Please dress me!
June 4, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

"Informal" dress code. "But you still should... you know, dress up." What do I wear?!

Me: geeky mid twenties redhead surrounded by an office of gorgeous fashionistas.

The event: a dinner hosted by the company's owner. There will be lots and lots of people in attendance, and while everyone from my office will be there, not everyone there will be from my (small) office.

I'm thinking of wearing this dress, which I already own but have yet to wear. But I have no idea what to wear with it! I don't usually go to this sort of thing. I'd like to look clean and fashionable without going too far overboard into trendy (which is why I'm posting here, dear gorgeous MeFis, and not on Polyvore).

What do I wear on my feet (I'm not great at walking in heels and would rather do flats or a low heel than look like a seventh grader at her first semiformal)? How do I carry my things (I assume my crossbody messenger bag won't be appropriate)? It may be chilly -- how do I keep my arms/neck warm? I hate jewelry, but will I look amateurish without it? Oh please help me.

I can go shopping between now and then, and I live in a major city so I can get pretty much anything. However, I live in a major Canadian city, so things are more expensive than they are in the States and I can't reliable order things from Zappos/Endless.
posted by AmandaA to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will that dress look "dressed up" enough for a dinner? It looks more like a day dress, and being that it's linen, it might wrinkle easily (in fact I see mention of wrinkling in the reviews).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:26 AM on June 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Low heel open toe espadrille

Similar to that.

You aren't up that high, but not flat.

I'd pair it with a cream clutch OR a coordinating scarf (if you don't want to wear a bit of jewlery, a breezy little neck scarf and matching small clutch bag.

Alternatively, a bright pashmina that coordinates ...
posted by tilde at 8:27 AM on June 4, 2012

I think that dress looks great. I would pair it with some dressy espadrilles and a big, light scarf shawl in a bright color that coordinates with your shoes that you can wrap around your shoulders to keep you warm.
posted by LittleMy at 8:28 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

That is a beautiful dress. For shoes, try dressy espadrilles as others have said, or semi-dressy sandals (not strappy evening sandals but maybe the more subdued "pewter" metallic that is very in this season). Add some jewelry to finish (the neckline looks good for a bold necklace, OR you could wear big earrings).

To keep warm, carry a pashmina shawl/scarf in a bright color to contrast with the dress (I would wear a deep red, turquoise or jade green, but almost any vibrant color would do).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: ThePinkSuperhero: I... hope so? I don't really have anything else and I do love it so. The person I spoke with about the party said that some people show up in jeans and blazers and some people go dressier, but that I shouldn't go TOO dressy, so I thought that might be a good compromise.
posted by AmandaA at 8:37 AM on June 4, 2012

That dress is adorable. I nth espedrilles, ones with a wedge. Also many of them have rope in the bottom of your shoe that rubs on your feet, either buy an insert or look for a pair that are properly lined. Another option would be a brown, leather sandal, but again, delicate with a bit of a heel.

A twee little sweater/shrug to throw over your shoulders would be fine, you can carry it over your arm, or tie it around your shoulders. Find a lighter version of the dress color, or a neutral darker color (brown?)

I think a wicker bag would be adorable with your dress. This one is cute, but I wouldn't order it from the States on line.

Your dress is lovely, whatever you pair with it will be fine. Once dressed, don't think about it again and have a great time!

Oh, you'll see people who are the dernier cri in WTF? You'll also see someone who is so appropriate and perfect you'll want to slink away. Oh well, you'll still be great looking so don't forget it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:39 AM on June 4, 2012

I tend to lean towards the matchy-matchy school of fashion, so if that's not your thing, take with a grain of salt :)

I would probably pair that with a bright cardigan or shawl, possibly a print, then match your other accessories to the cardigan/shawl. In terms of accessories, I'd add earrings and maybe a bracelet in addition to the required shoes and bag. For bags, I'd look for a bright clutch or small purse. I got one of these convertible bags recently and it's turned out to be extremely useful and versatile.

If you want to browse around some stylishness that's not too over the top, take a look at She does a great job of really put-together, stylish looks without too much fuss. If you look through a few pages of archives, you'll see a lot of outfits built around a solid-color dress with colorful accents. A few quick picks: cobalt and the whole spectrum, a simple outfit with a white dress, cute summery flats.
posted by duien at 8:43 AM on June 4, 2012

I would do a shoe like this - I think the wood style wedge looks a little dressier/professional than most espadrilles with the cork/rattan. With a big shawl in a flattering color for your skin tone, and a coordinating necklace, a small clutch size crossbody (sort of like this, without the metal strap).
posted by zara at 8:43 AM on June 4, 2012

This is a pretty casual dress. Very cute though! For dinner, i'd dress it up with a blazer or some kind of fitted structured cropped jacket.

I wouldn't do flats. Here are some examples of heels that are lovely and COMFY and can work for most any occasion:

Miz Mooz open toe pumps

Kenneth Cole ankle strap sandal/pump with cute and classy flower

and I think you absolutely need jewelry to pull it together. A great pair of cheap but interesting and largish earrings, with a classy bracelet or watch would be great.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 8:43 AM on June 4, 2012

That dress would be super low-cut on me. I once made the mistake of wearing a low-cut little black dress to a party with my uber-boss and an editor I was trying to suck up to. It turned out that uber-boss was what my supervisor called "an evangelical Catholic," and the dress was a bad move. (I realize this is ridiculous, but it's life.)

As long as you're not spilling cleavage, it seems okay. If you had something a bit more "evening," as in a little longer and in a darker color, that might be preferable. But if you really want to wear this particular dress, you can pair it with a little cardigan in a nice color and either a pair of ballet flats (match them to the cardigan, not the dress) or a low-heeled espadrille in a neutral color that matches your bag.
posted by brina at 8:47 AM on June 4, 2012

I think the dress looks like a day dress as well but I think you can make it work. While adorable, I wouldn't wear espadrilles because that will make it look even more daytime (in my humble opinion). I would wear low-heeled open-toed pump, closed toe pump, or slingback.

A cardigan is cashmere or fine-gauge knit would look beautiful. Is the dress pale yellow? Or, is it ivory? If it's pale yellow you could do a color if you were so inclined, such as pale aqua or grass green. That may scream daytime as well but if you pair it with a somewhat dressy nude heel it might work.

I love the idea of a print wrap or shawl. Beautiful.

A gray wrap, cardigan, or pashima would look lovely if the dress is yellow. A gray that leans blue would look stunning with your hair color.

Completely fine without a necklace. Wear a pair of earrings. A drop earring would look lovely. As far as a handbag goes, I would go to discount designer outlet (Marshalls, TJMaxx, Ross, etc.) and buy a nice clutch that you can use again. The clutch does not have to be formal. I would avoid anything sparkly or beaded with this dress. I would avoid the color black. It's too harsh with this dress. Think nude, clear bright-ish pastels, mid-tones.
posted by Fairchild at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

And when I say avoid sparkles and beads I do not mean jewelry. I also think a little sparkle, sheen, or beads would be gorgeous on a light-colored wrap or shawl.
posted by Fairchild at 8:51 AM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: You guys are so great. I don't want to threadsit, but I just have more questions!

1) In addition to not liking jewelry all that much I don't actually have pierced ears (I know...). Are clip-ons still terribly tacky? They are, right?

2) So.. espadrilles are like this? Would a nude heel (if I could find something low) as per Fairchild's suggestion be OK with bright accessories?

3) Would a blazer (as per sarahnicole) be OK or would that be too office-y? I do have a couple of fitted blazers lying around.
posted by AmandaA at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2012

i know you said no zappos but here are some examples of flats that i think would be plenty dressy enough:

if you're going to go with something that shows your toes as much as the last one i would get a pedicure.
i always wear flats because i also can't walk in heels. i think you will be fine in dressy flats especially if other people are wearing jeans.

if you don't have pierced ears i would just skip the earrings, clip ons are always really uncomfortable for me and i always feel like they are going to fall off.
posted by katieanne at 9:17 AM on June 4, 2012

That dress is a pretty-much a blank slate. It can be made dressier or more casual by the accessories. So, it's not a bad chose. (That it's linen is a bit of a problem. But, since, it's summer, it's probably OK. Will this be an outdoor dinner part? If so, then you are in the clear.)

I'd suggest some strong color to pair with the dress. I'm thinking a vibrant red shawl with matching shoes and purse. Aqua and (believe it or not) yellow, would be other good choices, depending on your skin tone. Of course jewel-toned green or blue colors are a standard for persons with light skin and red hair, and you aren't likely to go wrong there. (That's why I made the other suggestions, they are less common options). Essentially, I think you'd look best with some contrast. (So, avoid earth tones and neutrals.)

The combination of neutral, modern dress with a splash of color will look great.

I would opt for Jewelry in a complimentary color (complimentary to the accent pieces), especially a necklace (with bracelets), otherwise you basically have nothing going on above the neckline. However, in this case the jewelry is probably less important than the other accessories. (I tend to think that the importance of jewelry correlates to the formality of the attire).

I'll echo sarahnicole's advice on shoes, cork is for the beach. As for the blazer/jacket, I'd only do it with a fitted, structured cropped-jacket, but then I'd drop the shawl.
posted by oddman at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2012

If you can afford it, get your hair done for the occasion (if it's a work day, leave early if you can). Show the stylist a picture of the dress, or meet with the stylist a few days before the event, wearing the dress.

Or try something like this headband, which will reduce the need for other jewelry.

Seconding a manicure/pedicure, especially if you're wearing sandals or an open toe.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2012

3) Would a blazer (as per sarahnicole) be OK or would that be too office-y? I do have a couple of fitted blazers lying around.

Depends on the color and fabric. Fit and familiarity (as in "I've worn this! I know how to manage it! Unlike a weird slippy unfamiliar wrap item!") always a plus in my book.

I like Ruthless Bunny's use of the term twee. Seems like most anything and everything can fly under the inappropriately dressed radar these days, as long as it sports a wee bit of twee.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also:

How do I carry my things (I assume my crossbody messenger bag won't be appropriate)?

I have seen a ton of satchel inspired purses this season, at every price range, that are ginormous. They are structured like dainty little handbags of yore, but large enough to fit a laptop, teacup poodle, gym clothes, lunch, and other actual handbag into it. I would think something like this would be large enough for your sweater/wrap/blazer/sundries and still be a step up from the messenger bag.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Black patent belt (2 inches wide, perhaps?)

Add jewelry (a black, nice necklace that somewhat chunky may eliminate the need for click-on earrings) - example:

Espadrilles could work, but you may want to get an imitation these awesome LK Bennett ons Kate Middleton wears in black (or the very ones of you have a large budget)-'maddox'_wedge_pump:519663&cm_pla=shoes:women:pumps&cm_ven=Google_Product_Ads&mr:ad=20392130153&mr:adType=pla&mr:keyword={keyword}&mr:referralID=NA&mr:trackingCode=A12F58C8-E958-E111-9E12-001517B1882A&origin=pla

The black will help dress this up because, I agree, this is a definite day dress for a garden party kind of thing.If you do a blazer, I would go with a cropped, close fitting one and leave it open. Then you can eliminate the belt part.

Good luck!
posted by superfille at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2012

Oh and I would do a clutch for a purse if this is an evening dinner.
posted by superfille at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2012

Clip-on earrings are not terribly tacky - especially if they're a style with a big enough styley front part to cover the clip hardware so that it's not obvious.
But, earrings are also not essential, and clips can be uncomfortable if you're not used to it. I wouldn't go buying earrings just for this special occasion, but if you happen to have some you like, and they coordinate well with whatever cardigan-blazer-wrap-scarf-shoes-tights-hairclip-bracelet-necklace-purse combo you figure out, go for it. Basically, there are a lot of accessories you could wear with that dress, but you only need a few, so don't go nuts trying to find the perfect everything, just find a perfect something, and let the rest fall in to place adequately.
posted by aimedwander at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2012

Either of the shoes you linked to are great if you think you can walk in them and not look awkward.
I think you could do a ballet flat as well, or a mini-wedge (link to my own blog post) which I think you'd find more comfortable.

The important thing to look for in a shoe for dresses is a low vamp which means that the front part of your shoe is not too high up on the foot. So no to loafers or sneakers, yes to things that are closer to your toe cleavage.

On top, wear an embellished cardigan (link to my own blog post) or a shawl.
I think a jacket that you would wear to work is not the right look.

No on the messenger bag or any large bag for evening.
You want a small handbag or clutch.
No on the clip-ons. Yes to a bracelet or 16" (not too long) simple necklace. Only do 1 piece of jewelery. With the cream linen, you should do gold tone instead of silver.
Gems with color are good, too.
posted by rmless at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2012

I have pierced ears but I do sometimes wear vintage clip ons - and I always get compliments. Depending on your other accessories, a pair of obviously supposed to be old fashiooned clip earrings might work
posted by pointystick at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2012

In my experience, Canadians can be a bit more conservative than Americans. Not in a bad or stuffy way, just in a "toned down and not quite as revealing." How does that dress work on you when you sit down? In an actual chair? On a couch? Does it make you tug on the side? Does it get a bit low in the front? Where is the dinner being held? Who will be there?

It could be a touch too casual or too "young" or too much of a day dress. If it was in a darker or richer color it might not be as noticeable - the pale yellow kind of tips the hand. But this totally depends on the setting - if it's an outdoor evening gathering in summer warmth, you could probably make it work. If it's a candlelit jazzy indoor gathering, you might feel a bit underdressed and exposed.

Check out this outfit - a bit more polished, but still summery with the bare legs, gorgeous back, light fabric and cool wood shoes. You could wear that with some summery bangles, polished but neutral make-up, and nice hair. No earrings needed. In the winter, you could definitely wear it with a cropped blazer or cardigan.
posted by barnone at 10:52 AM on June 4, 2012

I think accessories can dress that particular dress up quite a bit, but I wouldn't wear espadrilles, unless it's an outdoor party. Atlantic=Pacific is a fashion blogger who is way OTT about accessories, but I think she's got some great looks and can serve as inspiration. I think a shawl or cardigan (but not granny and don't button it all the way up) and a necklace and cute shoes. You can carry a clutch or a delicate shoulder bag, but no one is going to grab your purse, so ix-nay on the cross body. As a red-head, you've already got one big accessory going for you.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:16 AM on June 4, 2012

Or if you want something a bit more summery, this kind of dress in navy would work too. It's still a bit less "bbq with friends and white wine" than your current dress.

Here's a word to the wise - if you're young, or at least younger than many of your colleagues and management, it's better to feel a teeeeny bit overdressed than it is to feel too casual. For all sorts of reasons.
posted by barnone at 11:21 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

That dress will work just fine - but it's sort of a blank slate, so you want your shoes/accessories to be great.

1. Shoes - I love the nude pump you linked, but if you are going to wear a nude pump you will wants to have a very colorful scarf/wrap/cardigan, clutch, and a "statement" necklace (more on these below). I would also consider wearing a similar pump in a bright color (red, turquoise, yellow) that matches your other accessories. Or a pretty peep toe pump.

2. Warmth - a pretty scarf used as a wrap, a wrap, or a pretty cardigan (in color(s) coordinated with the other accessories).

3. Jewelry - I would wear a statement necklace or bracelet - something large and prominent (google "statement necklace" for ideas).

4. Carrying things - the dressy thing to carry is a "clutch." Beaded or silk or leather - doesn't matter, as long and it's sleek and small and can be tucked under your arm. Would be great if color would match your other accessories, or a beige/caramel leather would be neutral.
posted by amaire at 1:16 PM on June 4, 2012

Since you dislike jewelry, why no go without? If your hair and makeup looks great and you have your nice dress on, you're going to be fine.

Wear what is "you" and what makes you feel comfortable.

I would go to the shoe stores and mall and start trying on lots of somewhat dressy low-heeled sandals, open toe pumps, pumps, and/or open toe sling backs.

I do love the idea of wearing a bright colored shoe and matching it to a statement necklace.

You can nix the statement necklace if you feel uncomfortable and just wear a nice colorful shoe.

Like these fashionistas: Notice they don't have a lot of accessories. Just some bracelets and a bright shoe.
posted by Fairchild at 4:10 PM on June 4, 2012

I believe we're in the same city. It's chilly this week, but warming up - I don't know when the party is? I'd suggest, with that pretty dress (looking online, but in stores you can find here) that you mix a little high and low. And go funkier than a nude heel, and don't fuss with a pashmina unless you're used to them (but if you fee like it, there are a million $8 ones in stores along Queen W, between Spadina and Bathurst. So, maybe your Anthro dress with:

H&M has this adorable little cropped cardigan. The turquoise colour would look great with red hair, and especially with that colour dress. I think whatever you do, it should involve three colours - the dress, a bright colour and something like a charcoal to make it more "evening."

If this straw bag is available, it's cute, and picks up the colour with the feathers and provides some contrast and weight. AND, unlike a clutch, you can have your hands free for food and drink. Consider, though, going to Mokuba and finding a gorgeous ribbon and substituting it for the drawstring if it turns out the feathers look tacky - or, to bring in the colour of your footwear.

Then, consider going to some place like Courage My Love and find a funky brooch with either some turquoise or charcoal in it for on the sweater. Something with sparkle and fun. Maybe some clip-on earrings too. I'm thinking of something like the Nettie Rosenstein brooch from this collection, but you know, affordable. Or, if you want to be more discreet, here's a local Etsy dealer with a nice brooch/earrings combo. A big enamelled flower brooch like this could also be super-sweet.

Low-heel ladylike shoes like these t-straps from Anthro, in a fun colour that ties into the cardi or brooch or bag would be cute. Flat sandals like these from Zara, in silver if your accessories are silver too, would would possibly work, depending on the dress length. You really want to be sure the hem hits you in a flattering spot with flats - it's the difference between breezy and dowdy. The Girl From Ipanema also has shoes in a variety of heel heights that would work. And yes, a colourful pedicure.

As others have said - your dress is neutral, and a great base for adding things to. For evening, I think you need to layer for warmth; dress it up with something sparkly or luxurious in colour; and most of all, choose only things that you feel special and comfortable in so you can forget them and enjoy the party. (In fact, wear your dress at home for an evening if you haven't worn it yet, and figure out if it needs anything fixed, such as buttons or armholes that gap or shoulder straps that slip down.)
posted by peagood at 7:25 PM on June 4, 2012

This askmefi post might be really helpful if you don't usually wear heels - it's all about comfy heels.

I really agree with the espadrilles suggestion, though I think any not-too-high-or-shiny wedge heel would be fine. For example, no patent leather. That's just too dressy for a linen dress. Stick with cloth or non-shiny/metallic leather.

Either a pashmina/shawl or a cardigan would work great.

I think the key here is to go for classy, not dressed-up. If you put on things that you aren't comfortable in, you will look and feel much more awkward than if you wear something you ARE comfortable in. Combine clean, simple lines and just a little bit of punch and you have an outfit that will blend in with people dressed more up or dressed more down.

If you put a splash of color in your shawl or shoes, I don't think there's a need for jewelry. If you must, add a fat bangle or wide bracelet - simple and just attention-getting enough.
posted by jymelyne at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2012

« Older Can I keep my friend from becoming a junkie?   |   Do you remember this study about deep/meaningful... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.