Party Dresses

Party dresses are like cocktails: you have your go-to little black dresses, which are akin to your everyday Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. When you're feeling festive, perhaps you turn to a metallic mini frock for the sartorial version of a glass of champagne (paillettes in particular always make us feel bubbly!). And finally, you have your Saturday night specials, those personal picks that can be as sultry as a dirty martini (sparkles and draping) or as wild as a shot of Patron (animal print and tulle!). Well, we'd like you to consider this installment of Go Buy Now the frock equivalent of a top-shelf bar. We've taken the mixology courses for you (trend tracking + runway watching + styling tips= perfect party wear), and come up with a carefully curated, first-class list of seasonal delights for you to try!

In case we've totally confused you with our drink-dress comparisons, perhaps we can clarify with a little help from Cassie and her edgy party outfit. This fashion frontrunner deftly illustrated how to pick a seasonal frock when she opted for Brian Reyes' Black and Gold Centipede Print Dress from his Spring 10 runway collection at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards in New York City earlier this week. The eye-catching print echoes the animalistic accents we've been seeing on many stylesetters as of late, while the structured silhouette encapsulates the eighties flair we love. We like how Cassie paired her directional frock with equally intriguing shoes, opting for zippered peep-toe booties instead of the standard black pump. The choice of bold patterns and sexy, slitted shoes makes her party attire feel fresh and fun while still being occasion-appropriate. Overall, her fete fashion truly inspires, reminding us that when it comes to the show-stopping dresses, we must go buy now! Cheers and happy shopping!

1. Torn by Ronny Kobo Ari Crystals Cheetah Dress ($198)
When Christopher Decarnin sent a silver cheetah print mini-dress down his F/W 09 runway, we thought it was the cat's meow. That's why we couldn't have been more pleased when we discovered this equally party purr-fect version for a more reasonable price. The tank-style mini is so easy to wear, and the simple silhouette balances out the bold crystal animal prints making the look more easy-breezy cocktail than buttoned-up black tie. We recommend taking styling notes from Balmain's show and toughening up the flirty dress with silver-tipped buckle boots for a fashion-forward after-hours look.

2. 3.1 Phillip Lim Surplus Neckline Dress ($625)
While at first glance this sophisticated forties-inspired silhouette might not seem like the average night-out number, we'd undoubtedly reach for this 3.1 Phillip Lim frock for any sophisticated soiree. The rose gold hue is inherently glamorous and will set you stylishly apart in a sea of black, while the intricate pleating and use of burnout silk is so very luxe meets laissez-faire. Additionally, we love the party-perfect kitsch of an oversized black bow so your lovely figure won't get lost in the draping. Knowing Ashley Olsen's adoration for the vintage aesthetic, we could easily see her pairing this with dark tights and platform pumps, and maybe even a faux-fur, for evening attire that's equal parts unique, polished, and bohemian chic.

3. Alexander Wang Drapey Stretch Sequin Dress ($815)
This draped shimmering mini is truly a to-die-for dress. The sequined finish looks haute for the holidays, hitting just the right celebratory note, while the navy hue imbues it with a sense of sophistication. Additionally, the cowl neckline and asymmetrical draping add a ladylike appeal that is an intriguing contrast to the hiked-up hemline. Although this exact dress was not seen on Wang's F/W 09 runway, we'd still borrow tips from that tough-girl collection and pair this glistening mini with lace-up booties and patterned tights for an element of edginess and a fully directional, festive look. Finally, for an equally lustrous ensemble at a more wallet-friendly price, you can pick up Velvet by Graham & Spencer's Josie Sequined Dress ($209) which has a comparable neckline and slinky silhouette.

4. Elizabeth and James Penelope Dressicon ($365).
Here at the Who What Wear offices, we have to oppose Kermit the Frog on this one point: we think it's truly easy being green. (In fact, we seem to have a personal penchant for all verdant shades!) Yet, perhaps the reason we're always drawn to this color-particularly for the season of celebrations-is because it's excitingly unexpected and always manages to look youthful and fresh. This particular Elizabeth and James dress is a perfect pick not just because we've made such ado about the hue that echoes the jewel-toned frocks seen at Valentino's F/W 09 runway, but also because a strapless style is always holiday ready. Making this dress even more present-able is the black ribbon tie, which highlights a narrow waist and adds a flirty touch. Another great option for a smaller investment is Aqua's Strapless Satin Tube Dress ($88), which has the same green and black scheme. Whichever you choose, we'd recommend staying true to the classical feel of both dresses and pair them with a glittery heel and a Blake Lively inspired pony-braid hybrid updo for a red-carpet ready ensemble.

5. Acne Cold Shoulder Fantasy Dress ($840)
Perhaps the most whimsical of today picks is Acne's ballerina-punk silk dress, thanks to its wonderfully wild look! The bold pattern and exposed tulle resemble Louis Vuitton's edgy F/W 09 collection, which in turn brings us back to the party-hardy decade of the eighties. However, the frock prevails as of-the-moment due to its one-shoulder strap and mix of animalistic prints. We could see someone with insouciant style, like Taylor Momsen, pairing it with patterned tights and black ankle boots (and maybe even lace gloves!) for an uptown/downtown look that's spot-on for the season. However, since this price tag is something of an investment for a party frock, we also think the Strapless Tiered Dress ($238) from BCBG or the Halter Pleated Bubble Dress ($129) by bebe are both equally fun and flirty picks!-Liza Kaplan