sass and bide top and skirt | fur ambition bolero

How to nail your next special occasion outfit and feel a million bucks

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 8 Comments

Occasion dressing is far from my everyday style but it’s something I’ve worked at getting better/smarter at over the years.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good frock up. And a party. It’s just when the frock up happens on a irregular basis, it’s easy to be caught off guard and not have just the right outfit or accessories for the occasion.

The key to always being on guard is a little planning. For most events and occasions, you will have time to plan. Use it and my 10 tips below wisely.

10 tips for planning your next event outfit

1. As soon as you have an invitation or a save-the-date, start thinking about what you’d like to wear. Visualising an idea in your head really does help.

2. Research the average day and night-time temperatures where the event is being held. 

3. Don’t shop under pressure – use the time that you have in advance to try on a lot of outfits.

4. Take note of any specified dress codes. A formal event usually indicates full-length gowns. A cocktail wedding usually indicates shorter dress styles, a jumpsuit or pants outfit. If unsure, ask others attending what length of gown they plan to wear.

5. Think about winter coats and accessories that are on the dressy side if you know that you’ll be outside in the elements and need to keep warm. Most venues will be heated so you may just need a coat that will work to and from the venue.

6. If buying a new outfit, look for a dress or pant outfit that you know you’ll be able to wear again for a different occasion. 

7. Ask girlfriends and family members if they have occasion-wear pieces and accessories they’d be willing to lend you. I have one sequinned cocktail frock that is like the Sister of the Travelling Frock.

8. Consider hiring a frock. You get all the glitz and glam without the budget bam. 

9. Wear something from the vault. Do you have an occasion piece that just sits forlorn in your wardrobe, sad that it has not been out to a party for a while? Get it out, try it on and think of how you can make it work with new accessories.

10. If beauty logistics are in your favour, book in to have your hair/makeup done on the day of the event. On the day of an event or occasion, I employ this tactic as it takes away much of the time stress of getting ready. All you need to do afterwards is pop on your frock, shoes and accessories and hop into your car/taxi/Uber. If you planning a spray tan, get this done two days before the event so it has some to develop – and not rub off on to the clothes you’re wearing.

But where to shop for occasion outfits?

I’m often emailed this question and asked to share my go-to occasion labels. For me, if it’s a special occasion, I’m more likely to spend a bit more. If I buy well, that garment will serve me long after its first outing. I’m a big supporter of independent labels and that’s where I’ll tend to look first. 

Formal/cocktail: White Label Noba, Sacha Drake, Moonlight bird

Lunch: Binny, Mister Zimi, Motto, Bohemian Traders, Solito, Maiocchi, Mela Purdie

Budget: Little Party Dress, Forever New, ASOS, Sheike

I keep an eye out on my favourite labels at the start of each season when they launch their collections. I suggest you do too because that’s when you’ll get the most choice in styles and sizing.

If you wait until the end of the season and do manage a bargain in sale time, then fantastic, but please don’t wait if it’s a special occasion you need to find an outfit for. You might end up very disappointed that your size is not available or you have limited stock to choose from. 

Having advised that, I did have sales success recently, picking up two pieces from sass and bide that I’d been eyeing off for a couple of months. Originally I only wanted the top (for my “nice top with jeans” collection) but when in store I thought, why not try on the skirt as well. 

The result?

sass and bide top and skirt | fur ambition bolero

sass and bide top and skirt (I’m in L in both) | fur ambition bolero (gifted)

The reason I’m patting myself on the back for these purchases is not because I got the bargain (that is welcome, yes!) but because it’s a two-piece outfit that will work in so many ways for me as single pieces. I wore it together’s for my son’s school’s fundraising cocktail event.

In the next couple of months, I’ll wear the top with jeans but I’ll also wear the skirt with a knit or a slogan tee and denim jacket.

The pieces are pretty classic in style – and I always love a bit of metallic for an occasion – so I can see them serving me for many a year to come.

It’s this versatility that I think about with all my occasion wear purchases. I want to be able to dress them up for the occasion, yes, but I want to be able to reinvent them for a different outing. This ensures way more bang for your buck.

Occasion outfit accessories

In the outfit above, I’m wearing a feather bolero with this outfit from start-up online business, Fur Ambition. I love that this business exists because I get a lot of requests from readers wanting to buy similar. Personally, I’ve collected quite a few stoles and capes over the past decade, specifically to add a winter element to an occasion outfit or frock I might already own. The addition of just one outer piece like this may be enough to refresh an old favourite – AND keep you warm.

Shoes can make or break an occasion outfit. My days of sky-high heels are gone. I want a combination of comfort and style. Most of my shoe-robe is now FRANKiE4. I’m hanging out to show you the new-season arrivals as I’ll be able to ditch quite a few of my old uncomfortable occasion shoes (like the ones pictured here from Nine West) because I’ll have all my footwear  bases covered. I can’t tell you how much my feet hurt after a night of dancing in these old shoes. I’ve had my feet in therapy (well, my orthotics ever since!)

Sometimes a new clutch and/or a new pair of earrings/statement necklace is also all that you need to breathe new life into an occasion outfit from The Vault. 

Check out: Adorne (enter stylingyou at checkout for 20% off full-priced styles), Entire Me, Bling and Fortune Jimena Alejandra, Jan Logan, Oroton, Mimco

If in doubt – go black and bling

I’ll let you into a not-so-secret occasion outfit action plan of mine, one that I’ve created to always ensure I’m sorted for any last-minute invitations.

It’s a formula that’s simple, effective, always makes me feel confident and stops me from worrying about whether I’m over or under-dressed.

1. Start with a black, blank canvas (dress or pants/top)

2. Add bling

3. Add heels.

Bang. No stress, minimum effort, fun times.

So, tell me, have you got any events on the horizon? How’s the outfit planning going?

Comments 8

  1. I am relieved to have stumbled across this and your inspirational advice. I am off to Opera in Brisbane next week and am looking forward to the challenge of what to wear. Have booked my regular hair appointment for the day (why hadn’t I thought of this before. Am old enough to know better) and about to scour the upstairs cupboard for coats I enjoyed wearing in other colder climates when we lived overseas. Will be shopping for something ‘furish’.

    Love your work

    Thank you.


    1. Post
  2. What a fab outfit Nikki – you look wonderful!
    And of course, the big event in the now, not too distant future, is the SY Birthday Event!
    So, armed with the knowledge above I shall go and get myself organised without stress.
    Love what you do
    Janie xx

    1. Post
  3. You look amazing in this outfit Nikki!
    We have a wedding next weekend I bought a beautiful boho maxi dress from Birdsnest so I can wear boots and a cape.
    The biggest occasion this year will be my sons wedding in Bali I’m thinking a Camilla Xx

    1. Post
    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.