The thrill of choosing the appropriate style and color of the perfect dress for a special occasion can set the tone for the entire event. However, choosing the right dress for the right occasion can also be nerve-wracking, stressful and discouraging if one goes into the process unprepared. Websites such as are a great place to see examples and find great special occasion dresses, but first one has to know what to look for.


Factors to consider – the event


The acceptable styles and colors of formal dresses will vary depending on the time of day. Evening weddings, homecoming dances or proms as well as formal “black tie” events will require more formal dresses, usually three-quarter or floor length. Daytime weddings, cocktail parties and other more relaxed formal events mean that shorter dresses or cocktail dresses are a good choice.


Another important consideration when looking at the type of event and the style of dress is the dress’s functionality. If the event is a dinner, it is important to have a style and cut that permits comfortable sitting for a long period of time. If it is a dance or wedding, a dress that moves well and is comfortable and not constricting is best.


Factors to consider – flattering the figure


Once the proper style of attire is determined, it is time to consider body shape and type. An occasion dress should fit the body well, not too tight nor too loose. The cut should flatter the figure, accentuating the person’s best physical features and playing down less than perfect ones. It is important to know all measurements, including the bust, waist and hips; if the dress has a slim-fitting sleeve, knowing the circumference of the upper arm is necessary. It is also necessary to have the measurement from the neckline to the waist and from the waist to the floor; this will help ensure that the bodice of the dress properly fits the woman’s torso and that the length of the skirt is appropriate and manageable for her height.


The length of the dress is an important and distinguishing characteristic. Most special occasion dresses will have a skirt length that reaches at least the knee. Occasion dresses with shorter skirts are typically worn to less formal occasions or small affairs; cocktail dresses would fall into this category. A dress or dress skirt that ends at mid-calf is a good choice for an afternoon wedding, while floor length or ankle length dresses and dress skirts are best for an evening wedding or an upscale dinner party or seasonal party.


When choosing a dress that flatters, keep in mind what is appropriate for the specific event. Dresses that are low cut would not be appropriate to wear to a wedding at any time; a dress with a very short skirt would not be appropriate for a grandparent’s birthday or an anniversary party.


Factors to consider – color


Skin tone is extremely important when choosing a color to wear. A woman with a yellowish undertone to the skin should avoid colors such as pale yellow, gold or champagne. If the skin has a pinkish or rosy undertone, shades of blue and purple are excellent choices, while those who have skin tones with a peach or red undertone can wear any of a number of warm color shades.


Hair color can also play a major role in how one looks in a color. Brunettes can wear a wide range of colors; shades of blue are particularly flattering for dark-haired women. Blondes can wear a range of warm shades, as well as looking stunning in black, while redheads look excellent in pastel shades or in a jewel-like turquoise. If there are any plans to dye the hair or put in highlights before the event, take that into consideration when choosing the dress.


Finally, personal preference should ultimately guide color choice. When choosing the dress, one should pick a color that makes one feel confident and comfortable.


Choice of color may also be guided by the season in which the event is taking place. Spring and summer affairs are a great time to wear pastel colors; shades such as lime, lemon yellow, peach, lavender and pale blue suit this sunny time of year. Jewel tones and darker shades are ideal for autumn and winter parties and occasions; scarlet, emerald, purple, sapphire and metallic such as copper are good choices. Neutral colors, including white, beige, taupe and sand, are a good choice year-round.


Even with all the considerations that go into choosing the perfect occasion dress, the process of finding out what suits the individual best is an enjoyable one. The result is well worth the effort: in the end one has a flattering, attractive dress that will make attending the event a memorable experience.


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