11 party season style tips

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 25 Comments

Next week on the social calendar I have an evening boutique spring soiree, a charity long lunch and an afternoon/evening 30th birthday celebration in the city.

I don’t say this to boast. Far from it. I’m already fearful for my liver and my future sleep-deprived state.

I say it as an example of how social events in the last quarter of the year can fill your calendar faster Mr SY filling my wine glass on a Friday night.

Yes, there is always the option to say no – and I do exercise that option frequently – but on a week like next week, these are events I say a big YES to.

You may not be as busy next week but it might be another week or fortnight in the lead up to the end of 2015. Yesterday, I shared my 11 party season beauty tips and today I’m sharing my 11 party season style tips.

These are the tips to follow that will take the stress out of finding an event or party outfit that you feel comfortable and confident in.

I’m also answering some reader questions about what to wear to events and occasions this summer.

1. Get out your calendar and highlight key event dates. It doesn’t matter if the calendar is on your phone or old-school on the fridge, pinpoint those key events that are already been booked in.

2. Make a list of those events in date order. This is your working list and the foundation of your event wardrobe planning modus operandi. You can do this electronically or in a notebook or journal – whatever works easiest for you.

3. Beside each event on your list make a note of any specified dress code. If no dress code is noted then ask friends or family attending the same event what type of clothes they’re wearing. Dress codes are so damn ambiguous sometimes. I wrote this post to help decipher the formal vs cocktail code. And then I ran into a gorgeous reader in Sacha Drake, Paddington, last week who was looking for an outfit for a semi-formal event (*waves Karen*). Geez – confusion, much. For the record, translate it as cocktail.

Party summer style 2015 | girls' lunch

1. Metalicus top $119.95 @ Birdsnest | 2. Louenhide pants $189.95 | 3. Surafina clutch $129 | 4. Ruby Olive bangle $35 | 5. Verali heel @ Styletread $79.95

4. Beside each event on your list make a note of the location or venue.  A beachside occasion will be more relaxed than a fancy CBD restaurant and you’ll feel comfortable dressing accordingly. If you’re travelling away from home do keep an eye on the weather forecast via the weather app on your phone. This will give you a pretty good forecast a week or so out, so you’ll know whether you have to adapt your outfit because it’s hotter or cooler than expected.

5. Beside each event on your list make a note of the time of day of the event. A lunch-time event is most likely to be less dressy than evening but depending on the occasion or the location, it will still probably mean frocking up.

6. Look inside your wardrobe. Now that you’ve got your head around the type of event and the possible dress code, it’s time to “shop” at home. Occasion pieces don’t get to come out to play as often as our everyday clothes so before you shop for something new, check what you already have hanging in your wardrobe. It could be a favourite from a previous spring-summer that you’d forgotten about. If you bought it for a specific occasion, take it out again for a different type of occasion, with perhaps different guests from that first one. Honestly though, I don’t think that anyone but us keeps tally of what we wore when and where. If you want to give the frock or outfit a fresh look, do that with a new pair of shoes or a clutch.

7. Don’t head to the shops without a clear idea of the type of outfit you’re looking for. Create a shopping wishlist so you stay on track and make the most of your shopping time. Browsing online (I call this research) before you head in store is also a great way to save time and get clear on what you’re looking for.

Party style summer 2015 | what to wear to a wedding

1. Sacha Drake dress $599 | 2. Swarovski bracelet $99 | 3. Seed Heritage clutch $69.95 | 4. Siren heels $149.95 | 5. Samantha Wills earrings $99

8. Consider whether buying one new occasion outfit for the season could work across a number of events. You could have a family wedding to attend and then back that outfit up at your office Christmas party. If you think beyond the new outfit’s first wear then you are ticking the fashion budget box – big time.

9. Start with the frock – or main garment piece – when styling an outfit. Yes, you may come across THE MOST FABULOUS pair of shoes and decide they must be the centrepiece of your outfit but, trust me, this is a more challenging way to go about it. If you start with the frock then you can work to find the coordinating accessories. This is very important when putting together a race-day outfit (you can find more race-day style tips here and here). Not a frock kind of girl? Silk pants can be dressed up beautifully for a day-time or evening event.

party style summer 2015 what to wear to the races

1. Belle Bird @ Birdsnest dress (size 12-22) $99.95 | 2. Jendi fascinator $89 @ Petrol Boutique | 3. Top End wedges @ Styletread $159.95 | 4. Karen Walker sunglasses $295 @ David Jones | 5. David Jones clutch $79.95 @ David Jones

10. Buy shoes that suit the occasion. Killer heels are just that if you’re at an event where you’re standing on your feet all evening. Look for a heel height below 8cm or opt instead for a wedge. Love flats? Team them with a maxi frock and no-one will be the wiser.

11. Don’t buy it unless you love it. I don’t have many rules but, when it comes to your personal style, I’ll tell you something for nothing: if that garment doesn’t bring a sparkle to your eye in the change room, it certainly won’t when you get it home. Never settle for a a clothing piece – an event piece in particular. You want to feel THE BUSINESS at that event and that feeling starts with a garment or outfit that makes you feel that way from the moment you first try it on.


Reader questions

Tracey has her daughter’s formal is coming up and the parents attend pre-dinner drinks and canapés with the students before going off for their own dinner. She wants to look lovely for photos but doesn’t want to take any sparkle away from her daughter’s special day. Nat Willmott also asked something similar on Instagram.

I’ve been there Tracey and Nat and I hear you. You do need to dress up a bit because of the photos but I think keep your dress at cocktail length or wear a pants/top outfit. You’ll still looked dressed up but not like you’re also going to the formal. Here’s a post I wrote after Miss SY’s school formal a couple of years ago.

Linda has a formal wedding to attend in early January in Melbourne and is looking for tips on what to wear. 

As in this post, Linda, with formal as the dress code you’ll find both cocktail and full-length gowns in attendance. Check in with friends/family attending and see what they’re opting for and go with that if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Jaclyn is heading to her brother’s wedding is in December in Melbourne. She’s size 14-16, six foot tall and breastfeeding so would like a flattering outfit to suit the occasion. 

Breastfeeding and event wear is tricky. You have a couple of options – look for a dress that is stretchy and wraps across the bust (like this one) or opt for a pants and top outfit like I’ve featured above.

Jules’ son is getting married next year in Hervey Bay at the Botanical Gardens and wonders if a maxi dress is appropriate for the mother of the groom. 

I say YES, Jules. If that’s what you feel most comfortable in then go for it. Maxis can be dressed up so easily. You can add a shrug or a jacket if it’s cooler.

Georgina has a ball coming up and the theme is Havana nights and wants to know what she could buy that would allow her to wear again.

Oh Georgina, themed events are the trickiest of them all and so not my favourite. If you can anchor your themed outfit with something already in your wardrobe then that helps with confidence, I think. Typically with this particular theme you’re looking for a ’50s-style frock – fitted bodice and flared skirt. If this is a style that suits you then there are plenty of designs out there now that you could but now and wear afterwards. This one from current Veronika Maine would fit the theme.


So tell me, what events do you have coming up? Do you have any specific style questions?

Comments 25

  1. Right on time for this time of year! Thankyou for your tips as always Nikki! Do you think a Camilla round neck kaftan (full length) styled one shoulder, worn with fabulous long crystal earrings and metallic high heel could be ok for a ball? It’s more like a black tie work awards night not a full on ball-gown kinda ball.

  2. Love all your tips- I have a 95th and 60th coming up and don’t want to look too glam but definitely want to dress up a bit. they are both lunches so I love the white top and printed pants look you have out together above!

  3. Yes I think you could definitely do it – great heels and a statement necklace. Maybe check with others who are going – if they’re doing the full ball gown thing you may need to go down that road. If there is a mix of cocktail and long gowns you’ll fit in though!

  4. Gorgeous choices there! Love those pants in the first one, and I’m not usually one for loose pants. Must reassess this unofficial ‘rule’ of mine.

  5. Wow Nikki I love all of these 3 outfits and would be happy to but every item you’ve recommended. If only. Would certainly last me through the season. I usually buy one party frock at this time of year to last me through the end of year season and then mix it up with frocks from previous years. Haven’t bought one yet. There’s a lot going on – a big birthday celebration for my husband this Saturday night (at home), school functions, work functions, a couple of 50th birthdays (formal and relaxed) and then of course ChrisTmas parties. I adore the Sacha Drake dress you’ve shown but think it could be too overwhelming for me. Maybe need to visit the store!

  6. always helpful thanks nikki! … good outfits and tips!
    dad is turning 90 in a couple of weeks and he’s organizing a party! … yes he’s like that! … he loves people and about 80 people are going! omg! … we will have to tart up a bit! … i’d better get thinking!
    whilst in brissy! mr m and I shopped!; … he’s like your mr! … two dappers!
    our mantra has become
    only buy it, if you love it!!! … mostly! … what a teacher you are lovely!
    have a good one! love m:)X

  7. I love these ideas, and sensible advice..thx so much Nikki..any suggestions for a smart casual weeding in November???

  8. I don’t know how you keep up the pace! I got my calendar (yes old school that hangs in the pantry haha) yesterday and marked in a few things. Love all these ideas, and the advice you give. Great post Nikki 🙂

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