After Party: How to Dress Down Your Formal Frocks

As shoppers ourselves, we know that one of the biggest worries about buying new formal dresses is the fear that, post-party, they’ll languish in our closets, only to be worn once or twice a year. So, we asked the ModStylists to dress down four holiday party frocks, and their tips on how to go from fancy to fun!

“Muted tones can be festive too!” reminds Jess, who paired the romantic florals of the Terrace House Dress with bold accessories for an eye-catching holiday ensemble. As for dressing down your fancy frocks, Jess recommends pairing them with chunky sweaters and eclectic accessories.

Inspired? Get Jess’ cocktail party look, or her cozy daytime outfit.

Nicole fell in love with the Time of My Life Dress, and kept her formal look soft and delicate with classically swept hair and the Cape May. For her business brunch meeting, she layered the dress under the slick Worn to Be Wild Jacket. “I love the contrast between a soft, flowing dress and a sleek faux leather jacket,” Nicole says.

Follow these links to get Nicole’s dressy look, or her sophisticated brunch look.

Amy was drawn to the metallic accents of the Let the Good Times Roll Dress, and so, for her casual look, softened up the shiny dress with grey tights and a buttoned-up cardigan.

Shine this season by grabbing Amy’s formal ensemble, or her dressed down look.

Chelsey chose the Silver Jubilee Dress for her holiday festivities, and transitioned from night to day by swapping her rich, sangria-toned Lenore Blazer for the chic Little Black Blazer. “Adding a blazer, colorful booties, and knit tights can make a formal dress work for a work day,” Chelsey advises.

Make a shimmery statement with the items in Chelsey’s evening party outfit, or get ready for the workday with her business casual look.

What are your tips for dressing down a formal dress? Also, if you haven’t entered the ModStylist Best Dressed Contest yet, make sure to do so before tomorrow’s 6 p.m. EST deadline!


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  1. Avatar
    Bluus 11/12/2010 at 2:40 am #

    I guess my idea of a formal dress is different from most peoples? I didn’t think any of these dresses looked formal ^^;
    That’s not to say I didn’t like them though! I especially love the goldenrod tights with the first dress, really gives it some pep!

    • Avatar
      Tori 11/12/2010 at 7:28 am #

      I totally agree with Bluus I didn’t really think these dresses were that formal. I think it would have been way more impressive if you used dresses that were VERY formal like: Break Fashion Myths Frock, Who Wants To Be a Frillonaire Dress in Platinum, Without Equal Dress, Glass of Bubbly and Red Carpet Royalty Dress. Those dresses would have been more impressive when dressed down. Especially since most of my formal dresses are more fancier.

    • Avatar
      ModCloth 11/12/2010 at 10:28 am #

      Haha you ladies must go to much fancier parties than we do. 😉 But thanks for the suggestions, Bluus and Tori! We love the idea of the ModStylists taking on super formal dresses. Be on the lookout for this post in the next few weeks!

  2. Avatar
    Tori 11/12/2010 at 7:31 am #

    But on a side note I love the idea of dressing down a formal dress. I’ve worn my prom dress many times and not just at at prom. I dressed it down by pairing it with flats rather than heals, wearing leggings, and cardigans. Also if your prom dress has a bunch of tule under it, I’ve seen a few people take the tule out and it completely tones it down.

    Maybe you guys could do a follow up blog with some more formal and fancier dresses. PLEASE. Love you guys.

  3. Avatar
    Courtney 11/12/2010 at 7:50 am #

    This is great, I have so many cocktail dresses that I won’t wear anymore. Tons! They are so beautiful that I cannot get rid of them. I’d like to see a follow up of more like the other readers.

  4. Avatar
    Victoria / Justice Pirate 11/12/2010 at 8:18 am #

    You guys make mixing up outfits seem so easy and it is nice because it sets a challenge to not repeat ourselves!

  5. Avatar
    Lauren (ModCloth) 11/12/2010 at 10:47 am #

    The photos turned out beautifully, ladies!

  6. Avatar
    Sari (ModCloth) 11/12/2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Great work!

  7. Avatar
    Roxanne 11/12/2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Fantastic looks!

  8. Avatar
    Bobbi 11/17/2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Thanks for the great post! Love all the looks. Very helpful

  9. Avatar
    Elizabeth 12/07/2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Helpful article, thanks! I have a vintage Vera Wang full-length cream-colored taffeta skirt – my mother-in-law found it for $5 and figured I’d know what to do with it. And I just don’t. I’m convinced I’ll find the perfect top to make it wearable in a variety of situations… someday!

  10. Avatar
    lizette dress 03/03/2011 at 1:58 pm #

    These are such great ways to dress down formal dresses. I probably have 20 dresses in my closet that I’ve only worn once. I’d love to experiment with accessories and sweaters to be able to wear them on a regular day.


  1. Going Glamourous to Everyday « Courtney's Blog - 11/14/2010

    […] Jess from Mod Cloth explains that by adding big chunky sweaters and some funky tights, it will help transition a party dress to be more office appropriate. Alongside, by adding some accessories to a simple dress will help glam it up a bit. […]

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