Nordstrom Styling Director Ruth Basloe helps interpret five dress codes you'll see on invitations this season.
By Britt Burritt
Spring and early summer are busy social seasons. Once the sun comes out, the invitations to backyard parties, dinners, graduations and weddings start to arrive—and it's time for you to shine. RSVP yes and don't stress. Our styling director has the advice you need to show up looking polished and prepared for a good time.
If it says:
An outdoor party, dinner with friends, a drink date
While there's no need to break out the finery for such events, that doesn't mean anything goes. "Even when the get-together is laid-back, I still want to feel put together," says Basloe. "My solution is to start with something that's more professional or fancy, like a tailored jacket or a delicate blouse, but pair it with something inherently casual like jeans."
We saw a lot of sandy khaki and olive tones on the spring 2019 runway, especially on practical trenches and trousers. "With utility trending, I plan to update my look for spring by swapping denim for a chic cargo pant," Basloe says. "You can always up the sophistication with a strappy sandal or a sleek pump. Or take it down a notch with a built-up sneaker or sport sandal."
Easter, a graduation, a derby, a day wedding
These aren't occasions to take fashion risks. A daytime event that's family oriented and traditional calls for a pretty blouse and trousers or a proper dress. "An updated take on something classic is the best way to hit the right note without looking dated," says Basloe. "A sheath dress is my favorite option as it's such a simple silhouette, but freshness can be added through the fabric, print and embellishment." Basloe cautions that "the most important thing is getting the fit right. A sheath should follow your curves and be neither tight nor baggy. Otherwise, it can look unflattering."
Have fun but do it with the details. "Embrace some of the more playful trends in shoes and accessories: add a bit of bling for day, a bejeweled heel or a bold-colored bag." Or, if it's a derby day, opt for a playful topper.
A wedding, a fancy dinner party, a fundraiser
This one stumps even the etiquette experts. Semiformal dress codes leave a lot of room for interpretation, which means you can err on either side. Our advice: consider the host and the venue. "I tend to feel more comfortable being underdressed than overdressed—being overdressed can call attention to yourself and away from the host," Basloe says. "I usually go for a look that's subtly fancy but nothing too flashy." Short (not mini) and tea-length dresses are appropriate for these types of events. Longer lengths are fine, too; think more maxi than gown.
"All the sheer fabrics this season provide a soft, pretty way to look sophisticated and unique," Basloe tells us. "On the runways, these were often layered over just bras and briefs; a slip or camisole works best for the real world." Hair and makeup should be done. Add sparkly earrings, then heels or elegant flats for an appropriate finish.
An evening wedding, a performance, a cocktail party
"To me, cocktail is quite straightforward: drinks mean a grown-up, evening party and an invitation to be a bit daring," Basloe tells us. This is your opportunity to put on your ultimate party dress. "While an LBD is always a safe bet, I like to stand out from the sea of black," she says. "For spring, I've decided the 'B' in LBD could mean 'bold'—bold color, pattern and detailing." Sequins, fringe and plumes appear on some of this season's liveliest looks, so there's no shortage of ways to put your own spin on the style.
These nighttime engagements also permit shorter hemlines and higher heels. "I love a short dress with a fancy flat and tend to go that route, but a strappy heel is great if you want to dial up the sexiness and lengthen your legs," Basloe says. "Just know your limits when it comes to a heel height that you can handle for any length of time," she advises. "It's never chic to be suffering or to have to leave early."
A gala, an awards event, a formal wedding
For men, this clearly means a tux. For women, it's not so straightforward. A floor-length dress is conventional, but if your host is more casual, a swanky cocktail number will do, too. If you do go long, your dress should just touch the ground or have a reasonable train. No matter the style, be sure to visit a tailor to ensure your fit is impeccable. You may also want to hire out your hair and makeup. There's no shame in seeking professional help for these big moments!
"My favorite trend that's made it to eveningwear for spring is vibrant color: canary yellow, kelly green, royal blue, even neon," Basloe says. "With a bold color, you want to keep everything else minimal," she advises. "Try mismatched earrings or a single statement one for a surprising element. Then complete the look with sleek hair and clean makeup, a metallic streamlined bag and bare strappy sandals."
Our in-store stylists, beauty experts and tailors can make sure that no matter the dress code, you're your most confident. Visit us before your big event for advice and services.