With celebrity clients like Miranda Kerr, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, and Hilary Swank under her styling belt, the talented Kate Young knows what it takes to create a stunning evening look. The accomplished stylist dished her insights and styling tips about evening dressing in her first-ever book, Dressing For The Dark. The book covers iconic on-screen sartorial moments as well as remarkable red-carpet looks to illustrate the best silhouettes, colors, and occasions for the five main types of dresses.
Scroll through for Young’s secrets to dressing for evening!
Tip #1: “It’s good to step outside your comfort zone a little when it comes to a cocktail party. I would never wear a bright green pants suit, but I would wear a bright green cocktail dress—or even a bright green evening suit. If you don’t want to make color the focus of your outfit, consider a little sparkle. Nothing says I’m ready to have a good time like sparkle.”
Tip #2: “Experiment with vintage, like a 1940s tea dress or a stretchy 1980s dress—this is one time when it’s okay to look a little costume-y. And wearing vintage lets you tap into feminine details such as silky fabrics, which have largely disappeared from daywear.”
Tip #1: “There’s a fine line between sexy and desperate. To stay on the right side of it, you have to think about balance. Don’t show everything at once. If a dress is short, it should have sleeves. If it’s super-low-cut, it should be long. If it’s backless, it should have a high front. Another way to think of this is that you should only have one asset on display at a time. It’s much sexier to suggest than to reveal.”
Tip #2: “Every sexy look I style starts with the undergarments. If you want to smolder, it’s absolutely crucial to have the right bra on—and that goes for when you’re buying the dress, too. Always try on the dress with the bra. The minute the bust is lifted up and inside the rib cage, you look five pounds lighter.”
Tip #1: “I love jewel tones on brunettes, pink on blondes, and redheads really sing in green. Women with dark skin can wear very strong, unusual colors and look phenomenal. Everyone looks glamorous in some shade of red. But these are guidelines; always take a long look in the mirror before you buy. If the dress has volume, make sure it’s in a place that flatters your body. If it’s tight, it should only be because that was the designer’s intention—and even then, you shouldn’t be struggling to breathe.”
Tip #2: “To wear a fashion dress successfully, you have to love it, and you have to let it be the star. Everything else, including you, is support.”
Tip #1: “If you have an hourglass figure, then a fit- and-flare shape will look great. If you have amazing shoulders, a halter style is a good choice. If you have legs up to there, short is the way to go. If you’re slender and boyish, a sheath will look classic and chic. Whatever you decide on, make sure the fit is precise.”
Tip #2: “You can play with accessories when you wear a black dress more than you can with any other evening look. But you have to be careful, because they can really change the mood of a dress. Say you’re wearing a black crepe sheath. With kitten heels, a pearl necklace, and a simple, Chanel-style quilted evening bag, you’re perfectly polite and comme il faut. But pair it with superhigh leopard-print platform heels, chandelier earrings, and matching cuffs, and you’ve gone to a very different place. The fact that you can do this without changing your dress is pretty amazing—that’s the power of black.”
Tip #1: “Like many evening dresses, a princess dress can take a little getting used to, which is why I think that no matter what kind of gown you wear, it’s always a good idea to try it on a few days before the event and get your bearings. Then, if you need to take up a hem or tighten a strap, you have time.”
Tip #2: “Pretty upswept hair, fresh-looking skin, discreet cat’s-eye makeup, delicate jewelry—there should be nothing heavy-handed about the grooming or the accessories.”
Which type of dress do you favor? Let us know in the comments below!