How to Shop for an Evening Dress

Perhaps this is the time when more of us are shopping for formal wear, maybe even a ballgown for your Cinderella grand entrance! With Proms, Christmas, New Year celebrations and company D&Ds, there’s always an excuse to up the glam game and squeeze in a gorgeous dress for your diva princess moments at the year-end party.

On the other hand, if you’re Miss Practical (as am I), you may be searching for something presentable, re-wearable, that doesn’t make you look like what the cat dragged in. However, vanity does not allow you to wear that same black dress for the 3rd year running to the office party yet again and you don’t want to spend too much money on something you’ll only wear once (or twice) in a year! Whatever your predicament, here are my best tips when it comes to shopping for an evening dress.

1. Shop for it when you don’t need it.

I know this may be advice given too late at this point, but really, evening gown shopping is best done when there is no immediate or urgent need. We don’t want to be that stressed-out drama queen, with a timer ticking at the back of our heads because we know we need to look like Beyonce TOMORROW for a red carpet event and at today’s lunchtime, we’re still madly scouring the racks hoping to find a gown that 1) makes us look amazing, 2) doesn’t constrict blood circulation and 3) doesn’t break the bank. If this is you and you’re saying, well and good, next year I’ll take your advice, but I need help NOW - then here’s my suggestion in one word: RENT. That’s right, you can always rent a gown, just this once, brides do it all the time - wear it and return it! No long-term love affair needed, no huge investments necessary, just like it enough to rent it for a night. Or better yet, borrow one from a girlfriend who’s about your size.

2. Find a dress that flatters your best feature.  

Let me explain. Say you have nice shoulders, then perhaps you want to look for a strapless gown that will showcase them or if you have a sexy back, then perhaps a dress with a low back feature will accentuate your back. Maybe you have amazing legs, then selecting a gown with thigh high slits will amp up your sex appeal. Bear in mind that its best to decide on ONE body part you want to accentuate and find a dress which suitably highlights that well.

Don’t get a dress that has a plunging neckline, a cinched in waistline, with thigh high slits and in a see-through material with strategically placed sequins, unless you intend to cameo for a stage show in Las Vegas! Too many accents will end up being a distraction, so go with 1 or at most 2 best features to accentuate and shoot for sexy and confident, not tarty and uncomfortable.


If you can keep your game face on and rock this dress, more power to you, go ahead and rock it! But if not, no matter the rave reviews - yours is the only opinion that counts, so get something that you’ll feel confident and comfortable in, not exposed and vulnerable.

3. Find a dress that flatters your complexion.

Yes, it’s a black dress, but she’s accessorised with George Clooney, who’s gonna top that?! AND Cate Blanchett got Tiffany’s round her neck, that’s gonna to blast off any competition right?

Yes, it’s a black dress, but she’s accessorised with George Clooney, who’s gonna top that?! AND Cate Blanchett got Tiffany’s round her neck, that’s gonna to blast off any competition right?

Let me qualify that I have nothing against black. In fact, black forms the backbone of my personal wardrobe. I mean, there is a reason why “black-tie” is used as a dress code to describe the ultimate in formalwear right? But, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd if one is dressed in a black evening gown, because chances are, there’ll be more people dressed in black than any other color – hence more competition for attention. My take will be if you’re going to buy a black gown (any gown for that matter actually, but doubly so if its black!) make sure you love it, make sure you look impeccable in it, so that you’ll have the self- confidence to know that every time you wear it, you’ll crush the competition.

Otherwise, I would suggest that you choose a darker color that flatters your complexion or one of my personal favourite color tips, try something in the jewel tones family. I prefer darker (rather than lighter or brighter colors) because I’m a firm believer of Murphy’s Law - anything that can go wrong will!

Darker shades camouflage wine spills and other sauce related accidents much better than lighter and brighter colors. I’ve seen lots of K-drama actresses that look fabulous in white gowns but I’m such a klutz, I don’t think I can carry white off with peace of mind and confidence, more likely, I’ll be a nervous wreck, just anticipating a bumbling waiter to walk right into me with a tray full of food and drinks.

4. Go for quality and timeless fabrics.


If you foresee that you will not need to wear evening gowns too often, select one in a fabric that is relatively season-less like silk or chiffon. I would also suggest going with a solid color rather than prints, although if you want to push the envelope and go with prints, make sure the prints are not loud and gawdy. Pick timeless prints for example stripes, dots or checks but make sure you pass on prints that will mark an “era” because these will make the gown look dated very quickly.

5. Keep It Simple Sweetheart (KISS!)

It’s always tempting to get carried away with “SALE” signs and settle for a gown (since you won’t wear it so often anyway) in a slightly funny shade or with a little too much risk of exposure or beading or embroidery etc, and yet because of the attractive price tag, you decide that you can work around it. If you only need a couple of evening dresses to complement your lifestyle needs, choose simple and elegant gowns without fussy details.

Avoid the ruffles, multi-colored sequins, heavy beading etc. This way, you can always wear different accessories – statement necklaces, cocktail rings, shoulder duster earrings, add a clutch bag, a shawl or a plush fur coat, sexy heels or style your hair and makeup differently to get maximum mileage from the same evening gown.

So these are my top 5 tips what to look out for when shopping for evening gowns. I hope you have fun if you are indeed looking for one. Let me know in the comments below if you find any of these tips helpful or if you have other tips or experiences to share with us about shopping for eveningwear.

By the way, I share these tips and other style secrets in my book “The A-Z Wardrobe”, so if you’re looking for gift ideas for your fashionable friends this Christmas, why not gift this book to them. I know there’re lots of good style books out there in the market – but this one’s a concise style guide, a quick and practical read, and I know it’s good – coz I wrote it!! (insert wink emoji!!) ), so I’ll be thrilled if you support my writing, and buy a few as gifts for your friends and family this Christmas!



PS: 30% of the book sale from now to 31 Dec 2016 will be donated to Touch Community Services, a Not For Profit organisation based in Singapore, which we’ve been supporting since the start of our business in 2005. This year, as part of their Christmas initiative, TCS is seeking support to help some 2,600 frail and homebound seniors who require home medical and nursing. We want to use our expertise and our influence to extend practical help to those within our own community, we rise by lifting others, so in the season of giving, please contribute generously.