Fashion, Wedding Tips

Your Guide to Women’s Special Occasion Dresses

women's special occasion dresses

Any fashionista can tell you that clothes tell you a lot about a person. That’s why the world of women’s special occasion dresses is so tricky.

Part of this is because the world of fashion has changed a lot in the past few decades. The old rules of how to dress for a dinner party have shifted from LBDs to “It depends.” Even the guidelines for weddings are shifting, sometimes by the brides themselves.

So how do you navigate the waters of women’s special occasion dresses, and make a good impression?

Check out our guide to help you figure out what works for every occasion.

Tips for Buying Women’s Special Occasion Dresses

Every event calls for a special occasion dress. But what events require cocktail dresses, and which ones call for sequins? Keep reading to find out.


It used to be that women weren’t allowed to wear black, red, or white to a wedding. Today, black and red are acceptable. White, however, is always out.

Why? For one simple reason: you should never upstage the bride. Weddings are about the bride and her groom. So you should look good, but be careful not to wear something that takes attention away from your friends.

women's special occasion dresses

For day-time weddings, look for knee-length dresses in cotton or lace. If it’s an evening wedding you might go for a fancier floor length dress.

Unsure about how fancy this wedding will be? Ask the bridesmaids or the bride herself.

Cocktail Parties

What do you wear to a cocktail party? A cocktail dress of course! But keep in mind where the party is, and who’s hosting it.

If it’s a lady’s society brunch, choose something flattering but appropriate. You can also wear a cute top with a nice skirt or pants.

For more formal affairs, you can bust out the sequence and heels. You can also wear a fancy jumpsuit or even a pants suit. If you go for the pants suit, remember to keep the blouse under the jacket, less corporate and more flirty.

Dinner Party

Not all that long ago, women would wear fancy dresses to dinner parties with friends. Today the rules are a lot more relaxed.

But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Just like the cocktail party, pay attention to who’s hosting and where it’s held. If you overdress, you risk offending your hosts. Underdress and you could look like you weren’t prepared.

The best way to handle this situation is to ask the hostess about the dress code. That way you figure out if it’s a “jeans and nice top” affair, or a “Sunday morning dress” event.

Avoid clothing that’s difficult to move in or is easy to spill on. If you’re not sure, pack some sparkly earring or a nice scarf in your purse to spruce up the outfit.

Company Party

When it comes to women’s dresses for business parties, remember the company culture.

If it’s a company with a strict dress code, consider wearing a fancier office dress. Relaxed offices mean you can get away with jeans or a casual dress.

Regardless of what you wear, never wear anything revealing or provocative. You have to protect your future at the company, and a low-cut dress can send the wrong signals.

Baptisms, Bar Mitzvahs, or Other Religious Events

You know those crazy floral dresses and big hats you saw in church as a kid? In the right crowds, that’s the perfect outfit for a baptism or bar mitzvah.

But if the hosts are younger, pick out a women’s special occasion dress that fits their event. You can wear bright colors but keep the style conservative.

If you’re attending an evening party after the event, wear a cardigan during the service.

The Theatre or Ballet

Traditionally, theater-goers would go all out for the evening. They’d wear their fine jewels with a ball gown.

While that’s still something people do for operas and ballets, it depends on where they live. Showing up to a university production of Oklahoma in your finery might look silly.

But if you got tickets to the Sydney Opera showing of Madame Butterfly, then don’t come in jeans and a T-shirt. Treat yourself to a nice dress and jewelry. Dress to the nines on opening night, and make an effort during the normal run.

Funerals or Wakes

When you’re attending a funeral, keep it respectful. You can wear somber colors like greys or dark greens. But classic black dresses can never go wrong.

You can also wear a dark pantsuit or a wool dress. Regardless, keep your accessories small and conservative. A simple chain necklace and pearl earring are the best bets.

A First Date or Meeting the In-Laws

First impressions mean everything, so keep that in mind when you’re getting dressed.

Getting ready to meet the parents or a new client can be nerve-wracking. While it’s important to dress in a way that communicates your personality, now is not the time to take risks. Dress in a favorite outfit that makes you feel confident.

Don’t forget to dress in a way that’s appropriate for the occasion. A nice cocktail dress won’t work if you’re going to a beach barbeque. Ask your significant other for tips on how to impress the parents!

Birthday Parties or Family Get-Togethers

These people have known you since you were in diapers, so there’s no need to go all out.

Unless they want you to look fancy, a nice top and jeans should be fine. If you want to look special, a nice sundress or skirt should do the trick.

Looking for More Beautiful Special Occasion Dresses?

If you’re looking for women’s special occasion dresses, then take a look at our shop. We work hard to get you the exact dress you need to make a great impression.

And if you’re a bride or bridesmaid, don’t forget to check out our blog. We have articles on wedding planning and dress selection.