Joy, I tend to think of cocktail, black tie optional , black tie /gala/long dress required

This is my party capsule

In a pinch, I have worn the wide leg pants with its matching tuxedo style jacket sans shirt plus fashion tape to an event where the hostess was in this magnificent blood red sequined gown and still felt appropriate ...of course I wasn't sitting at -her- table!

Great topic and boy have I struggled with this area. The dressy capsule for me is not frequently required which made it hard to feel current. I have very recently purged all of the items in my closet - loads of older party wear.
I kept 2 LBDs - one long sleeve warp and a ponte sleeveless. I honestly could get rid of the long sleeve as I have only worn it one time. The ponte is the go to for me now. I wear it to all my functions. It is very classic but due to the ponte fabric also forgiving. I have 3 toppers for it: white leather jacket, soft black and cream kimono for summer, brocade gold and black jacket for winter.
I pair them with black sandals in summer, boots or kitten heel pumps in winter.
I would love this same dress in turquoise for summer wear if I could ever find it.

Thanks Joy, I think a three piece suit - pants, skirt & jacket could be great too.

Gee, I don't think I attend ANY dressy functions! Well, I have a cocktail sheath from DD's HS graduation in 2012 (only time worn), and I'll ask her at Christmas whether it will be appropriate for her outdoor graduation in 2016. Not even sure it would be weather appropriate, however.

Umm, I have my mom's full taffeta *New Look* midi skirt from the late '40s/early '50s and a waist cincher if the waistline is a smidge tight.

A number of fancy velcro fastened belts(?) made from obi fabric.

Black strappy velvet or something heels that would only work for me in warmer weather.

I have a lichen colored shiny vest style top, but I would probably buy a new top.

Tomorrow, our church will be formally calling our minister, and then we will be going to the party and an off-site after party. I plan to wear my sheath dress with leather lacing at the shoulders; not sure about topper and footwear. This is a (non-designer) jeans and comfort sandals crowd so I have no doubt that I will be one of the most dressed up people other than those on the chancel.

I am increasingly happy with my formal capsule but it's not "there" yet. Then again, I rarely need it. I have a long fishtail black skirt and a silk top that goes well with it for really formal events. And a pair of Margiela trousers that I can dress up to be cocktail-worthy. Then I have two short dresses to wear to summer weddings (one patterned silk, one shimmery linen). I have a silk shirtdress that isn't formal but is definitely sharp enough for the sort of "drinks at a gallery opening" event we all like to imagine ourselves at. And now, finally, I have an LBD - but it's not a very formal one. Black wool jersey.

I could use another fancy top or two if I'm going to wear the pants or skirt as evening wear. I love the look of Angie's Anne de la Fontaine shirt and long black skirt from a while ago. (That skirt is almost identical to the one I have.)

Where I really fall down is shoes, though. I have no shoes that could be described as formal. I prefer wearing edgy, heavier leather things, so delicate shoes rarely appeal to me. (I guess I do have a pair of silver leather strappy sandals, but I hate them because they are SO not me.) On the rare occasions I've gone to formal events, I've added my personal twist with my "biker jacket" heels but they are far too casual.

I want to buy these shoes to add something that could be dressy while still being VERY me. They're sold out in my size but supposedly they're re-issued each spring.

A creamy coffee colour chiffon dress
Turquoise empire line dress
Shortish (but still decent with tights) high low hem blurry star print dress
Black jersey wrap dress (funerals but have dressed it up for dinner with a faux fur vest)
Black & beige polka dot high low maxi dress
Mauve knitted cape
Grey knitted shawl
White fluffy cardi
Black patent shoes
Black ankle strap pointy shoes
Nude ankle strap
Metallic sandals
White clutch
Black clutch
+ various other clutch bags! about 3 I think?
Most of these were bought on sale or from cheaper shops like New Look & H&M and several pieces I've had many years, the coffee dress is coming up for 10 years. I need to replace the nude and metallic shoes as they are too high. We're quite a dressy family, my Mum and Auntie love dressing up so I can wear a party dress to a home birthday buffet and not feel over dressed. I keep an eye out year round for dressy things as I can guarantee if I'm desperate for something I won't find it x

At the moment, I have these options, Joy:

black lace skirt, black lace tops, black silk harem pants, full silk patterned midi skirts, dressy black turtleneck, fitted white shirts, tuxedo jacket, black Tokyo suit, grey pinstripe Theory suit, gold jeans, dressy black wide leg trousers and gold party pumps. I also wear my long shocking pink man coat over the pieces when it's cold. Or my shiny citron trench for warmer weather.

I just realized that I have not gotten back to respond to this thread, although I have carefully read al,your replies and gotten some ideas. It sounds like many of you hang onto dressy pieces for years. I need to keep an eye out for dressy quality sale tops to wear with shirts. I like the sound of a great white blouse and dressy black turtleneck. I should also think about jewelry and shoes, although it might be best to keep those current. I have the dress that I wore to DS's wedding and a LBD in silk that can be dressed up, but would like to find a dressy suit with pencil skirt. I also have a black tuxedo pants suit and wild patterned sequined shell to wear with it, but have never worn it together, favoring skirts and dresses. A nicer lace pencil skirt would also be a good addition. I have a VC black on black lace tube skirt but it doesn't seem dressy enough. Maybe I should rethink that.

I have a few pieces in mine, but none of them new:

Cobalt sheath dress
Red fit and flare silk dress
Cream/gold grecian style dress (knee length)
Raspberry sequinned two piece
Chocolate brocade dress

Silver crop jacket
Black sequin cardigan
Vintage fur

Silver heels
Gold sandals
Cobalt sandals

About 4 evening clutches

I have several pieces that can drift over into this area (kimono jacket, black wrap dress, Bailey 44 dress) and some accessories that can as well (black pointy heels)

Next "big" party or wedding I plan to get a new cocktail style dress. I would struggle to purchase unless I knew what the event was, so I will wait as normally there is plenty of notice. If I was suddenly invited to a cocktail party tomorrow I would have options but I do feel some of my options have been quite well worn - for this type of capsule.

I was flailing around on the forum trying to figure out what to wear to my friend's wedding in Las Vegas next weekend, so you can tell I don't have this done and dusted. I thought that I had a few pieces that would be fairly versatile but they were mostly evening wear, and for the cooler months as well - what Miss Manners would call cocktail wear.

What I do have right now:
a black wool pencil skirt with sequins, bought last winter on mega-sale and not yet worn
silver strappy sandals, ditto
a black ponte LBD, a little snug right now
a black woven tuxedo-inspired jacket which is quite dated in silhouette
black velvet drapey pants (good for Christmas/holiday parties with a sparkly sweater)
then I've got a few dresses and tops in my everyday wardrobe which could cross over depending on the event and time of year.

The problem is that I don't really need cocktail wear, I need a day dress or two (not black or white) that would work for weddings, christenings, 'informal'* parties, that sort of thing, some semi-casual stuff with a sense of bling for holiday parties, and then an appropriate outfit or two for a funeral, just in case.

*I say informal because that's what the etiquette mavens would call it, but it's the dressiest level I have ever needed to be in my entire life, excluding my own wedding and maybe prom. I've never been invited to a gala (I'd make a remark about meeting the Queen, but then Diana did!).

My real strategy is to run out and buy a frock. I do have a fancy cocktail dress - blue and green shot with gold threads - for a total and complete you-have-30-minutes emergency, which I cannot ever imagine. It's due for the yearly try-on to see that it fits... The Season is always Winter, right?

And then there's my cheap but not sleazy night on the town capsule... It has two outfits: one dress and necklace, and one gold lame leggings, sparkly sweater, and necklace. I have maybe gotten too fat for the lame leggings... but it's a ghetto fab outfit, so maybe not.

I have a velvety suit for house parties. And some old Marc Jacobs pants and silky top in matching burgundy for weddings and nice dinners out at fancy, trendy places.

Oh and a weird green suit. It's not so much weird as it's simply not a work suit. A sort of tea-party suit.

I don't really need anything, but I was considering maybe season tickets to the opera. In which case, maybe I'd buy some new things for fun.

I had a gala to go to last year that was short dress appropriate. I could not find the right thing to wear until afterwards so I added them to capsule to have for the future.
- DVF black lace dress - bought at Nordstrom rack clearance for $40 after watching it last winter. Haven't worn it yet, but classic for years to come
- navy sequin skirt form jcrew bought last year $60- worn to several events

Also have
- black sleeveless tory burch sheath - worn to funeral last year and several times prior
-DVf chiffon dress for day weddings - several years old, but not dated
- chiffon sheer sleeve wrap dress from NAS several years ago for baby/ bridal showers
-several silk tops to wear with black pencil skirt for events that aren't so dressy

Shoes - either black patent pumps or metallic slingbacks

I enjoyed reading this thread and everyone's comments and suggestions. We basically simply decline all invitations that require this level of formality. Not that we get many of them. My spouse retired two years ago, and I just retired in August so we'll not have work obligations any more.