How To Dress Down A Dress

Dresses are a great style for special events, but did you know that they can also be easily dressed down for more casual occasions? We delved into the internet's style blogs and researched for you so that you can confidently take your favorite dresses from galas to a relaxed weekend exploring downtown.

How To Dress Down A Dress

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There are a few ways you can dress down a dress to make it more appropriate for casual occasions, and a lot of them involve layering. Layering your clothes also helps extend the wearability of summer dresses into the colder months. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Wear casual garments such as jackets, sweaters, or flannels on top of the dress
  • Layer a t-shirt or turtleneck underneath a strappy sundress or party dress
  • Add a pair of leggings make a summer dress both casual and appropriate for cold weather
  • You can also create a casual effect with different types of footwear, such as sneakers or Oxfords, or with fun accessories such as a colorful belt or backpack.

Of course, there are specific strategies that work better with some types of dresses than others, so to help you out, we'll explain all of that in this post. So let's get started!

How Do You Dress Down a Little Black Dress?

Many women have a little black dress in their wardrobe, and with good reason - it's a versatile dress that's appropriate for almost any formal occasion. They come in many different skirt and sleeve styles, but all are simple black dresses with skirts that end just above the knee. Although it's a formalwear staple, you can get even more wear out of your little black dress by knowing how to style it for casual wear, and we will show you how.

  • Wear a graphic tee over your dress, knotted in the front to accent your waist. This creates the illusion that you're wearing a t-shirt with a black skirt.
  • Add a casual jacket, such as one made of denim or leather. You can also wear the jacket tied around your waist.
  • Similarly, you can wear a flannel shirt or a cardigan over the dress or knot around your waist.
  • Wear casual shoes such as sneakers, Converse, gladiator sandals, or combat boots. You can even wear boots with your little black dress in the summer - check out our post Can You Wear Boots in the Summer? to find out more.
  • Accessorize with bright, fun colors. Try wearing shoes, jewelry, and a scarf all in the same bold shade.
  • In cooler weather, wear tights or leggings, boots, and a cardigan with your little black dress.

Woman wearing black dress and a denim jacket

In this example, the model is wearing a little black dress that could easily be worn for formal occasions with heels and elegant jewelry. However, it's styled with a ripped jean jacket, subtle jewelry, and white sneakers for a laidback look that would be perfect for a fun outing on a weekend morning.

How Do You Dress Down a Bodycon Dress?

Bodycon dresses are made from stretchy fabric, usually cotton knit, and have a body-hugging fit. They're a great look for parties and going out to the clubs, but there are also a few ways to dress them down for a less sexy look that's perfect for casual wear. If you'd like some additional information on how to style and wear bodycon dresses, check out our post What is a Bodycon Dress?

  • Add a long cardigan. Since this covers your backside, it also makes the dress more appropriate for work or other times you don't want a risque look.
  • Wear the dress with a flannel shirt. Flannel shirts make anything look more casual, and you have the additional style option of tying it around your waist.
  • Layer a tank top over the dress for new textures and silhouettes. You can experiment with the style and length of the tank top for different effects, but this would look great with a body con dress with any sleeve length.
  • In cold weather, wear a sweater over your dress. The tight fit of the dress balances the looseness of the sweater and creates an illusion of a sweater worn with a skirt.
  • Another idea for cooler temperatures is to wear tights and boots with your dress. The boots are enough to create a more casual style, but you can also add a cardigan or jacket for warmth.

Woman wearing a purple bodycon dress and denim jacket

This model has accessorized her bodycon dress with a thick black choker necklace, a gold bangle, a denim shirt, and aviator sunglasses to create a funky 90's inspired look. Although you can't see her feet, this outfit would be perfect with a pair of low- or hi-top sneakers.

How Do You Dress Down a Lace Dress?

For achieving a flirty, feminine vibe, a lace dress is the perfect go-to. These dresses can be any style, length, or sleeve type, but all have one thing in common - lace. It might seem like a challenge to make such an elegant dress style look casual, but it can be done!

  • Accessorize your lace dress with earthy elements such as a tasseled leather bag, cloth espadrille shoes, or chunky wooden jewelry. Not only will this tone down the airy qualities of the dress, but it also provides the perfect contrast.
  • Think outside the box and add some fun, casual headwear like a fedora, a newsboy cap, or a beanie.
  • Even though lace dresses look ideal for spring and summer, you can extend their casual wear into the colder months with a scarf, cardigan or jacket, and tights and boots.
  • Adding a denim shirt or jacket or a flannel shirt in contrasting colors is a failsafe way to make any dress look a little more casual but just as cute.
  • Instead of reaching for a clutch and a pearl necklace, use lighthearted accessories like a neon-colored backpack or Converse shoes in brilliant shades to make your lace dress appear a little bit more laidback.

A Japanese woman wearing a bonet, trench coat and a lace dress

Dressing down a lace dress is the perfect opportunity to have a lot of fun with contrasting textures and styles. In this example, the model contrasts grunge-inspired styles such as a beanie, a houndstooth trench coat, and black combat boots with the delicacy and prettiness of a lace dress.

How Do You Dress Down a Bridesmaid's Dress?

Bridesmaid's dresses come in many different styles but are typically long, formal dresses made from chiffon and lace. Since they're notorious for being a very expensive garment that can be worn only one time, it's good to know that there are ways to make them wearable beyond the big day. It just takes a little bit of imagination!

  • If possible, have your long bridesmaid's dress shortened by a tailor or made into a skirt and crop top. Both are excellent options because the shorter length makes the dress look more casual, and dividing the dress into separates gives you twice as many choices.
  • Layer a t-shirt, button-up shirt, or tank top over the dress and knot it in the front to create the look of a shirt and maxi skirt. Just choose a shirt that's thick enough to create a smooth line over any lace or sequins.
  • If you have a short bridesmaid's dress, you can use a lot of the style tips for dressing down a lace dress to make it look more casual. For example, you could add a casual jacket, blazer, or flannel shirt to create a whole new look.

This model dressed down her knee-length bridesmaid's dress with a flannel shirt, a pair of short black boots, and a simple headband. It's a perfect look for holiday parties or if you'd like to dress a little more luxuriously on any day of the week.

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