It’s an outdated assumption that wearing a dress is compulsory for every “special” (or even formal) occasion. But while it’s no longer a requirement, donning one that’s flattering, comfortable, and makes a statement can still be a strong, interesting choice. To prove how fresh and unexpected a frock-based look can be, the Cut put together creative solutions for what to wear for some of spring’s most common social situations. The takeaway: As increasingly obsolete dress codes become more ambiguous (i.e., confusing), styling up a great dress always works.
To make your life even easier, Lord & Taylor just opened an all-encompassing dress destination – the largest dress floor in New York City – at their Fifth Avenue flagship. There you’ll find a comprehensive range of styles from casual day options to designer gowns. Explore our interpretation of today’s “new dress code” below; then visit the department store to shop the featured styles and many more.
Having an excuse to get very dressed up is rare — all the more reason to really go for it when you do. Throwing yourself a birthday party is a prime peacocking opportunity, and you don’t even have to do anything particularly fancy to justify wearing your dream dress. To avoid feeling conspicuously overdressed, keep the rest of the look rooted in real life: Leave your hair undone, go a little edgier with your makeup, and throw in a tougher choker or trendy sock. If an occasion doesn’t naturally present itself? Buy the dress and find something to celebrate ASAP.
When your latest app match suggests meeting up the next day, save yourself a bathroom-stall change by wearing one dress that can transition from work to drinks. Go for a style that’s simple enough to fly by day, but doesn’t remind your date to do their taxes; a just-above-the-knee length hits the right note between flirty and office-appropriate. Also key: shoes that can handle your morning commute, but don’t come off too literally as workwear. If you actually do make dressier plans? Slip a manager-friendly jacket over a dress you can reveal fully later on.
As most of us mature, our need for an arsenal of flimsy “going-out tops” diminishes in correlation to our susceptibility to juice cleanses and 7 a.m. spin classes. So when your next true night out is a big deal, opt for something more sophisticated than a spangly tank and skinny jeans or a constricting bodycon number. A good dress should make you feel sexy in a self-possessed way. Seek out a deliberate, less-obvious silhouette and a confident, on-trend color choice. Then modernize the look with a graphic-print silk blouse on top and equally bold tassel earrings.
For every other traditional wedding, there’s now one that’s consciously unconventional. From the canned-beer backyard vows to the dinner party that’s actually an over-the-top surprise ceremony, straightforward cocktail attire is no longer necessarily a given. One strategy to ensure you look great regardless is to pick a dress in the vicinity of about how formal you think things will be, then strive for an overall glamorous effect. A furry jacket, oversized fashion jewelry, and versatile block heels can slide your look up and down several degrees of dressiness.
Even in today’s climate of pervasive casualness, there are moments for which a nice dress really does feel like a rite of passage. Take advantage of the chance to wear something long, preferably with a swingy hemline made for dancing. And since you’re not not thinking forward to the Instagram photos, look for a style with something eye-catching going on around the shoulders and neckline. Keep things from feeling too serious by selecting jewelry and shoes with some personality (like big gold discs and lucite heels), and skip the stiff, over-styled hair.