Axelson, however, sees a big difference in the appropriate attire if the party is at the country club or the neighborhood bistro. She also lets the day and time guide her: probably nice trousers or a pencil skirt and embellished-neck sweater with flats for a Sunday brunch, maybe something with some glitter for Saturday night.
An afternoon open house is practically an invitation for something colorful, says Koch. Her plan this season is to break out a bright shirt, fur vest, leggings and tall boots.
There are very few dress-code mistakes that can’t be fixed with a great shoe, says Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. The other option is a lovely necklace or earrings to draw people immediately to your face.
Both Axelson and Koch encourage easily removable accessories that dress up or down an outfit. It could be the statement necklace that tucks under your collar if it’s a more relaxed crowd, or a beaded wrap or tailored jacket — maybe one with sparkle, Axelson suggests — that can be hung with the coats if needed. No one will be the wiser, they say, and you’ll walk in knowing you have options.
It’s not a bad idea to keep “a few spare parts” in the car as well, in case you’ve shown up on the casual side, says Koch.
“My transition toolbox is textured tights, long dangling earrings, a very long, vertical scarf, a cuff bracelet and a brighter lipstick,” she says.
Van Damme purposely carries a clutch to parties, which blends better than a big overstuffed handbag, so she can slip things in or out without drawing attention.
She’ll always choose a sleek and chic silhouette over something froufrou: It’s respectful and stylish, she says.
Generally, Axelson thinks separates, cigarette or dark-denim pants with the pleated or slinky tank and cardigan, for example, offer more flexibility. “With a dress, once you’ve made a commitment to it, you are staying in it.”