How to look your best at a dinner party

Don’t sweat what to wear at a dinner party

Dinning invitations – whether at a friend’s or colleague’s house or in a restaurant – are those in between dress-up and casual social events that are hard to dress for. While the dress code for a cocktail party or how to dress for a BBQ are straight forward dress-up and casual, respectively, the dinner-party dress code seems to be neither fish nor meat to many of us.

Easy solutions what to wear to a dinner party

This post shares some ideas to strike the balance to feel comfy, appropriately dressed for the event, respectful, look to your best, and to have a great time.

Attention: Dress-code theme

First make sure that the hostess/host has not planned a theme. If so, you are out of the salad and just have to find something that matches the theme. If there is no theme, your goal should be to go for something fashionable, but not too trendy. Trendy is for Girls’ Night Out.

#fashionover50 woman in a summer dinner party outfit Panel 1. Notations floral cardigan worn as a top with Kieselstein Cord belt over white London Jeans boyfriend jeans with Michael Kors strappy sandals and Kate Moss Longchamp bag (all own)
#maturefashion over 50 years woman in a cat dress styled for a dinner invitation Panel 2. Victoria Victoria Beckham silk cat-print dress with GNW cardigan, Esprit bag, and studded pointy toe flats (all own)

#styleover40 midlife woman looking posh chic in a fit-and-flare dress for a winter dinning invitation Panel 3. Don’t Stare fit-and-flare dress with Moda International cardigan, GNW tights, Longchamp pilage bag, and Clark booties (all own)

#over50fashion woman in long leather skirt for dinner Panel 4. Oliveo long cherry red leather-skirt with cable-knit sweater, Hunter booties, wool socks, and statement necklace (all own) for a dinner party in a log house, restaurant of a winter resort, road house or dry cabin

#maturefashion woman in lace dress for an evening invitation in summer Panel 5. Flowy lace dress with Star denim jacket, Harley Davidson booties, and collier de chien belt (all own)

#maturestyle midlife woman in a print dress for an evening with friends Panel 6. Victoria Victoria Beckham silk print dress with Moda International cardigan, and Gloria Vanderbilt pumps (all own)

#over50fashion woman in heritage inspired outfit Panel 7. Oliveo plaid shirt, Star denim jacket, GNW tight, Aigner sandals, Longchamp bag, and deer leather Hosentürle skirt (all own)

#turningFashionIntoStyle women in dirndls of different heritage for a dinning event Panel 8. Norwegian dirndl (left) and South Tyrolean dirndl. Everyday heritage clothing may be a great ice breaker at parties

When you are an immigrant or alien, wear a heritage dress at a dinner party. It's a great ice breaker. Click To Tweet

Dinner-party dress-code and tips

Avoid anything too festive, especially, when the party is at a home, not a restaurant. You do not want to out-dress your hostess who runs back and forth between the kitchen and the dinning table! Unless she has a maid who prepares and serves the dinner, she will not wear something too fancy due to the risk of spilling and ruining it.

Avoid to outdress your hostess when you are at a dinner party. Click To Tweet

When the dinner party is at a restaurant, keep the (unwritten) dress-code of that place in mind when putting together your outfit. In an Alaska roadhouse, for instance, anything chiffon would be out of place in winter.

Take the dress-code of the restaurant in mind when dressing to go out in the evening. Click To Tweet

Have fun accessorizing

Dinner parties are your Card Blanche to accessorize with cocktail rings, chunky necklaces, layered necklaces, or oversize scarf, but please only one of these at a time. Dinner parties are a good opportunity to wear that shrunken blazer or embellished cardigan, or flowy dresses (e.g. panels 2, 5, 6). Unusual colors (panel 4), patterns (panels 2, 6) or cuts fit the bill (panel 5). In warm climate or summer, go for slouchy silky pants or tops, but make sure to have only one slouchy item. In colder climate regions or winter silk and/or cashmere knit tops and heavier fabrics like jersey or gabardine (panel 3) or even white denim (panel 1) are in order.

In the European Alps or Scandinavia, wearing a cotton or wool dirndl is always appropriate for a dinner party (panel 8). Stay away from a linen dirndl as it may wrinkle when sitting at the table. If you are an immigrant, wearing an everyday item/outfit according to your heritage will be appreciated by nearly everyone (panels 7, 8). Such an outfit is an ice breaker, especially, when there are people you never met before.

Try a regional outfit when dinning with friends or colleagues. Click To Tweet

Shoes can make or break your style

The type of shoes should be picked with the vibe of your outfit in mind. Thus, nearly everything not too casual and not too fancy works, for instance, wedges, strappy or beaded sandals with no to a little heel, cut-out ballet flats, even booties if they fit to the other items of the outfit style and color wise. Switch your bag. Leave your dress bag, work bag or backpack at home! Add a not too large clutch or other fancy bag that means the vibe of the outfit. However, these bags should clearly be outside the territory of black tie or work like the one shown below.

#accessories Amber Convertible Crossbody minibag/clutch c/o Olivia + Joy from the Olivia + Joy Holiday Collection
Amber convertible cross-body minibag/clutch c/o Olivia and Joy is a great bag for a dinning invitation to carry the essentials of makeup, keys, and cell phone

Dinner outfit suggestions and what else to think about

The panels above show some outfit ideas. What about skinny white jeans with a silky, slouchy print top, floral cardigan or blouse (panel 1)? What about slouchy printed pants with a silk tank top and a cropped jeans jacket? Don’t wear this outfit when it is the first time you are invited there. You want to know that you will not have to take off your shoes! Pants cut for plateau shoes become a hazard without them!

Are you the more girly girl? What about a midi or longer chiffon dress with a motorcycle vest or jacket or a long lace dress with a denim jacket (panel 5)? A fit-and-flare dress with cardigan is a great option in winter (panel 3).

Dinning invitation Dos

Well, two other things. What ever you wear, make sure it will not make you feel uncomfortable when you are “forced” to over-eat 😉 . Bring a little thoughtful gift for the hostess.

Enjoy the food, compliments, and evening in style!

Do you host dinning parties? What do you wear when you are the hostess? How does it differ from what you wear when you are the guest? What is your biggest style challenge when dressing when you are invited? Let me know by email so I can help you.

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When you like the tips and outfit recipes above, you may want to Buy my style recipe book How to Dress for Success in Midlife, which has outfit recipes and styling tips for all kind of dressing situations in midlife.

Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2018 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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