What Do I Wear There? Conservative Occasions

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What do I wear there? Conservative occasions

Photo credits (clockwise from top left): 1, 2, 3, 4

Since I started this column, I am constantly asked what to wear to more "conservative" events, such as religious ceremonies, family events, interviews for scholarships, more casual business parties/dinners, school awards functions... you get the idea! Many of you want to know what to wear to those events where the dress code is between business casual and formal.

I've been hesitant to answer your questions on this because when it really comes down to it, what you wear to these events is a matter of personal choice and is also very dependent on the event. However, since I have received so many of these questions, I thought I would try to address them in a more general format this week.

To start, I'll give some general guidelines for "conservative dressing," for activities along the lines of one of the ones above. Then, I'll show some sample outfits you can use for inspiration. I would like to point out that I am NOT talking about formal or business attire-- some of these looks might work for those occasions, but that is not the focus of this article.

Conservative Dressing Guidelines:

  • Beware of what you bare. The number one rule for dressing for a conservative outing is to not wear anything too revealing. In general, skirts should not be much above knee, tights are important to keep you looking modest, sleeves are a must, necklines should not display any cleavage, and heels (if you choose to wear them) should be no more than an inch or two and not too strappy.
  • Make sure your clothes fit properly. Clothes that are too tight or too baggy will look tasteless and sloppy in a conservative environment.
  • Keep your company in mind. Okay, so we've established that you shouldn't show too much skin. But your new studded long sleeve shirt still isn't appropriate, even if it is a crew neck. Watch what trends you are following when dressing for a conservative occasion--expressing your own personal fashion sense is always fab, but let's be real--a studded dress does not exactly say, "give me this internship!"
  • Accessorize. Since your clothes will be simple, how are you then supposed to express your personal style? My answer, as always, is to accessorize! Cute headbands are perfect, as they dress up your look while respectably keeping your hair out of your face. This is a great time to borrow a vintage piece from your mother or older sister as well. Don't go overboard with huge pieces or crazy colors but have fun with your accessories.
  • This is not the time to try out that Lady Gaga makeup tutorial! Less is definitely more in these situations, so try to keep your makeup color palette neutral or, if you want to wear some color, very soft and girly.
  • Invest. Just like with formal or business attire, conservative basics are super smart investments to make now to avoid having to hunt them down at the last minute! Therefore, many of the pieces pictured will be slightly more expensive than what I typically show here.

Look One: A Bit Romantic

Conservative romantic outfit

Product Information: Tights: Asos.com, Shirt: Karenmillen.com, Skirt: TopShop.com, Cardigan: Johnlewis.com, Flats: Piperlime.gap.com

This look is a bit of a romantic take on a conservative look. It would be perfect for any functions you may need to attend in February, which as all of us girls know, is the most romantic month of the year! This look would work for a dinner with family or any event where you want to look very put-together but still young and feminine.

The ruffles take the plain white blouse up a notch and look very vintage and adorable with a dusty rose colored skirt. Throw on a dark, classic crew-neck cardigan if you are going somewhere that requires you to cover up a bit more (or if it's cold)! The styling is very much in the details for this look, as I picked tights with tiny hearts of them and shoes with ruffle detail reminiscent of the top.

For hair and makeup, I think the loose braid above (from Alexander Wang's SS '10 runway) would be perfect--a loose, delicate side braid and minimal makeup offset the intricate detailing of the outfit perfectly!

Look Two: Quirky Conservative

Conservative and quirky outfit

Product Information: Top: Monsoon.co.uk, Skirt: Johnlewis.com, Tights: Barneys.com, Blazer: Forever21.com, Heels: TopShop.com

This look shows that "conservative" does not have to equal boring! My inspiration for this look came from two very different sources that consistently make conservative look cute.

The first piece I found for this look was the bright yellow top, which I instantly loved since the material and shape allow you to have fun with your look while staying covered up. It reminded me of "Glee's" resident quirky fashionista, Emma Pillsbury! (Learn how to dress like her here.) I channeled Emma's fun use of colors and patterns with a woolen, tweed-like pencil skirt.

Of course, any time I think of tweed I automatically think of Chanel, so my second source of inspiration was a classic Chanel suit. Chanel suits are classic pieces, but Karl Lagerfeld always manages to keep them interesting. One way he does this--much like Ms. Pillsbury--is by mixing textiles. To attempt a similar look, I added detailed tights to the outfit. I then introduced a blazer for some extra coverage. To finish the look, I added one last spin on classic with an updated Mary Jane heel.

The result is a modern take on a sort of 70's conservative look. I think wearing this outfit would be a great way to stand out in something like a scholarship interview, where the panel is sure to appreciate the pop of color! For hair and makeup, either channel Emma Pillsbury's sweet, girlish waves and just-bitten lips, or go for the slightly more business-like look of pulled back hair, mascara, and matte skin.

Look Three: Keepin' It Classic

Classic conservative outfit

Product Information: Dress: Modcloth.com, Cardigan: TopShop.com, Necklace: Zappos.com, Oxfords: Modekungen.se, Tights: Looklet.com

My last look is the most basic of the three, but I still tried to be a bit innovative by punching it up with some awesome accessories. If you have something slightly more formal to go to, take your cues from this look!

The little black dress I chose is a simple shift that is plain enough to allow for embellishments. Nudes are still super hot for spring, so I went with a very light, almost cream colored cardigan.

Now for the fun! First, I found a great pair of floral-print tights. These can be substituted for whatever tights are in your closet, including opaque ones in different colors (just make sure they are not too bright). Plain opaque tights would be better for a more formal event. Next, I added a detailed charm necklace that will grab attention when draped over the simple black dress.

Finally, I picked a pair of oxford flats to make the look modern--if oxfords are not your style, though, go for a chic pair of low black heels or some embellished flats. A simple chignon, mascara, and a light application of blush will complete this classic look!

What Do You Think?

Would these outfits work for any conservative events you have coming up? Do you have any specific looks you like to wear for more conservative occasions? How would you change these up to match your personal style? Let us know in the comments!

And if you have any "What Do I Wear There?" questions, let me know below. Yours may be featured in the next article!

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