It's that time of the year when the mantelpiece starts to strain under the weight of summer invitations.

Whether it's weddings, christenings or a day at the races, that trusty LBD you rely on for the office just isn't going to cut it.

The occasion season calls for flirtier, lighter and brighter fashion that turns heads.

If a wedding is on the agenda, you don't want to risk upstaging the bride but equally it's no fun blending into the fashion background. Occasionwear needs to be striking but comfortable enough to wear all day (and night) long.

From sharp trouser suits to floaty dresses, summer is the season to indulge your inner lady. Ditch the smart casuals and go wild with the dressing-up box.


When it comes to occasionwear wardrobe dilemmas, you can always depend on a knockout dress to impress.

"It's a one-hit wonder - all you need are shoes and you're ready to go," says Paula Reed, author of Style Clinic.

"Sure, you can accessorise as much as you like, but even with the most minimal styling, a great dress can make you look polished and pulled together in an instant."

The cleaner shapes of structured dresses mean that you can go to town with textures, print and colour, as well as your accessories.

"A simple column dress looks crisper and fresher in summer than layers of separates," Reed suggests.

"Always avoid overexposure with acres of naked skin for summer occasions. Let the fabric create the lightness."


If structured silhouettes feel too severe, go floaty and ethereal.

Avoid flounces and frills unless you want to add curves to your frame - simple, clean lines look more flattering on looser garments.

Opt for a full-length maxi, midi-length dress or a full skirt with an impressive swing on the dancefloor - but just ensure you don't swamp your best assets...

"Play to your strengths," Reed urges. "If you're complimented on your beautiful neck and shoulders, great cleavage, good legs or graceful arms, this is what you should accentuate."

The longer the hemline, the more you can show off shoulders and decolletage. If within dress code (some race days have strict guidelines), bare shoulders minimise wide hips and avert the eyes from a straight waist.

Wear a smart jacket over the top and you have a different outfit to move seamlessly from day to night.


While some women favour dresses, others worship at the alter of separates. Tailoring is particularly useful if you are top or bottom heavy and need to mix and match different sizes.

Suiting can look modern, slick and oh-so chic. But it can also look like you've just slotted in some overtime at the office.

For summer occasions, lighten up and try and avoid darker colours. Reed advises: "Colours that expand your figure instantly are white, yellow, orange, lime and almost all shades of pink.

"Colours that camouflage are neutrals and almost all pastels - everything from caramel to ice blue."

While skirt suiting is more traditional, trouser suits can look effortlessly contemporary. Kate Moss once went one step further at a summer wedding with a short suit.

Go for style extremes, either wide palazzo pants or slim-fit pencil trousers and accessorise with leg-lengthening heels.


When it comes to occasionwear, hats are a game-changing accessory that will instantly transform an outfit.

Generally, you're either a hat person or you're not. If you are, this is the season to really have fun with your headwear.

"One general rule is that hats are one fashion item that suffer from understatement," Reed warns. "If you're not willing to go for it, then maybe you shouldn't wear a hat at all."

When it comes to colour, there are three main styling tricks. Go tonal (wear top-to-toe similar shades), clash (opposing bright colours) or complement (pick out a hue from a print or outfit detail).

However you style your ensemble, ensure your hat always remains centre stage.

Reed advises: "When you're buying a hat for a special occasion, make sure you take the outfit you want to accessorise with you. If in doubt, bring an honest and stylish friend and have a picture taken in each hat you like."


Hat shopping needn't be daunting. Heed Paula Reed's advice for a top hat:

:: Full figures should go for wide brims.

:: Round faces get a lift from narrow, squared-off shaped hats.

:: Short figures get height from a tall crown but don't let the brim dip too low.

:: Wide faces suit brimless, off-the-face styles.

:: A narrow face needs a rounded, full crown.

:: Avoid stiff shapes in insipid pastel-coloured straw - they age everybody.

:: Felt should be reserved for winter.

:: As a rule of thumb, the more statement the hat, the more simple the dress.