Style 911: How Can I Wear A Fancy Dress Casually?

I have a pewter Sean John dress that’s rather dressy. The problem is I rarely go anywhere that calls for cocktail attire. I was wondering if there’s any way to dress it down without looking as if I’m trying too hard. Please help me — I’ve had it for more than a year already.—GlamNiki

A pic of the dress in question and what could possibly be done to salvage this relationship, after the jump!

Sadly, this is the fate of many a schmancy party dress. You snag it for an event, find the perfect little number, feel all princess-y for a night, and then the poor frock gets pushed to the back of your closet, ne’er to see the light of day again. But it doesn’t have to be doomed to a life amongst your mothballs. The first step in shopping your closet for the kinds of goods that are normally relegated to weddings and graduations is to let go of the idea that there’s any such thing as boundaries, uh, in this situation anyway.

At some point in the ’90s it became fashionable for stylists to start pairing cotton tank tops with long, formal tulle skirts, and, since then, there’ve been plenty of cool ways to play on fancy-casual. This dress is tricky because it’s so sparkly, but metallics are huge right now and look great with everything. Still, you kind of have to go a bit funky to pull this look off. It’s hot out right now, so I’d recommend wearing a soft, cap-sleeved t-shirt beneath it and pairing with casual but punchy sandals. But I can really see this working even better going into fall, when you can layer it. Try it with a cotton tank underneath, throw on a chunky knit cardigan, and rough it up with charcoal tights and some motorcycle boots. I think it’ll look cool.

Sheer Jersey Short Sleeve Tee, $21, American Apparel and Castaner Doris Espadrille Wedges, $62, Outnet

Silence & Noise Striped Cardigan, $39, Urban Outfitters and MIA Liv Boots, $42, Overstock

Have a fashion or beauty dilemma on your hands? Email your queries to [email protected] with the subject line, “Style 911,” and we’ll do our best to help sort you out.