Clothes Lines: New ways to play dress-up

Chelsea Peng, Current Assistant Editor

Pale pink, diamond coronets, matching stoles and piles and piles of tulle never get old, but sometimes it’s better not to resemble “Shakespeare in Love”-era Gwyneth Paltrow in your evening wear.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way — Paltrow included — from such limited evening options to glammed-up basics and suiting. Although nothing beats a show-stopping frock (particularly for dancing), it’s no longer pastel dress and dyed-to-match slippers or nothing. When it comes to nighttime dress, laissez-faire isn’t just for economics anymore.

First up to bat: Oscar de la Renta showed a sequin- and brooch-embellished baseball tee paired with a tea-length gingham skirt for resort 2012 that’s made its way onto Kanye West-supported site The Fancy, as well as the superbly attired back of social media star Oscarprgirl Erika Bearman, who posted a picture of herself wearing the piece via Twitter. Everyday denim also does after dark when you combine your well-worn chambray shirt with a bias-cut black satin midi skirt, Dannijo necklace, Veronica Lake  waves and a vampy pout. Similarly, your lone business-casual white blouse (collar turned up) with a sleek ball skirt is pure Carolina Herrera.

Even ostensibly casual separates can transition to fit your nocturnal needs. See Kirsten Dunst in a buttercup brocade Stella McCartney shorts suit (and the deconstructed pin curls she’s been so fond of lately), Zoe Saldana in an olive Jonathan Saunders top-and-skirt combo at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards and one from the archives: Sofia Coppola in Marni for H&M. When you’re trying head-to-toe prints, a sharp shape is key: A structured short-sleeved shirt and precisely hemmed shorts or cropped pants (in the same, preferably reflective, print) is a low-risk take on the trend. And if you’re experimenting with a matching skirt, know this looks best when the coordinating top ends a few inches above the waistband (which should not, under any circumstance, expose your umbilicus).

I love the idea of suiting, which is really just next-level separates, for evening. Imagine striding — swanning is a verb best reserved for outfits involving internal boning and tuxedoed escorts — in a velvet suit over an anonymous white T-shirt and serious bijoux around your neck. Patterns work here, too: ASOS checks, Miu Miu fronds and J.W. Anderson for Topshop tortoises. Two important things to remember here are over-the-top (in the best way) accessories — more is more, but a Charlotte Olympia Perspex clutch with Union Jack postcard insert, zigzag Nicholas Kirkwood stunners and Salvatore Ferragamo eggplant lace-ups somehow mesh with the loudest of prints — and fit: A shrunken silhouette is most flattering when girls wear boys’ clothes. As Edith Head (probably) would have said: Your clothes should always be tight enough to show you’re a woman, but cool enough to show you’re not a lady (at least in the stuffy sense of the word).