Special Occasion?

The dilemma of what to wear to a wedding, class reunion, or another special event can cause unnecessary stress. The emails I get most often ask for tips on what to wear to a special occasion. Finding the right proportion, colors, and silhouettes for your shape and personality will make all the difference. Suitable for the weather and the event are two other points to consider.

Above and below are two options for a wedding or other semi-formal event. Metallic block heel shoes or low wedge heels with a small clutch bag in a similar tone would complement the dresses. Understated crystal jewelry can add a special touch in the evening without being too much. Pearls are appropriate for daytime events.

Navy or wine are the two easiest colors to wear to a wedding and many other special occasions. Click here for the plus-size dress above. Click here for the dress with the jacket shown below.

Attending an outdoor wedding may include walking on grass or sand, so wedge or block heel shoes will be an essential part of your look. The dress below found here is one style of dress that would be appropriate for a beach, garden, or barn venue wedding.

If you prefer to wear pants, a silky top that complements your choice of pants may be a better option. The pants set shown below is here. This style of top looks lovely on pear and rectangle shapes with small busts. Wear black shoes and carry a small clutch bag that includes one of the colors in the top.

The jacket style below is flattering on the apple and hourglass shapes with full busts. The jacket is here. You could wear it with flowing chiffon pants, tuxedo pants, or a flirty skirt.

Below is another dressy top and jacket combo available in two colorways. That combo is here. This style is flattering on the inverted triangle, apple, and rectangle shapes.

The tea-length slip dress below offers endless possibilities for a variety of functions. You could wear it with short jackets or cashmere cardigans to create different looks. The slip-dress is here.

Pictured below are some black and white after-five combinations appropriate to wear out to dinner with friends, perhaps to a class reunion, or as a guest at an evening wedding.

Option one includes a straight black pencil skirt, V-neck camisole, sheer black hose, and heels. The silver/gray clutch bag repeats the light color in all the jackets. These are all basic essentials that have been in my wardrobe for more than a year.

I wore the same camisole with black slacks and a shimmering white moto jacket in the middle look.

The third look features the tea-length slip dress from above with the jacket from look one. My lip color is “Girls’ Night” here. My full skincare routine is here.

Links to similar current items follow: CamisoleSkirtHoseShoesClutchStriped JacketWhite jacketPantsDress.

The most recent outfits are here. Shopping links on this site may allow me to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

  1. Perfect post. I saved it. Will refer to it again and again. I went to the (live) theater last night, saw “9 to 5”. Clothing choices were a wide range of casual at best, but I did not feel authentic. I love your ideas, especially the pants as flat shoes are now part of my life. I love that you suggest styles for different body types. Thank you. Please keep this up!!

  2. Susan, great post. I am still not comfortable wearing black to a wedding. I can embrace the navy and wine. Also, I do realize that slacks have become more acceptable but not for me. It is an excuse to dress up and celebrate!!! A dress or skirt seems more fitting.

  3. Susan, I need your opinion. I’m going to my grandson’s wedding, the 23rd. My dress is called champaign, I would call it a light mauve. I bought an open toe shoe with a block heel. My question is, should I wear panty hose? My daughter said not with open toe shoes . I am a young 74, my legs aren’t to bad. She said to use a self tanner. What’s your advice? Thank you.

  4. As usual, you inspired me. I have my niece’s wedding coming up which will be a “dressy” (semi-formal) event in an outdoor tent with flooring. Years ago I purchased a classic faux-wrap saphire blue dress in lovely soft stretchy material that is very figure flattering, including with 3/4 length sleeves and a straight neckline. A few years ago I found a rhinestone camelia pin that I like to put at the knot to give it some pizazz, but I have not as yet gotten to wear it for a dress-up event (previously I wore to work or church). Wasn’t sure about shoes–I have black sandals with some bling but it’s fall, outside and not sure they would add much. So after reading your post I bit the bullet and ordered some lovely pewter glitter fabric pumps with a few rhinestone accents on the cross straps and I think I am good to go. Loved this post and the links to Dillard’s–one of my favorite stores that I miss now that I am back east. Thank heavens for “on-line” shopping 🙂

  5. Thank you for a gorgeous selection of dressy outfits to wear on many different occasions! The wine color dress and matching jacket the most beautiful I’ve seen for years!

  6. You have also inspired me! In a couple of weeks, I will be flying to Los Angeles to visit a life-long friend. We have orchestra seats to see “Hamilton”. I will wear navy slim leg pants and an old floaty, long sleeved, navy blouse with a not too memorable pattern – both Charter Club from Macy’s; navy SAS shoes with silver accent. Silver tone watch and small coral drop earrings that match one of the colors in my blouse. The third piece is a short, open front, navy sweater jacket and finally a little navy cross body bag that I will wear over shoulder or tuck the strap inside and use it as a clutch as you mentioned. I am 5”0, 79 years old. My hair has turned a nice silver and retains enough body for a bob cut.

  7. I love the burgundy dress. I’m the mother of the groom this weekend. I looked a solid year for a dress….I’m petite and slightly pear shaped so that eliminates most of the options. I also don’t like to wear sleeveless or “cut down to there” so that eliminates the rest. After briefly considering a bespoke dress…at a high price…I found a formal dress never worn in the back of my closet. The bride is going for a neutral pallette. The dress is medium gray with some lighter gray satin embroidery across one shoulder/neck. I found some gray peep-toes with a spangled poof at the toe and a silver clutch. I’m wearing gray pearl drop earrings, no necklace because of the embroidery. Wedding is tomorrow so I hope it works!

    1. I’ll give you some examples. If we carry most of our weight in the midsection, we likely have an apple shape. The widest part of my body is at the shoulders and upper back, so I have an inverted triangle shape. (This is why I often wear white pants with a dark-colored top. It makes me look more balanced.) When the person’s widest portion is at the hip area, they likely have a pear shape. These are just general terms to help us dress in a way that balances our proportions visually if we want to. Measuring allows you to learn exactly which parts are widest if it isn’t apparent by looking in the mirror.

  8. Love your posts and especially this one.
    Going to a black-tie wedding next month in Vegas. So is black with silver sparkles in the jacket OK for 6 PM black-tie? Like another follower I am not sure about wearing black to a wedding.

    1. Black-tie for women is a little more flexible these days. A knee-length or floor-length gown or evening dress, or palazzo pants are acceptable. Of course, a black dress is a classic option, but you can also go for colors.

  9. You look absolutely beautiful in all your options. I also like your hairstyle as always. But I do miss your curls. Why don’t you go curly anymore. Maybe you do and you decide not to photograph. I love all your tips, I now choose my clothes very carefully so I don’t waste so much money on things I wear only once. I also now think carefully before I discard. Trying to use your examples on how to wear the pieces differently. Thank you for the time you give me a senior how to dress to look my best. Blessings to you and your loved ones❤️❤️✝️

  10. I love all of these combos but the outfit featuring the tea dress is outstanding! What a beautiful style, such a flattering length and so versatile.

  11. Thank you so much for all that you do, but this post is so timely! My son and his partner are to marry early next year, and we are all thrilled – they’ve been together for eight years! My excitement has been a little dampened by panic regarding my outfit. I really don’t know what to do, and would be so grateful for any advice. I have severe arthritis in one ankle, caused by an ancient injury, so that its enormously swollen by the end of the day. If I were to wear a dress this would be very obvious, and so ugly. I usually feel this is fairly trivial, and am grateful that the injury still allows me to walk, but this is our son’s wedding! Should I wear a pants suit ( it would suit me -floaty tops less so) which would be a bit unusual in the particular milieu, or should I wear a dress to fit in, maybe bandage my ankle and not worry, or is there some other solution? The wedding is in a rural area, in the daytime, but quite smart. Susan, I find your style so inspiring and you are so creative, I’m hoping that you might be able to offer some advice.

  12. Hi Susan,
    You look lovely in all of the outfits as usual. Very classic. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful concepts.

    I have had my eye on that pearl necklace you wore in a post that you said you joined two 30″ necklaces to make one long 60″. Would you shae ideas of places to look for one as lovely? I especially adore the clasp and also need guidance on size of pearls, color, and type of pearl, faux or real. I’m having difficulty trying to shop online for such a gorgeous piece. With covid out there and my underlying health conditions I’m still quarantining at home, and I am a visual person which is hard to do online shopping,.
    Thank you,

  13. You look great in the white jacket over the black. Very smart looking!!!! I do not care for the dress with the jacket. Too matronly. I do like the shoes. They make the foot and leg look slender. You, however, look good in all three. The pants and jacket would be my preference.

    Hair and makeup—perfect.

  14. Thank you for a post on special occasions. How timely! It is always so difficult to find appropriate outfits. We are going on a cruise in February on Cunard. It is an elegant ship and so are most of the passengers. So your post will help me look my best. I’m looking forward to getting out again!
    By the way, I’ve been doing Essentrics for a few months by DVD. I’m extremely impressed with the results. It is a daily gentle stretching and strengthening routine in about 30 minutes. I definitely think it is what I’ve been looking for as I age in a positive and healthy way.

  15. Thanks for your blog. And at no charge. Very generous!
    On a different note, quite awhile ago, you posted a detailed description of your diet, eating schedule and activity. I tried searching for it but can’t seem to find the one I’m thinking of.
    I’d appreciate another post on the subject or perhaps you could head me in the right direction for your previous post.
    Thanks again!

  16. Love this post. Your pix are perfect examples of your style and lovely. I would choose the pant set and buy two shawls in colors in the top as living in San Diego and Phoenix for many years the weather is temperate or hot so shawls work well for AC restaurants and evenings. Black pants are iffy though for Phoenix summers! Also dress in the West Coast is so much more relaxed than East Coast, even for special events so that affects my choices too. Moving from San Diego to Phoenix was a wardrobe shock weather-wise and the day I was told “You look so glamorous!” in my 55 retirement community while I was out walking I laughed as glamorous has never been a word I would use to describe my style which I call “polished ladylike comfy” at this life stage. As in colorful floral knits and fun earrings. But I guess compared to some people that is “glamorous” to some! I guess this is why dressing is so much fun sometimes, yet challenging too. Very individual! Great posts Susan! Thanks for your insights.

  17. My jacket and tank top set are black with silver sparkles. I ordered a floorlength chiffon skirt to wear with it. Of course the black in the jacket and the black and the skirt are not the same as they are not the same fabric.
    Is that OK? I tried the jacket with black crêpe slacks and the two shades of black were better together but the skirt made a prettier outfit for a black-tie wedding at 6 PM I thought.
    My question is: Should I wear the skirt or wear the slacks.

    1. You could wear either. If the textures of the fabric are different, the light will reflect differently. For example, a black knit tee over a black knit skirt is boring, but a black silk top over a black chiffon skirt can look dynamic.

  18. Can you tell me where I might find a linen blazer, preferably in navy.? I can’t seem to find a store that carries them anymore.
    Thank you

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.