Going Out Attire Moves Beyond Denim

A few weeks ago, I created a mini-controversy when I suggested that, once you pass 25 years old, jeans should no longer be your default attire for a night on the town.  Since there were so many questions in the comments, I thought I would take some time today to clarify my position.

I love my denim as much as the next woman.  I love it for Saturdays on the couch.  I love it for running errands around the neighborhood.  I love it for watching football at the local bar on Sundays.  I love it for concerts on Friday nights after a casual day at work.  But I don’t love denim for going out to dinner (unless it’s burgers at Good Stuff) or special events.

Obviously, I don’t expect you to wear a ballgown to the Iron Horse or stacks of diamonds to a Nationals game–your outfit should match your environment, like camouflage–but I believe that women should step it up when given the opportunity.  Life–especially time away from work–should be a celebration, so I dress for any occasion that will give me a reason. 

1. Navy Cashmere Sweater ($188) // ever Pleated Skirt ($195–limited sizes) // Oval Otto Pendant ($175) // Wallace & Barnes Braided Belt ($88) // Danielle Nicole Crossbody ($78) // Edelman Baxton Flat ($56)

2. Birger Blush Silk Blouse ($295) // Boden Bistro Crop Trouser ($88) // Viking Ring ($245) // Cordoba Clutch ($98) // Zara Studded Sandal ($90)

3. Contour Dress ($295) // Teardrop Dangle ($115) // Annoz Belt ($60) // Harlow Snake Print Clutch ($273) // Dagger Lillian Pump ($99) 

Polyvore Set Here. 

One. The first outfit is for a more casual dinner, coffee date, trip to the museums ensemble.  Imagine for a moment, this outfit with jeans instead of the skirt.  It’s still a nice, but it’s just another jean outfit.  Add the skirt, and you look more stylish, more pulled together and more feminine.

As for the outfit itself, I used a simple v-neck sweater because with a full skirt, I like just a bit of skin at the neck for balance.  The pendant fills the void and compliments the neckline.  And the belt is a men’s belt, chosen so the belt can be slung lower on the torso and not at the waist.

Two. The second outfit is a recreation of an ensemble I saw on a shopper at the Gilt City sample sale last Friday.  The woman wearing it looked positively chic in her cropped trousers, white chiffon blouse (I used blush because that’s what I own) and high heels.  She also wore a high bun that complemented the look perfectly. 

The whole outfit, especially the shoes, just begs to be taken to a dark bar with perfectly crafted cocktails.  The Passenger is the perfect place to take a small group of intimate friends for a work-free conversation.  This would also be a great birthday party outfit.

Three. A nice dinner on the town deserves a good dress.  The figure-hugging dress from All Saints begs to be belted, creating a structured look for a night on the town.  I added the dangle earrings to bring out the blue undertones in the dress fabric.  The clutch also has a mix of grey and blue hues.

I see a lot of ladies dining out in jeans and a nice blouse, and they look good.  But when I go out, I like to look better-than-good.  I like to make a statement, and I’d rather be a touch over dressed and look my best than wear denim and be another woman in jeans.

Bottom line, I’m not opposed to wearing denim.  I just feel that when you’re going out, you should take the opportunity to dress to impress. 



  1. Ellie says:

    Echoing the requests for more going out clothes. Especially more low-key attire– more “drinks at Passenger” attire! I pretty much have work clothes down solid, and fancier events are not as tricky, but I struggle with the s–tty/boring balance of going out to drinks with friends (or, worse, fiancés friends).

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Tel says:

    @Ellie: I feel the same way. I know how to dress for work and formal events, but I find weekend casual and, worse!, drinks with friends/date nights largely incomprehensible. Your advice is always appreciated!

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. sarahbee says:

    Nice post…skirts and dresses are so much more fun anyway.

    Your use of graphics is so great. This post got me thinking…because your images are always so useful and easy to relate to…you should write a book! Not putting her down– she's clearly very hardworking, but if Emily from C&C can get published for telling us how to put on lipstick and stack cocktail napkins, surely there is a market for a book helping women with their professional wardrobes. Maybe you're just super committed to your day job, but it seems like you could really go somewhere with all of the hard work you put into this blog!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  4. Tel says:

    I agree with @sarahbee!

    On another note–Was there a DC Gilt City sample sale last weekend that I completely missed? Belle, you have to help us find/remember these great opportunities!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  5. Amy says:

    I love the blush colored blouse in the second outfit. Belle or anyone else, do you know of a similar blouse in a slightly lower price point? I know I've seen them around many stores but can't think of any specific places that carry them.

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  6. Amanda K says:

    Here are some options that I've found at different price points. I hope these are helpful:,9&sh=0&pge=0&pgesize=20&sort=-1&clr=Nude&mporgp=L0FTT1MvQVNPUy1CbG91c2UtV2l0aC1TY2FsbG9wcy1BbmQtTGFzZXItQ3V0dGluZy9Qcm9kLw..,9&sh=0&pge=0&pgesize=200&sort=-1&clr=Nude&mporgp=L0FTT1MvQVNPUy1TZXh5LVdyYXAtVG9wL1Byb2Qv

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  7. Caroline says:

    I agree completely. When are you supposed to dress up, if not for a night out on the town? Super-special events don't happen frequently enough that they should be the only reason we put on something special. I like the tie-in to DC venues as well. I never thought of Rasika as a cocktail-dress-and-dangly-earrings kind of place, but there's nothing wrong with being overdressed and adding a little class to the restaurant. So many people in DC seem to dine out by default, in whatever they were wearing around the house that day. I feel it should be treated more as a special event, even if it's done several times a week.

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  8. KateW says:

    I agree with Belle – I love jeans as much as the next girl but as I get older I try to avoid constantly going with jeans/heels/dressy top as my “going out” outfit.

    LOVE the All Saints dress.

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  9. LS says:

    Love these, Belle! Since I frequent both Iron Horse and the Nats stadium, do you have an outfit suggestion that would be appropriate for those casual venues? Or are jeans okay in those situations?

    I have a ton of nice dresses that I wore frequently in college, but I hang with a much more casual crowd now. I never know what to wear to a grungy bar that looks good, but not overdone.

    Also, I feel like a weirdo if I wear tights in a club in the winter so jeans always seem like the best option. I would love a re-visit of this topic when it gets cold!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  10. Amy says:

    @Amanda K thanks!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  11. W says:

    Going out attire is definitely something that needs to be addressed. So often when out I see girls either A.) dressed like sluts or B.) wearing a worn-out black shirt that looks like their one “going out top.” It's bad! Especially in Washington, where it is very likely you will run into your coworkers or clients. Why go to all that effort during the week to dress like Belle if you're going to dress like Snooki when you go out?!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  12. Catherine says:

    these images are crazy pixelated.

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  13. Erin M. says:

    Great post Belle! I am especially fond of the first two ensembles. I also wonder if you could do a post as LS mentioned of the right way to style jeans for various events. While I love the look, I'm beginning to think I'm in a jeans/top/heels rut and would love a way to spice it up. Thanks!

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  14. XF says:

    I come from a Latin culture that puts a lot of emphasis on dressing up and always looking presentable, particularly for women. We moved to the US right after I was born, so I grew up being the kid overdressed at school. I used to hate it, but now as an adult I am SO thankful for my parents' examples, particularly when traveling (good God the things you see in airports…) But sometimes my roommate will say things like “You're so fancy!” when I wear a blazer and heels for a dinner out at a decent place, and part of me feels like that 8 year old amid a sea of Garanimals again.

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  15. dancinglonghorn says:

    Belle – could you do a post on what types of handbags you need in your closet. I have a large, navy tote, a beautiful silver Laura Mercia clutch and a handful of cross-bodies in assorted colors for everyday use. I can't decide if I should invest in a classic gold clutch or snakeskin toned clutch or a large cognac day bag…

    August 1, 2012/Reply
  16. Anne says:

    Could you show some outfits that would be appropriate for the club/dancing that don't make me look like a skank. I'm usually the girl in jeans, heels, a black shirt and big earrings. That needs to change but mini skirts and tube tops do not suit me.

    August 2, 2012/Reply
  17. aesthetic intelligence says:

    Lets face it, jeans also are not kind to us as the years go by.
    Why do we women cling so tightly to styes that do us no favors (I'm looking at you capri pants and those drapey, shapeless cardigan-like things)?

    August 2, 2012/Reply
  18. CynthiaW says:

    Ugh – the drapey, shapeless cardigan-like things are the bane of my existence. I don't get them – why not just carry a pashima or a real cardigan or jacket if you need to cover up? I finally pulled out the big guns with my mom and told her that they made her look “matronly” to get her to stop wearing them.

    August 2, 2012/Reply
  19. Joanna says:

    I totally agree with about denim! Ladies should dress up more. One comments though, it's obv. much easier to dress in the summer- cute dress, skirts and better shoes. I would like to see you repeat this entry in the winter when there are fewer options available!

    August 3, 2012/Reply
  20. kira says:

    jeans are for the gardener, the trash man, the people who build roads. why would a woman with class want to go there?

    I do not get the obsession with jeans.

    August 5, 2012/Reply