Formal Season

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The holidays are right around the corner, meaning we have a lot to look forward to: gift exchanges, Christmas sweaters, tacky decorations, more eggnog than could ever be considered socially acceptable and… formal season. Finding the perfect dress for a sorority or fraternity formal can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Everyone wants to step out looking her best (and better than everyone else), and making decisions about hair, makeup, accessories and the dress can almost overshadow the event itself. After all, formals are the closest thing college students really have to dinner parties, weddings, black tie affairs and otherwise adult parties, so we really like to go all out.

The trickiest part is narrowing down all of your options – not every dress at the mall is going to be appropriate for this occasion. You want to stand out, but not in the bad way; look classy, but not boring; feel sexy, but not trashy. Seem impossible? I found there are three routes you can go when choosing your formal dress, and with some careful accessorizing, you can’t really go wrong.

Of course, there’s always the little black dress (abbreviated “LBD”) – this piece works for almost any occasion, including formals. LBDs are a safe bet when you just aren’t sure what other girls are going to wear, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Choosing an LBD with one stand-out detail – like sleek cut-outs, a body-con fit, or a feathered skirt – will make for a unique and stylish outfit. Plus, LBDs allow you to add bolder accessories; try wearing bright shoes or a shimmery metallic clutch.

But some nights call for more sparkle than can fit in the palm of your hand, and a full-on metallic dress may be just the ticket. Metallic (and sequin) dresses work especially well at holiday parties, where girls feel they can lay on more glitter and glitz than usual. However, you don’t want to look like you’re headed to the disco; to avoid a clownish affect, choose a metallic dress in a loose, T-shirt style. The juxtaposition of a casual cut and glamorous sparkle looks effortless and festive. On that same note, your accessories should be clean and simple – try a basic black clutch and ladylike pumps.

Bright colors have been a huge trend for the past few seasons, and they can easily translate to the formal scene – you just have to choose one bright color in a tasteful cut. Try a color that flatters your skin tone: purple for olive skin, fuschia for pale skin, or turquoise for deep skin. (Note: this is not the time to fake a darker skin tone, whether you opt for a spray-tan or tanning bed. Trust me.) If you’re feeling especially daring, go for a neon hue like citron yellow – just make sure it’s a simple, clean shape. Accessories should be minimal, but the color choice is largely up to you; black is the go-to color to tone down a bright hue, but crisp metallics work as well. You can even add more color; complementary hues can be surprisingly chic and unfussy, like cobalt pumps with a purple dress.

{Little Black Dresses, from left: Cut25, Theory, Factory by Erik Hart // Luxe Metallics, from left: Bird by Juicy Couture, Topshop, French Connection // Bold Brights, from left: Alice + Olivia, Alice + Olivia, J. Crew}

Sophomore > Journalism and Art History > Indiana University

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