Dinner parties are usually intimate affairs among friends, so they’re the perfect opportunity to take a fashion risk and wear something eclectic or unusual. No matter what you choose, though, you should always look like you’ve put some thought into it.
• Read between the lines. The dinner invitation will give you hints about what to wear. A buffet tends to be casual; a seated dinner, more formal. The location of a party is also a clue. You might choose something dressier for a dinner at a restaurant in the city than for an even in someone’s backyard. Fall and winter parties end up being more formal than events in the spring and summer. Take your cues from the men, as well: If the invitation says jacket and tie, this means cocktail attire for women.
• Dress it up. It’s hard to go wrong with a beautiful, mid-thigh to knee-length dress in a flattering cut. For informal dinners, choose a dress in a lively print or bright color—hot pink and blue are flattering on most women. For an elegant dinners, I love material with a little shine, like charmeuse, brocade, and linen-silk blends. If you’re in someone’s home, skip the microminis or anything backless—it’s just not tasteful.
• Go straight to the top. Pay extra attention to what you’re wearing from the waist up. Sequins and embellishments around the neckline are a great way to lighten up the face. Lately I’m also really drawn to natural, organic-looking embroidery.
• Consider pants. Elegant trousers are making a comeback. I love dark, skinny pants with a sequined T-shirt. I’d avoid jeans, though; they make you look like you don’t care.
• Add accessories. I tend to go for bold, one-of-a-kind, or vintage pieces—something special that might start a conversation. I recently bought a pair of oversized chandelier earrings from Kara Ross that really make a statement.