now most of my wardrobe is casual and special occasion … jackets then turn my casual into workwear if required for a meeting!

  3. Ooh that cocktail party outfit is doing things to me! Love the bright dress paired with the muted metallic and neutral accessories. Gorgeous!
    There are lots of catch ups with friends over the coming weeks, 2 work Christmas shows (1 dinner for the husband and 1 lunch for mine) and of course the main event itself – Christmas Day at our place. Again.

  4. My son’s wedding! in 2 weeks in our garden!! I am having a dress made quite similar to the red one featured. It’s in tangerine and I found a gorgeous long silk shirt I can wear as a jacket to cover my arms if I feel the need. I know I will wear both pieces again, together or with other outfits. The shoes are a floral wedge which I will be able to wear with everything from lbd to jeans – gotta be happy with that!

  5. Love your inclusion of the casual summer outfit, Nikki! Sometimes I think it’s easy to either fall into a rut or miss the mark at such events, especially when you have children or toddlers in tow, but you have shown how a few chice accessories and tan sandals keep an outfit so relaxed but still very modern and trendy! The red dress by Leina Broughton is a classic example of keeping it classy but glamouress for a more formal office or cocktail event… in any colour would work I think but here pictured in red in so tremendously festive and I love how you’ve paired nude and tasteful accessories with it. I’m sure one would get the chance to wear this style over and over as it flatters so many body types, it’s surely a winner and real wardrobe investment piece. Loved your ‘shop your own wardrobe’ idea too, as always – beautiful and very sage advice! 😉 x

  6. Perfect timing as always, Nikki. Next four weekends for me are 2 work do’s, daughter’s birthday, my birthday, early family Xmas get-together. 3 dressUPS, 2 dressDOWNS! You’ve made it easy. x

  7. My work Christmas Party is next week, and it’s a masquerade party.
    The social committee have ab artist offering face painting of masks in our breakout room in the afternoon beforehand. I’m not sure I’m going to commit to a mask I’ll have no choice but to walk the streets in before and afterwards, but at least you don’t have to worry about the restricted view you get with an actual mask.
    However, I’ll certainly be frocking up to celebrate- and shopping my wardrobe to do so.

  8. I have a Christmas party for my husbands soccer team in November ,at a restaurant so that’s easy,a Christmas party for my husbands work at Criniti’s in darling harbour so that calls fora lovely dress and a 50th birthday party in early December and then I’m hosting Christmas at my house this year I’m going to wear my Camilla for
    Lovely outfits Nikki I love that Embody dress and the Trenery sandals,thank you for doing research for us Xx

  9. So many things coming up starting with my mum’s (first) 70th long lunch this weekend, my cousin’s Christening, mum’s other 70th (!) a garden party, Christmas and several catch ups before another family wedding in the New Year! But a nude shoe and a great sandal go a long way as does a spray tan, a blow wave + a big smile!

  10. My work Christmas party is “dress to impress” but I am feeling a bit faded and fat atm. Am thinking pants and a dressy top but add a spray tan and get my nails done? Any other suggestions would be very welcome!

  11. I love that first outfit! I have a summer wedding coming up but it is a backyard affair with a BBQ so I am still deciding if I go glam or more casual- any suggestions? Lauren from SAHM I am.

  12. good post, thankyou nikki! … always helping to tweak the outfits!
    variations on themes etc! … this time of the year is insane to me!
    or it makes me more insane!!! … whatever! … I still like to look ok when I step outside of my comfort zone! … my home! … have a good one! love m:)X

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