pearls invitation jewelry
Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

Party invitations arrive with the promise of an exciting social outing filled with food, spirits and entertainment. While dress codes were once limited to a few specific terms, such as informal, semi-formal or black tie, today’s invitations frequently bear less clear instructions, often including phrases such as “cocktail chic,” “dress-to-impress” or “dressy casual.” These terms all share one common meaning: You are invited to an outing that, while not black-tie formal, does require you to make an effort to dress up and look stylish and, above all, sophisticated.

Style by Gender

Depending on the venue, sophisticated dress for guys means either a beautifully cut suit or sports coat and slacks. If the party is outdoors, daytime or more casual, dark-hued denim may be an appropriate substitution for suit trousers. Leather dress shoes or loafers should be worn; leave the athletic footwear at home. In creative and artistic circles, some men opt for scarves or pocket squares as an alternative to wearing a tie. For women, sophisticated clothing includes a far wider range of wardrobe choices, from sleek cocktail dresses to stylish skirts and trousers paired with sparkly toppers.

Color, Sparkle and Shine

Party wear includes the most luxurious of fabrics, with the spotlight firmly on standout fashion. This is the time to don that sequin-embellished top, shiny satin trouser and silky wrap. While the little black dress remains a stylish party staple, color adds undeniable impact and presence. Make an entrance in a vibrant red mini and 5-inch heels; pair a velvet ankle-length skirt with stiletto booties and a sparkly tank top. Evening is the time to play with proportions and show your sexy side: A high-necked sheath with a low-cut back and side-slit skirt is a sophisticated look with a hint of seduction.

A Balanced Look Adds Style Points

When choosing sophisticated separates, the key word to keep in mind is balance, with one bold piece combined with more toned-down selections for a classy, polished look. A purple metallic top looks luxurious paired with fitted gray wool trousers and strappy patent slingbacks. Or wear a long maroon brocade skirt topped with a stretch lace boatneck in a bold fuchsia with ballet flats for an elegant vibe.

Final Touches

When making a statement with fabric choice that features texture, shine or embellished detail, choose your jewelry, shoes, handbag and wrap to complement, not clash. Multicolored fringe and beaded wraps add glamour to the simplest black dress; pair with fire engine red pumps and your longest drop earrings for a chic evening look. When that party invitation specifying sophisticated attire arrives, break out your glitziest accessories and statement jewelry to celebrate in style.