7 Ways to Plan Ahead for Stylish Special Occasions

It’s so much easier to look and feel our stylish best when we plan ahead for special occasions. We’ve all been there: it’s the final 48 hours prior to an event or special occasion, and we still have nothing to wear; so we tear feverishly through malls and department stores (including some in which we wouldn't even normally shop) trying to find the perfect outfit in the least amount of time.

I have a small section of cocktail dresses in my closet that are primed and ready to be worn for my next special occasion. They’re dressier options that I have snatched up over the years, out of season or on sale because I knew that each would be something I could wear to a cocktail or semi-formal event, in any season of the year, and that I could style a couple of different ways—the latter being a must-have characteristic for anything that I purchase for my wardrobe. It helps me to avoid buyer’s remorse later. And generally as an event presents itself, I worry less about what to wear--and I know I’ll arrive looking and feeling like my best self in a dress that I’ve owned for awhile, experimented with and even had altered for the perfect fit.

More often than not the last minute rush fails to leave us feeling as put together as we would like—even if we’re fortunate enough to find something that remotely resembles our vision—and we end up spending more than we might have liked. So why not avoid it altogether?

We generally have a good idea of birthdays, parties and other special events that might land on our calendars well in advance of their actually occurring—especially in these last two months of wedding season. We should use this time to ensure we have the perfect, well-curated pieces already on-hand. Here are some ways to do that:

Get Inspired

Search Pinterest, Instagram and even Tumblr for ideas on what you might like to wear to a special event. What is your ideal look for a wedding? A cocktail party? A networking event? Think about your ideal silhouette, length, style, color etc, and then go on the hunt for inspiration photos that fit the bill. Keep your ideas in one single place, like Pinterest, Evernote, or a specific album in your mobile photos, so that you can refer to them if needed--and so that you can recognize the style instantly if you happen to come across it on a shopping trip for something else.

Make a List

I am a list kinda gal. I have lists for everything from “to do” to “new ideas” to “meal planning”. But my favorite list is the “wish list”. Why not make a list of all the items that you would like to have for your upcoming events and keep it on hand so that you can keep your eyes peeled when you’re out shopping for other things? Then when you see that really great sale, you can make sure you’re purchasing an item you will actually wear—not something you snagged just because it was on sale. Keeping a wish list will help to keep you both on target and on budget!

Shop Out of Season

Spring/summer items are on sale between August and October, and fall/winter items are on sale between March and May—as stores need to make room for their new seasonal inventory. So why not snag that amazing strapless dress that would be perfect for your friend’s June wedding in the fall when it is deeply discounted?

Swear by the LBD

The little black dress is a classic special event go-to. You should definitely have a great, but simple little black (or white or navy) dress in your closet that fits you perfectly and can be punched up or dressed down with accessories (see how I wore one of mine to a semi-formal birthday party, here). Make sure it doesn’t have too many unique details that might be especially memorable, and instead make statement accessories and gorgeous makeup your standout looks, giving it a different feeling every time you wear it.

Tweet: Let statement accessories/makeup give your fave special occasion dress a different feel w/each wear http://bit.ly/PPP7WyPl via @pishposhperfMake statement accessories and gorgeous makeup your standout looks, giving your favorite cocktail dress a different feeling with each wear!

Order Online

There are so many options available online for items that you can’t get locally, and who doesn’t want to find something super unique and special? Take advantage of the internet to shop online vintage or specialty stores, or scope out sales on flash sites like Gilt and HauteLook where you can get amazing dresses or dressier jumpsuits you might not normally be able to afford, at reasonable price points. The best part about shopping online way ahead of your event is that you have time to try things on, and return or exchange them if they don’t fit exactly the way you’d hoped.

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway is a fabulous members only service that allows you to rent designer pieces, wear them to your event and return them. Return shipping and cleaning are included in your membership, so all you have to do post-event is pop the garment into the packaging provided and send it off! They’ve even begun expanding into brick and mortar boutiques, allowing you to experience the designs in person (there’s a showroom in Georgetown in DC that is to die for!). By renting your dress, you are free from the remorse that comes with overspending on something that you feel like you can’t wear again anytime soon because the event pictures are on Facebook or Instagram. Plus, it’s easy and cost effective, no?

Hire a Personal Stylist

Sometimes the pressure of finding something at the last minute is too overwhelming! A personal stylist can help you to identify the look you’re going for in advance, put all the pieces together for you and help you to nail your event style—making your shopping trip much less stressful (I offer this service, so if you’re in the market for an event look, head to my services page for more details!).

Or, maybe you’re just entirely too busy to shop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring someone to do the work for you. Some personal stylists offer personal shopping as part of their services; they will pull potential looks for you and bring them to wherever you are, allowing you to shop quickly, conveniently and from the comfort of your home. Both options for working with a personal stylist are worthy investments.

What are some of the ways you plan in advance to arrive looking stylish and confident for special occasions?

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