How to Dress for an Evening Downtown

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You have an important evening engagement downtown—a casual date, a get-together with friends, an office party. It’s nothing formal and there’s no official dress code, but you want to look nice and polished. What do you wear? How do you show that you’ve given some thought to your outfit without appearing overdressed? Simple. Resort to dressier versions of your basics. Here’s how to dress for a night downtown in the most chic way possible:

*Wear the right colors: Think dark and elegant or bright and eye-popping. Avoid drab colors, like tan or beige, unless there’s a little shimmer to the fabric. Black is always an evening winner, but you don’t want to wear it head-to-toe either. Other dazzling darks are burgundy, forest green, navy, charcoal, and chocolate. For brights, try red, yellow, green, and blue. Bright pink, while “cutesy,” is rarely sophisticated. With such reliable colors, classic cuts are fine; anything too faddish can actually end up looking tacky.

*Wear the right blouse: T-shirts are for the gym, grocery shopping, lounging around the house, and similar activities. They have no place in modern, trendy areas where everyone else is dressed to impress. Silk and synthetic fabrics textured to mimic silk’s reflective quality (like polyester) are so beautiful that you don’t even need a unique, trendy cut to add interest to the top’s design. If you’re not a fan of the silk look, you can try out the velvet look. Velvet (or a synthetic like polyester or rayon) is another dressy fabric. You can choose a simple velvet turtleneck or tee—a plain cut is all that’s necessary with such a luxurious material.

*Wear the right pants: Steer clear of anything too baggy or too tight; fitted yet comfortable is the best way to wear your pants. Crisp jeans are always a stylish, semi-formal option. You can also try a pair of men’s trousers (just ensure that your top is very feminine so you don’t get confused for a cross-dresser!) Pinstripes pants or most other office pants are fine, too. Just choose a festive blouse and true evening jewelry.

*Wear the right skirt: If you would prefer a skirt to pants, make sure it is an appropriate length for your values and body type. If you generally disapprove of wearing short skirts, don’t try wearing one—you’ll be too unconfident to pull it off. If you’re tall, short skirts seem much racier than they do on shorter women because of your long legs. Longer skirts can appear stuffy if worn by the wrong woman and can make shorter women seem even shorter. The most versatile length, for all moral values and body types is knee length. More adventurous women should try skirts that end one to two inches above the knee (but any higher is usually dangerous as such a hemline requires skill to wear.) More conservative women should stick to skirts that hit just below the knee but don’t end too much lower. Mid-calf is one of the most unflattering skirt lengths there is.            

*Wear the right jewelry: One big and bold piece is more powerful than several little ones piled together. Try a pair of chandelier earrings that match your blouse or a satin choker necklace, for example. You could also wear a huge ring. It doesn’t have to have an expensive stone, either. Costume jewelry is perfectly acceptable so long as it doesn’t look cheap. Turquoise, amber, and quartz are wonderful choices, but plastic can be, too. It all depends on the cut and the reflectivity, so use your best judgment.

*Wear the right shoes: No white sneakers allowed. Period. Stilettos, high-heeled boots, and fancy flats are allowed. They don’t have to match your blouse exactly, which is why if you can only buy one pair of downtown shoes, make them black, dark brown, or dark gray. These three colors are the most versatile. Your cute shoes should also be relatively comfortable. This may mean wearing thin socks, corn/blister pads, or therapeutic soles with certain shoes. If so, do it. After all, if you don’t look comfortable, you also won’t look confident—and everyone looks much better when confident.

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