What the Heck is Occasionwear Anyway?

The budding trees and blooming flowers of spring coincide with another annual event that marks the foray into the warmer months. It’s not a natural phenomenon so much as it is a social one. It’s wedding season.

Working in retail, I get so many women who come in looking for something to wear to a wedding. For some, it’s a fruitless search, trying on dress after dress only to leave empty-handed and frazzled. For others, it’s a hunt and conquer operation. They find one item, try it in two sizes and leave with the correct one. Often, these customers remind of Say Yes to the Dress, except it’s guest edition. (Actually, writing that is making me think of the spinoff Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids. I don’t even know if they air it anymore but if you can find an episode, watch it for the drama alone.)

No matter if you’re a world-weary wedding veteran or a nervous newbie, the task of picking something to wear to the big day can be daunting, judged usually by your relationship to the couple. Distant cousins’ wedding? Dressing appropriate only to avoid family gossip. Best friends’ wedding? The pressure is on.

Aside from weddings, spring and summer are the seasons of events. I’m not saying things just stop happening the rest of the year, but somehow there seem to be more graduations, birthdays, farewells and general gatherings of merriment than during the winter months. And most want to take advantage of the agreeable weather to look fly AF.

When choosing an outfit for these events, I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks. Like, what does business casual actually mean? How formal do I need to go here? How informal is this supposed to be? OH GOD THE PARTY IS OUTSIDE AND IT’S 35 DEGREES WHAT DO I DO.

I’m no wedding or big event veteran. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some go-to outfits and tips for when you’re stuck on finding the right balance in occasionwear.

The Dress

Let’s start with a dress, because a lot of us start there. You want to find the right length, depending on where you’ll be. You won’t want to wear white if it’s a wedding (unless it’s specifically in the dress code.) You want something you can sit and move in. Something that won’t drive you nuts after an hour.

These requirements aren’t actually too tall an order. Most summer dresses are comfortable when the sizing is correct and there are so many gorgeous minis or maxis for whatever hemline you need.

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With this dress, I liked how it was a mini-maxi. The long outer layer is contrasted by a short slip, with eyefuls of leg balanced by cutouts in the dress.

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I found the minty green colour perfect for spring and summer events. It’s a popular shade at the moment and looks good on every skin tone.

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I paired this dress with some neutral heeled mules and simple gold jewellery. Since the dress itself is such a statement piece, I wouldn’t want to overload it with accessories. The mules are a perfect summer party shoe. It’s a heel, but it’s comfortable enough to wear all night.

Outfit Details

Dress – Anthropologie

Shoes – H&M (Similar)

The Jumpsuit

If you don’t want to mess around with colour, if neutrals are really more your style, then basic black is your friend. It’s a classic for a reason, even in the summertime.

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Instead of a black dress, though, I picked a jumpsuit. I’m a real jumpsuit gal. I love wearing wide-leg trousers this time of year and I think a jumpsuit is a really fun alternative to a dress. You’ll be comfortable, you won’t have to worry about sudden gusts of wind and you’ll definitely stand out.

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This jumpsuit is a classic colour and shape, but the back cutouts give it a little something extra and make it more event-worthy and memorable.

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I paired this piece with a simple white shoe and silver jewellery. Again, it’s a low block heel because that’s just my style and I want to be able to walk home after dancing.

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Even if you don’t go with the black, I’d recommend trying out a jumpsuit if you never have before. It’s the perfect gateway to that “effortless chic” gal you’ve always wanted to be.

Outfit Details

Jumpsuit – Topshop (Similar)

Shoes – Zara

Watch – Daniel Wellington

The Other Dress

So, we have our long formal dress, a good choice for a wedding maybe. But what about a garden party? What about a more laid-back outdoor event where the sun is hot and the drinks are free-flowing?

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I love this short linen-blend dress for moments like that. The neutral colour is perfect for summer and so easy to style. Some would argue this isn’t the most flattering silhouette. Maybe, but I’m also set if there’s a buffet.

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To style this dress, I went with some very low, casual mules and more gold jewellery. However I do think this is one where you could wear a pair of colourful earrings or a statement bracelet to dress it up a bit more.

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I tend to prefer a looser silhouette in dresses, but I also believe in the summer months it’s more comfortable to have something that doesn’t cling too much to the body. And having a cute, short flow dress in your wardrobe will be a godsend when you need something last minute for a family barbecue or a day out at the park with friends.

Outfit Details

Dress – Aritzia (Not quite similar, but other suggestions here and here.)

Shoes – H&M

Gold Bracelet – Oak + Fort

11 Comments

  1. Back in the the day, we would have called this ” dressing for special occasions” and the rules were quite a bit stricter. What I like me most about your suggestions is that they focus on style without sacrificing COMFORT. This is the key to happiness! Although, these days, with puppy in my life, my dress standard is anything that goes with old jeans!

    Like

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