Dresses For Every Occasion: A Guide

Special event coming up in your diary? Whether it’s a birthday, wedding or graduation party, figuring out what sort of dress to wear to different occasions can be a challenge.

When it comes to occasion dresses, the main thing is to find a balance between comfort, style and appropriateness for the event. Sometimes, there might be a dress code provided, but it’s just as important to keep your own personal style in mind. This is what’s going to make you feel confident and authentically ‘you’.

Other factors to consider are the time of the event (daytime or evening?), the season (a light linen isn’t going to serve you well in winter), and the weather (heavy velvet on a warm day will break you out in a sweat).

Lastly, don’t forget to add your own personal touches, whether it’s a statement piece of jewellery or a colourful scarf. A simple look can be elevated instantly with the right necklace, belt or bag. Just make sure that your accessories complement rather than overpower your outfit.

Here are some tips on dresses to wear to different occasions, from formal weddings to birthday parties. Uniquely stylish and comfy, they’re sure to solve all your ‘I have nothing special to wear’ struggles.


Birthday Party Dresses

When it’s your birthday, you’re going to want a dress that makes you feel like the main character. Depending on your taste, that might be a body-hugging LBD or a playful and colourful outfit that lets your personality shine through, like a bright floral dress. Add some bold jewellery and a pair of (dancefloor-friendly) blocky heels or some trainers, if you’re a flats girl. Check out our party dress edit and birthday dress edit for styles that spark compliments.

Long Sleeve Wrap Top Mini Dress In Multi Colour Printed By FS Collection | £42.00

Formal Wedding Dresses

For a formal wedding, try a long evening gown in a rich colour or jewel tone, such as navy, emerald green or burgundy. Pair it with simple jewellery, like some drop earrings, and high heels. If you prefer a shorter dress, opt for a midi dress in a luxe-feel fabric such as satin or silk. From formal options in velvet, to full length sequin gowns, you’ll find all kinds of standout styles in our edits of ball gown dresses and evening and formal dresses.

Bardot Off Shoulder Maxi Print Dress Navy By Feverfish | £57.00

Informal Wedding Dresses

Beach ceremony or festival-style wedding coming up this summer? Lucky you! For an informal wedding setting, you can be a bit more relaxed with your outfit. You might want to wear a midi sundress or a summer maxi dress, paired with heeled sandals or wedges. Explore our full range of summer wedding guest dresses and discover loads of options in airy fabrics, bold prints and bright colours. Pro tip: avoid anything *too* casual, such as denim or flip-flops – it’s still a wedding, after all.

Green And White Floral Printed 3/4 Sleeve Midi Shirt Dress By AX Paris | £45.00

Bridesmaid Dresses

Bridesmaids duties calling? You might have a specific dress style or colourway assigned to you by the bride. Follow her instructions carefully, but keep in mind that it’s important that your dress fits well and makes you feel confident. Whatever colour palette or theme you’re choosing from, take the stress out of your shopping experience with our bridesmaid dresses edit and maid of honour edit. Prefer a bridesmaid jumpsuit? We’ve got those too!

Bardot Pleated Occasion Maxi Dress In Emerald Green By Goddiva | £69.00

Mother Of The Bride Dresses

As the mother of the bride, you deserve to stand out from the crowd to. Wrap dresses are a universally flattering fit and work for almost any dress code, so this is a great place to start. If you prefer something a little different, how about an elegant wedding jumpsuit? For more options, shop our edit of Mother of the Bride dresses in every style, colour and fit. Choose from chic off-shoulder midis, full-length evening gowns and floral midi dresses.

Exclusive Bardot Off Shoulder Frill Midi Dress Dark Green By Feverfish | £49.00

Engagement Party Dresses

An engagement party is usually a smart-casual affair, so you’ll want something that’s dressed up enough to make you feel special, but still comfy. Whether your friend is getting hitched or you’re the bride to be, we’ve got you covered with our edit of engagement party outfits. A flowy maxi, dancefloor-ready jumpsuit or silky slip dress would be a great option. Pair with some statement earrings and heeled sandals for a party-ready look.

Vesper Abigail Cobalt Cross Strap Midaxi Dress By Vesper247 | £58.00

Hen Party Dresses

Hen do pending? Whether you’re a bride-to-be, bridesmaid or guest, find standout hen party dresses here. Off to Marbs or Ibiza? Snap up lightweight summer dresses that will fit and flatter the whole squad. Plus, we’ve got glam minis and midis for big nights out.

Halter Neck Tie Back Mini Dress In Fuchsia By FS Collection | £42.00

Christening Dresses

For a christening, a midi or maxi dress in a soft colour (such as a pastel shade) would be appropriate. You might want to avoid anything too short, tight, or revealing. Whether you’re a new mum or guest, you’ll find loads of options in our christening dresses edit, from floral wrap styles, to long-sleeved maxis and off-shoulder options.

Ruffle Hem High Neck Sleeveless Dress In Green By Bella and Blue | £65.00

Graduation Dresses

Graduation ceremonies usually have a formal feel, so you’ll want to dress up a bit. Collect your qualification in a dress that celebrates your success with our graduation dresses edit. You’ll find stunning dresses in mini, midi and maxi lengths. Choose from silky styles, sleeveless options and off-the-shoulder dresses. Pair with classic jewellery and comfy heels or flats for that all-important walk across the stage.

Yumi Satin Floral Cowl Neck Slip Dress In Black By Yumi | £52.00

Holiday Dresses

Need dress inspiration for that pending getaway? Whether you’re after a suitcase-ready sundress to throw over your bikini for a pool day, or a flowing maxi dress for beachside cocktails as the sun goes down, you’ll find everything you need in our holiday dresses and beach dresses edits.

Blue And Green Leopard Maxi Dress With Frill Detail By D.Anna | £54.00

More from Mary-Jane Wiltsher

How To Style The Little Black Dress

Date nights. Job interviews. Graduation photos. Like a ride-or-die bestie, the reliable...
Read More