I was born on my mother’s 32nd birthday. Every year, I would climb into her bed so we could open our presents together. As if aligned by the Fates, my 18th birthday was due to fall on her 50th birthday. We decided to throw a joint party, inviting my friends and hers, and throwing a masquerade ball. Being surrounded by people in beautiful masks of all kinds made my birthday feel extra special, and added a sense of mystique to the event that made it very memorable.
Not every birthday party you’re invited to will have special requirements like a mask, but ensuring your outfit is suitable and on point will help to elevate the event to a special time full of treasured memories.
Let’s go over a few outfit ideas for birthday parties that suit any theme or style.
Maybe your friend isn’t a prima donna 18-year-old who wants everyone to wear Venetian masks to their birthday party; they might just be happy to see their friends for a barbecue at the local park or some bowling fun at the lanes.
If this is the case, you will be best served by going smart-casual. Wearing some nice jeans and a more formal top like a shirt or a blouse makes you look laidback whilst also showing the host that you care enough about them to put effort into your appearance. Make sure your shoes are on the smarter side too, even if that means pristine white trainers; wearing tatty shoes will bring down your whole outfit and have you looking unprepared.
When it comes to accessorising a smart-casual outfit like this, bangles and bracelets are perfect. Rather than having over-the-top drop earrings, bringing the focus of your jewellery to your wrists is better suited to a casual event. If you wear a watch also, ensure that you choose bracelets with complimentary metals and colours so that your outfit is cohesive and not jumbled.
A ‘dressy’ party is the term I’m going to use for when a party straddles that broad space between being casual and being formal. This is the kind of dress code for a party that happens at night, but isn’t a full-length dress event. Maybe you’re going out for a meal or out dancing, these parties warrant more than just jeans, but don’t need to be dressed to the nines either.
For these parties, dresses and skirts are perfect. Don’t go too far past the knee unless you’re going for a flowing maxi dress/skirt style or a body-hugging midi dress. Co-ordination is key for this event, and there’s a pretty simple foundation you can follow if you’re stuck for ideas. Shoes, nails, and lips can all be the same colour, as well as an accessory like a handbag or a clutch if you’re bringing one. Your outfit can then be a complimentary colour, for example, if your first colour is red, then a black dress will make those red accents really pop.
Further this by adding accessories in a metal that matches your skin tone. Warm-toned skin will look best with yellow gold and rose gold, while cool-toned skin suits silver, white gold, and platinum more. You can go for plain metal jewellery like dainty chains and plain band rings, or you can incorporate more of your accent colour through gemstones, enamels, and acrylics.
Finally, the formal party. This is the one where your invitation may even say ‘black-tie’ on it. These parties are usually held at venues rather than the host’s home, and they require you to give it all you’ve got, as there is every possibility that a photographer will be present.
For the formal party, you want a floor-length dress, definitely nothing above the knee. As much as formal parties are about dressing up, they are also about appearing in more demure and appropriate clothes; it’s likely that a mix of age ranges will be invited to events like this, so dressing for universal appeal is a good idea. If you want to add an element of edge to your outfit, opt for a backless dress or one with a slit up the side. These dresses remain suitably formal without being dowdy, allowing you to strike a balance that makes you feel like you’re being true to yourself.
When it’s time to accessorise an outfit like this, jewellery is the key. Vintage jewellery is a particularly good choice, presenting lots of options and styles that are unique to their time, making your outfit inimitable. Whether it’s a delicate diamond pendant or a pair of vintage pearl studs, vintage jewellery will add that special touch that every outfit needs for such a special event.
And there we have it, three different modes of party that all have their own unspoken dress codes. Make sure your colours don’t clash and your lipstick doesn’t smudge, and remember to enjoy the party!