How To Tackle Occasionwear In A Capsule Wardrobe

The frugal way of buying fancy things…


I don’t go on much much about occasionwear around these parts, mainly because getting dressed up is practically a bi-annual event for me; reserved for weddings and not much else. Back in the day I lived for an excuse to crack out my Topshop corset dress that had a gold top-half and a poofy-out black bottom half (I once wore it out on my 18th birthday paired with a tiara. True story). These days I prefer a more casual approach to dressing and my current wardrobe features just a few fancy items that are multi-tasking heroes and have become workhorses of event dressing for me. So today, to go along with my new wedding guest ‘Get Ready With Me’ video (scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch that), I thought I’d type about how I tackled the often mindlessly purchased, formalwear section of my capsule wardrobe and how I edited it down to just a few true gems…


See what you’re working with. I feel like the occasionwear section in our wardrobes is often the most muddled. A ‘smart’ dress code on an invite is like a free ticket to order an ASOS haul so big that the DPD guy has to roll it to your front door. We always get a severe case of ‘I have nothing to wear’ and usually settle for something that’s a rush purchase that we never would have normally bought if we had our heads screwed on properly. So I reckon that the first step to getting a grip on it all is to firstly assess what you’re working with. When I first went through my fancy pieces I realised that there were many that had gone completely unworn when I’d changed my mind at the last minute *slaps wrist*, a few that didn’t fit or made me feel completely awful and just a handful that I actually liked. In a way the process is easy; put it on and if you don’t feel like you’re giving Beyoncé a run for her money in it, then it’s time to pass it on or donate. That way you’re just left with the real good stuff.


Assess your calendar. Unless you’re Kate Middleton, the chances are that you have to crack out the formalwear on a pretty infrequent basis, so it’s worth looking at when you actually have to dress up to see what occasions most crop up in your diary. For me it’s weddings, with the odd fancy brand event thrown in and I usually wear items that are around the same level of smart-ness to both, so things can be repurposed for both. If it’s work functions that you attend often then you might need to look a little more business casual or perhaps it’s fancy evenings out that you dress up for, but take a look at in a dream world what would be your ideal garment for those events and that should give you a starting point for any future fancy purchases.

How much do you need? Now this a tricky one because whenever we go all out with our outfits, we want them to feel fresh and feel bloomin’ fabulous in them, so we’re programmed to be averse to the idea of wearing them again and again. However, I say to never underestimate the chameleon properties of a good accessory peeps! Personally I have three fancy items in my wardrobe: a black jumpsuit from Whistles, a navy jumpsuit from Whistles (that’s good for when I can’t wear black) and this Ganni dress which is my real standout piece that’s more summery than my previous two offerings. Summer wedding? Wear the Ganni dress. Winter wedding? Throw on the black jumpsuit with a blazer over my shoulders and some statement earrings. Fancy brand event where you know everyone is going to turn up looking a million dollars? Give the navy jumpsuit a whirl with some leopard print heels and a smokey eye.


Get picky. Buying occasionwear is inevitable. We need these items in our wardrobes for a reason so I’m not saying to never buy them, I’m just suggesting that you to get picky next time you make a purchase. We’re so often buying these pieces in a rush that we don’t stop to think if we actually really love it, instead of like it and that actually it feels really uncomfortable when you sit down, or the hem is too high, it’s unflatteringly cut on our arms or a tie-waist just doesn’t suit our body type. We just take a quick look in the mirror, do a shrug of acceptable and rip out the tags. So next time you feel like the fancy section in your wardrobe needs a new addition give it the same amount of love, research and attention that you give to your classic pieces and if it isn’t perfection then DON’T RIP OUT THE TAGS!

The two mantras. I’ve managed to squeeze almost 1,000 words out of this but really my process when it comes to occasionwear boils down to two questions I ask myself. Firstly if I can’t think of at least one other way, if not more, to style a piece then it’s not worthy of a place in my capsule wardrobe. In the example of the Ganni dress I feel that obviously it’s a great one to crack out for a wedding, but it wouldn’t look out of place paired with some sandals when out for dinner on holiday in a warmer climate abroad or here in the summer. The second thing I query is whether I can think of the next event when I’ll wear it. Again with the dress I knew that I wanted it for this fancy soirée with Bobbi Brown in New York, but that I also had a mate’s wedding coming up that it would be great for. Next I’m thinking it’s coming with me to Greece next week. SUN – I’M READY FOR YA.

Photos by Lauren Shipley

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