+ Happy Hour

Happy Hour: It’s All About the Illusion


Aqua Polka Dot Illusion Neckline Dress ($188)

Finding work-appropriate cocktail attire is a challenge.  Shiny fabrics are distracting.  In conservative industries (government, law, etc.), bright colors are off the table.  And revealing necklines and hemlines are the kiss of death.  So what is a girl to do?

My standby is a sleeved black dress with sheer accents.  The sheer keeps it light and adds just enough sex appeal to remind you your alive without giving the septuagenarian in your office heart palpitations.

This Aqua dress is an excellent choice with a defined waist and a pleated neckline.  I also like this lace and illusion dress from DvF, and this flirty, feminine Megan dress from J.Crew.

Illusion dresses are also a great style for more mature women.  I’m partial to this David Meister dress for my own Mother, though I might shorten the sleeve a bit.

Also, if you’re looking for illusion at an affordable price, Nordstrom has some lovely dresses. I am especially taken with this cap-sleeve Maggy London and this KamaliKulture Sheer Yoke Sheath.

Plus-size? This Vince Camuto dress caught my eye.  Petite? Try this gorgeous Patra illusion dress (also in misses sizes).

When wearing illusion dresses it’s important to wear a strapless bra.  I’m partial to this Calvin Klein Seductive Comfort ($46).  For larger-busted ladies, I’ve seen a lot of positive comments about the Le Mystere Soiree bra.  Feel free to leave your best bra suggestions in the comments, every pair is different, so what is best for some may not be for you.


For a dress that is both classic and a bit sultry, I wanted a cocktail that has classic flavors, but is totally decadent.  Enter the Mint Chocolate Martini from Noshing with the Nolands.

Given that this velvety smooth concoction is loaded with Bailey’s, half-and-half and grated chocolate, I would probably drink it instead of having dessert.  Oh, why lie?  I’d drink it with dessert, preferably the bitter chocolate Napoleon at Le Diplomate.

Have a great weekend! Be safe, and I’ll see you on Monday.  xoxo, Belle



  1. Jen says:

    These are lovely options, but I’m not sure I agree that bright colors are off the table in conservative industries. I wouldn’t go satin fire engine red, but there are some lovely jewel tones that work in a conservative environment.

    October 31, 2013/Reply
  2. Ann S says:

    Thanks for the link to the David Meister dress – I am off to try it on later today. I am probably closer to your mom’s age than yours so this was suggestion right up my alley. Perfect for the office party, NYC event, and New Years; fortuantely all three have different “audiences.”

    Really enjoy your blog. Some looks are too young for me, but I always get great ideas on how to keepy my look fresh.

    November 1, 2013/Reply
  3. Virginia says:

    I am obsessed with the polka dot illusion dress!!!

    November 1, 2013/Reply
  4. EAH says:

    Goddess makes great strapless bras for larger ladies.

    November 1, 2013/Reply
  5. Capitol Hill SE says:

    Why (or who) would need work-appropriate cocktail attire? I’m struggling to think of an occasion when this need for arise for someone.

    November 4, 2013/Reply
    • E says:

      Out of town events: conferences, work trips, etc. can include a cocktail-attire component. Awards dinners that don’t rise to the level of black tie. Some political fundraising events, depending on the venue/occasion. Political conventions.

      November 4, 2013/Reply
      • Capitol Hill SE says:

        Ah, ok. I’m out of touch with the political world but I can see how you guys might need a cocktail dress or two.

        November 6, 2013/Reply