OCCASIONWEAR GUIDE

WHAT TO WEAR TO SUMMER EVENTS

Summer occasionwear. Just the term itself conjures up ideas of mad fascinators, mid-heels and the type of formal dresses you wear once a year and never feel yourself in. In 2022, event dressing means something else. Now we finally have the big ticket invites that have been postponed for two years – summer weddings, christenings and parties – dressing up is more enticing than ever. We want sartorial joie de vivre – pieces in vibrant colour, bold silhouettes, statement accessories and extravagant details – as well as clothes we can move in, styles destined for dance floors and long evenings in grassy gardens. Occasionwear can be approached in two different ways – either as an elevated version of your everyday wardrobe or a chance to play with a different style personality entirely. Here, fashion experts, from content creators and stylists to editors and writers, offer their definitive tips for how to master event dressing now.  

Photography by Petros Studio

Wedding pictures

HAVE A FIELD DAY

Dress, Elie Saab.

Blue cashmere sweater

SARAH KARMALI, HARPER’S BAZAAR DIGITAL EDITOR: START WITH THE SHOES

“When it comes to event dressing – particularly for weddings – I always tend to start with the shoes and work up. It sounds very practical and boring, but truly, there’s nothing worse than having a special day ruined by sore feet and blisters (and nothing less chic than hobbling home barefoot at the end of the night), so I generally go for tried-and-tested favorites. It also pays to consider the location when it comes to footwear; I’ve previously ruined the heel of a pair of Manolos by trudging across a field to get to a wedding marquee, so I find that anything with a platform and chunky block heel is better if you’re going to be on grass.  

“In terms of the rest of the outfit, I prefer to go for something classic and simple in terms of shape – silhouettes that I know flatter me and make me feel confident – and try not to get side-tracked too much by trends. Just because something looked good on your favorite model/influencer/celebrity does not mean it will look the same on you! If you’re really stuck then I find a good tip is to think back to a time when you felt really great and perhaps got compliments; then find something similar (or even wear the same dress again, for the most planet-friendly option).” 

LUCIA DEBIEUX, FREELANCE FASHION EDITOR: STAY TRUE TO SILHOUETTES YOU LOVE

“When it comes to getting dressed for a summer party, whether it’s a black-tie do or a wedding abroad, my number one tip will always be to stick with silhouettes that you already know work for you. Now isn’t the time to try a new style, if you wouldn’t wear body-con in normal life, why start now?

“As a self-confessed color addict, I can't wait to embrace this season’s colors, hello Bottega Veneta green and Valentino-inspired pink. Whether it's with a linen suit or a billowing maxi, the coolest way to wear color for me is to make a statement in one shade head to toe. Think clean-lined silhouettes with a nod to the 90s and you can’t go wrong. Lastly don’t be afraid to clash with bold, contrasting accessories.”

Dress, Emilia Wickstead. Shoes, Le Monde Beryl. Earrings, Ben Amun.

Wedding pictures

ANNA VITIELLO, CREATIVE CONSULTANT: DARE TO BE BOLD

“Throw out the rule book (where appropriate) and go bold – dressing up for a special occasion is all about having fun this summer. Whether it’s a fluoro-tone slip dress or OTT feathers, you can always balance a bright with a streamlined silhouette or pared back accessories. A thigh-high slit is my go-to statement this summer – I love the boldness of having one leg out and finishing the silhouette with an embellished heel.” 

(Left) Dress, Philosophy. Scarf, Valentino. (Centre) Dress, Saloni. (Right) Earrings, Rejina Pyo.

Blue cashmere sweater

NAOMI PIKE, FREELANCE FASHION JOURNALIST: MIX VINTAGE STYLES WITH CONTEMPORARY ACCESSORIES

“For me, event dressing and choosing what to wear always starts with a silhouette and that might mean filtering an online selection to mid-length, A-line or even just choosing designers I know I love, or that I’m looking to try for the event I’m planning for. Once I’ve got these filters in place, I feel I can have more fun with my selections and experiment with color or print as I know that I’m now working in my comfort zone or with shapes and fits that are guaranteed to work. It’s important that you feel comfortable, supported and like your best self during these long wedding days or much-photographed party nights. 

“My event dressing repertoire leans into the more classic, perhaps even Old Hollywood aesthetic: A-line dresses, soft pastel colors or contrasting classic black (rarely anything in between) but then I’ll perhaps opt for more contemporary accessories to alleviate any tiredness or a feeling of anything being too retro, especially if I’m wearing vintage. Think a stonkingly-high platform worn with a sweet floral dress or a classic prom-style silhouette then worn with square-toe sandals and a padded Prada hairband. If you want to immediately fast track to fabulous, you must go feathers. I recently wore a custom 16Arlington style for my birthday party that had ostrich feathers across the decolletage and hemline that brought an unbridled sense of glamour to the evening.” 

BILLIE BHATIA, STYLIST FASHION AND BEAUTY DIRECTOR: CREATE A DRAMATIC STYLE PERSONA

“The best part of event dressing is the opportunity to create a completely different character through your choice of outfits. Instead of my usual black leggings and oversized shirt that makes up my working from home uniform, I get to play a part - I’m the girl in the bright fuchsia pink dress, or the one breezing around Sicily in swathes of jade green chiffon. It’s equal parts liberating and indulgent. I don’t have rules as such for event dressing, but I have a state of mind: go big, because these occasions are few and fleeting. Create drama with billowing shapes, be the antithesis of your everyday with bright colors and luxurious fabrics, and pile on the accessories.  

“I look to oversized kaftan-style shapes for timelessness – they feel classic and elegant without trying too hard. Using simple shapes as my base, I layer in personality via my accessories – gilded gold earrings and necklaces for glamour, statement sunglasses to add a ‘fashion’ element, and a bright lip because ultimately, we are here to celebrate.” 

Blouse, Giambattista Valli. Skirt, Emilia Wickstead.

Wedding pictures

SINEAD CUTTS, THE OUTNET STYLE DIRECTOR: NEVER FORGET COMFORT 

“More than ever, comfort is key. Weddings are usually long days and the lighter evenings mean summer parties often go later into the night; either scenario means you need to be able to move and not feel crippled by a super tight silhouette or really high heel. I love jumpsuits for big events because they’re so easy to wear and don’t require much thought – one piece equals an entire finished look. They’re also super-comfortable and offer a nonchalant, fuss-free appeal. Wide-leg trousers have a similar energy to them.  

“Consider simple shapes (Emilia Wickstead is my go-to) because they create a streamlined and classic look that also feels modern. Play up the accessories – have more fun with the shoes or jewelry. Remember, just because it’s a big occasion, don’t forget who you are and what you like to wear normally. Event dressing should be an extension of your daily wardrobe.” 

HOLLY WHITE, CELEBRITY STYLIST: A FLASH OF DÉCOLLETAGE IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

“Dressing for big summer weddings, whether a wedding or big birthday party, is about finding pieces that are comfortable, sexy and flattering. Off-the-shoulder and asymmetric necklines reveal a hint of décolletage which is such an elegant and chic way of dressing up without showing too much. It’s a favourite among my clients and for good reason. Also, look for lightweight fabrics that don’t crease easily – Tencel, for example, is very wrinkle resistant and also environmentally friendly – a double win.”

(Left) Jumpsuit, Emilia Wickstead. (Right) Dress, Emilia Wickstead. Earrings, Ben Amun.

Senior Art Director: Liz Muller / Senior Fashion Editor: Bree Macara / Film Director: Teilo Vellacott / Director of Photography: Kyle Macfadzean / Stylist’s assistants: Efe Igbinadolor and Simona Mezzina / Hair Stylist: Tommy Taylor / Makeup Artist: Sandra Cooke / Production and Casting: Lock Studios / Models: Ayesha @Models 1 and Ash @Elite.