Wearing a trouser or skirt suit outside a professional environment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. They scream strict, matronly, boring and conservative discomfort. I hear you. Suits can look severe and business-y, the opposite of alluring and festive. But they don’t need to. I actually have fun wearing a suit and I feel alluring in a suit ensemble. As is often the case, it’s how you put the look together that makes the difference.

Here is the formula:

Dressy suit + fun, feminine, formal layer + heels + small handbag

Suit Ensemble 1Suit Ensemble 2Suit-Close

I adore the look, ease, polish, presence and practicality of suits and find myself sticking up for the orphaned item at every opportunity. I’ve had a currently styled pants suit in my wardrobe for 15 years and will probably have one forever because it’s a no-brainer timeless go-to item that I can dress both up or down. A suit comes in very handy when you don’t know what to wear for semi-formal and desk-to-dinner occasions. Add a bit of sparkle, spunk and attitude to this formula and you’re good to go:

Here are the components in more detail:

  • Dressy suit: Suits come in many colours, styles and fabrications. A wool or triacetate-blend solid or baby pinstripe trouser or skirt suit in charcoal, ink blue or black gets my vote as the most versatile option. For my own style, I prefer an uber-tailored, androgynous styled suit with strong simple lines. But there are all sorts of design variations that can make a suit look more playful, like retro collar and button detailing, pocket placement, peplum insets and interesting cuff treatment. Look out for these types of detailing if that’s more to your taste.
  • Fun, feminine formal layer: This is the key to the formula. A contrasting layer of girly glitz and texture underneath the suit jacket takes the vibe from drab to fab. Opting for a super feminine, soft, shiny and drapey blouse is a flop proof solution. The jade green shell top I’m wearing above is iridescent and ruffled, which contrasts well against the harshness of the suit. I’ve added extra texture to the layer by tying a fish-scaled shawl as a scarf around my neck which double duties as a necklace. In my other example I’ve broken the rules by layering a hard, matte, rigid and masculine button-down shirt with Greg’s tie. But I’ve added back femininity by un-buttoning an extra shirt button and placing the tie INSIDE the collar making it function more like a scarf than a necktie. Draping a whimsical necklace over the tie adds even more texture, contrast and playfulness. If you’re daring, wear nothing but your bra and a lacy camisole under a buttoned-up suit jacket. Pile on a statement necklace and watch those heads turn.
  • Heels: Very few things are as feminine as a heeled shoe. Peds with bling and sheen work particularly well because they’re visually interesting which once again contrasts well against the severity of the suit.
  • Small handbag: Geometric clutches are hands down the best bag to sport with this formula because their neat graphic simplicity packs a modern punch. I like to add a bold clutch to my look so that it stands out against the suit.

Adding girly accessories like dangly bracelets, bangles and earrings or cocktail rings are also effective ways of loosening up the suit look. Remember your party make-up, your confidence and a smile. Bob’s your uncle… your sassy party suit style just made a fabulous impression.