A Woman's Dress Wardrobe

Add a few basic clothing items to your wardrobe to ensure that you have what you need for a typical dress-up or evening occasion.

Collecting clothes over a decade or two, sometimes in more than one size, may mean that we have a closet full of clothes that are out of style or do not fit as they once did. But you may need to plan ahead for a holiday dinner with coworkers or a night at the opera with friends. Consequently, it may be time to update your evening wear.

Rather than running out to buy a new outfit for every elegant occasion that comes along, although that would be fun, your budget may be better served by purchasing a few select items, then mixing and matching them for a variety of occasions.

Start with "the little black dress." Also called a cocktail dress, and not necessarily black, this number comes in a variety of styles that will suit any personality. For conservative dressers, a turtleneck, short-sleeved style that flows gracefully over your form to hit your leg squarely at mid-knee, or perhaps even dropping to your ankles should not raise any eyebrows. Or you can get a little more daring by going sleeveless, choosing a v-neck, and cinching the dress at the waist for a form-fitting look that stops above the knee. Whatever your taste and values, a classic style dress, simple in nature, will prepare you for many evenings out, from dinner at an upscale restaurant to an art gallery event.

Add a floor-length dressy skirt to your wardrobe. Choose a good fabric and formal color or design to avoid appearing trite or casual. Silk and wool make good selections, along with other classy fabrics. The skirt may have a gathered waist or a fitted one with an accompanying belt. Try several on to get the look that best accents your figure.

Next, add a quality silk blouse. Another texture will do if you prefer not to wear silk, which can be clingy. Depending on your personality, opt for a neutral white or beige, or go wild with an animal print or dark lavender, for example. Long sleeves work well except for very warm evenings, but then, most indoor events will have air conditioning. Short sleeves or sleeveless blouses will work, too, especially if you add a shawl or evening wrap.

Another useful piece is an evening jacket. Satin or silk, short-waisted or long and sleek, a jacket can breathe new life into last year's ensemble. Choose a dark or light solid color in a classic style, one that buttons, zips, or is tied to coordinate with your other pieces. If the skirt or blouse are solids, however, you can try on a colorful print jacket for contrast as long as it doesn't appear too "loud."

Dress slacks provide the needed alternative for events that require more movement, such as conventions, speaking engagements, or other entertainments or appointments. Wool or other natural textiles are good choices for quality leg wear; solid hues seem to work best on many occasions. Look for slacks that are different enough from the skirt to provide a totally different look when worn with the same blouse.

Next, you will need accessories. Select coordinating earrings, necklace, and bracelet to go with your classic outfit. Better yet, get two sets, one for the skirt and another for the slacks. Purchase a matching bag and shoes; these final touches will complete your look and be worth the money you will pay for them.

When the big night comes, spend extra time on your makeup and hair before slipping into your new outfit. Presto, you're a new and more attractive person!

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