What to wear: black tie holiday party or formal winter wedding

fall winter black tie outfits - red dress jcrew ludlow tuxedo

ASOS petite dress US 0p, Steve Madden heels (also here), Baublebar earrings (similar), H&M faux fur wrap (similar here or here), NARS shanghai express lipcolor
On Nick: J.Crew Ludlow tuxedo, DIY pocket square (I always make him one to match me)

As holiday party season will soon be upon us, I’m going to be sharing outfit ideas for all sorts of environments and dress codes! I’ve gotten requests for office-appropriate party attire and also more formal black tie wear, so will be showing those first this week. Earlier this month, Nick and I attended a fun Fall formal organized by our friends. They raised an amazing 100k for charity, and we got to dress up and drink the night away in the Children’s Museum, so win-win all around! For a winter formal party or wedding, I love the look of a long gown with a little sultriness and touches of glamour. Here I looked to my usual old-school hollywood inspiration with a high leg slit, faux fur wrap, crystal drop earrings and minimalistic shoes. I took to the same inspiration for makeup with a subtle smokey eye, wine red lips and wavy hair swept off to the side.

asos petite long red dress faux fur scarf

For this event, I had procrastinated and was at a last-minute loss on what to wear. I wanted to rent this sequin gown recommended by my petite aunt but it was booked up well in advance. For readers who ask about formal dresses for petites, I usually suggest browsing ASOS and filtering their selection by size and item type. Their sizing runs very small and they have some unusual styles that you don’t see everywhere. I ended up taking my own advice and ordered this dress 2 days before the event – their express shipping is amazingly fast from across the pond!

Here’s are a few other formal dresses from there all under $200, starting in 0 or 00 petite…

And here are a few other budget options above for under $100!


fall winter wedding guest outfits - formal red dress

I will say ASOS is a fast fashion retailer so you do get what you pay for. This dress is a bargain for a long piece but it is not made of high quality materials, so I wouldn’t suggest wearing it to a nicer event where others may be decked out in intricate gowns or couture. I would prefer to pay more for better quality, but due to procrastination, was hard-pressed to find formalwear anywhere else that fits with no alterations at all, even in length! Please note that ASOS sells a variety of different brands in addition to their own in-house one, so sizing may vary. Their in-house brand runs 1-2 sizes smaller than American brands for me (I’m wearing US 0 petite here which was a good fit throughout), and I’ve heard from friends that Jarlo petite which they sell also runs very small.

And now for the common question of what bra to wear with these dresses that have dips and cutouts here and there. I was able to wear a regular bra with this one, but my bra drawer is armed with the four tools below for those unexpected times when you can’t:

Low back items: low back bra converter strap in black, 2 hooks (or in nude, 1 hook). I showed how to DIY one of these back in this post but at $9, it is totally worth purchasing instead of buying the materials. ASOS also sells a 2-pack of converters in both black and nude, with 2 bra strap hooks and 2 size options.

Low front items: nude plunge front bra. This one is noted with cups that run small and the reviewers say the B is actually well suited for A cups.

Backless and strapless or other items that will show any bra straps: Nubra adhesive silicone bra provides the most minimalistic coverage. I have one from this brand based on a friend’s suggestion, and highly recommend it in return! The A cups fit me well, create magical cleavage, and the adhesive can be re-used for numerous wears (listed to last up to 50 wears!).

Very low front or unusual cutout designs: adhesive nipple covers! Lots of choices out there with mixed reviews. The ones linked here have fairly positive reviews, and are probably best for smaller busts that don’t need a lot of support.

fall winter wedding guest long red dress

PS – For this particular dress, If you’ll be out in breezy conditions, be sure to secure down the front flap with double-sided fashion tape, a safety pin, or some thread at the highest point you’d want it to fly open! Another alternative which I did is to wear a pair of biking shorts underneath and let the skirt flap away without worry.

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Leave a Comment


  1. Anonymous wrote:

    How can you keep those low back bra converter straps in place? Mine starts to rise and I'm approx your size.

    Posted 11.28.15 Reply
  2. Caroline wrote:

    I have been following your posts for over a year now and you have helped me improve my wardrobe significantly, thank you! I just wanted to say that you look absolutely beautiful here, and I love how you did your hair. Could you do an updated hair tutorial? Thank you so much for everything!

    Posted 11.21.15 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    So beautiful, so gorgeous look. Also petite women can wear long dresses – you prove that 🙂 Nice you gave tips about the right underwear. Love from Finland –Anu

    Posted 11.20.15 Reply
  4. Rachel wrote:

    I'm so impressed how beautiful you are both and this red dress is elegant !


    Posted 11.20.15 Reply
  5. Wow you look gorgeous in that dress–its' a great color on you. I'd love to see a photo of the back detail! And thanks for all the great info about what bra to wear–it's always such a pain to find the right coverage for unique cut-out dresses.

    Lifestyle by Joules

    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  6. Unknown wrote:

    I just wanted to tell you that although I've been following for only a few months; I went back to every single post you've done to save pictures of outfits that inspire me! I'm a 5'2" petite girl from Maine, and I work in an outdoor industry. It can be easy to fall back on the jeans/t-shirt routine, and I've been trying very hard to branch out in the fashion department. Your blog and instagram have been endlessly helpful! Thank you!!

    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  7. This red dress does look stunning on you although the fabric may not be the best! The fur adds sophistication to the overall look, love the effect!


    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  8. Deasy Noel wrote:

    Wowow, you guys look stunning! Like, James Bond and one of his Bond girls, haha. That dress is so pretty I love the fit / cut of it.


    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  9. Lucy Lai wrote:

    Love this dress with the fur scarf! You look so gorgeous and it inspired me to shop for a long dress for this winter. 😉

    MISS LUCIA | Fashion & Lifestyle

    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  10. Bella B wrote:

    Wow you look stunning, I love that dress it sure is perfect for a holiday party!


    Posted 11.19.15 Reply
  11. Trang Do wrote:

    Love your beautiful dress! Looks fabulous!
    Love from http://www.trangscorner.com {a lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and food blog}

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  12. You look absolutely amazing! This red dress is so beautiful. The high slit and cut out details make this dress sexy and classy.

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  13. That dress look stunning on you! The old Hollywood glamour vibe really suits you well!


    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  14. Heather wrote:

    Hey Elizabeth,

    I am 5'0". Just to clarify, my comment discusses a different dress than the red one Jean posted about. My reply to you here refers to the ASOS PETITE Slinky Deep Plunge Maxi Dress.

    Unless you plan on wearing very tall heels, I think the dress should fit you in length. I usually wear 00P/XXSP so it is hard for me to say whether or not the dress will fit you around the waist. The waist is stretchy, though. Note that you have to put this dress on over your head and button it at the back of the neck; it has no hidden zipper or other way to get in and out of it.

    Hope this helps! Enjoy your black tie event!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  15. OMG! Love that dress, you look so amazing! Reminds me of a Bond girl!

    http://TwoPerfectSouls.com – Classic Styles for the Petite Woman

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  16. L Breault wrote:

    You look amazing! I was able to quickly snap up this dress in my size as soon as you posted the first pic on Instagram. I love it and it's not too long *shockingly*!! 🙂 thank you !!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  17. Janice wrote:

    I just wore this for a wedding, it kept the back completely covered. Maybe you'll like it too. 🙂 I got compliments all night for it.


    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    I looooove this dress because it looks so good but also keeps your back covered up! I have a formal event in a couple of months too, but I can't wear a lot of the dresses you posted because I have such bad back acne….could you do a post featuring some dresses that cover up a decent portion of the back? Thank you!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  19. Linna wrote:

    You look amazing in that dress!!!!! I love it!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  20. Joanna wrote:

    You look amazing in that dress and your hair and makeup went really well with it! I have not thought of wearing biking shorts with a tight dress because my bike shorts are petty loose and would not make it look very nice. I actually have specific "under" shorts that I wear just for under my dresses and skirts.

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  21. Love the dress!

    Liz @ ShoppingMyCloset.com

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  22. Sasa Zoe wrote:

    Great info! This dress looks stunning on you! Love it so much<3

    Shall We Sasa

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  23. Elizabeth wrote:

    Hi Heather,

    I need a last minute dress for a black tie event. The only small option left is the 00P. I too have 32A cup size so I think that should work. However, how tall are you? I'm 5'2" so I don't want the length to be too short or the waist to be too tight (I'm usually a sz 0) since Jean said it runs small.

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  24. Keri H wrote:

    My jaw seriously dropped when I saw these pictures. You look so wonderful and I love the red on you. Perfect for a holiday glam look!! I don't own any maxi dresses because they're all too long on me. However, I am so grateful for you giving these options!

    Enclothed Cognition

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  25. Your dress is gorgeous. You both are very nice. A wonderful couple.

    Have a nice day.

    Sabine ~ Style Up Petite

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  26. kyiu wrote:

    Hi Jean! I'm also a petite girl and I have to admit I was always insecure about my height and would always think in my head "I wish I were taller for this dress, these pants, this outfit etc". You truly inspire me to create the perfect outfit by shopping for the right fit/length. I love your blog and instagram! Proves you don't have to be 5'10 to look good. Super classy and truly a fashion inspiration!!!!! <3

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  27. Heather wrote:

    Jean, you look stunning in that red dress! I recently purchased the ASOS PETITE Slinky Deep Plunge Maxi Dress in Wine (color). You and I have very similar body measurements and a 00P fit me like a glove. I, too, have a petite bust size (32A) and think the open front of this dress is sultry while still being classy. Due to the extreme plunge, I will have to wear pasties of some kind to give me some shape in the bust. I may also have the dress hemmed an inch or two depending on the heels I decide to wear with it. I'm usually not into wearing gowns with long sleeves but I am in love with this wine maxi dress. I felt beautiful the second I put it on! I agree with you on the quality of these ASOS dresses but I think if you use care and caution while storing and wearing it, it will last. Thanks for the tips and tricks in this blog post!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  28. I'm so impressed how beautiful you are both and this red dress is definitely a dream <3
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  29. GLAMOUR!!! You and Nick are the most STUNNING couple. I hope you both brought our your infamous dance moves in these formal outfits (Nick can steal Joey's "move" 😉 )

    Also, Nubra is by far my favorite brand of adhesive bras that I've tried, EVER! Other adhesive bras have fallen off at the very first sign of body heat, putting me in a very awkward and uncomfortable situation at important events. I have worn Nubra time and time again (with proper care of an adhesive bra, I always put them back in their casing immediately after wear), even danced the night away with girlfriends, and have had no problem with the adhesive. I swear by this brand!!!!

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  30. Gorgeous dress! The bras for backless dresses/shirts actually really work, too! I got one a while ago and I was surprised at how much "support" I got.


    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  31. Awesome dress! Gorgeous on you!
    Love that bright red color that changes compared to the traditional black we use to wear too much!
    Thanks for your tips!

    Petite and So What

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply
  32. Monika M. wrote:

    Hi Jean, I have not previously posted, but I have been following your website for several months. Love your look! It's so inspiring! I You look gorgeous in that ASOS dress…sadly the wine color is sold out in all of the smaller sizes. Drats. PS – I saw your look was highlighted in a People StyleWatch magazine recently…hope you saw it! Monika

    Posted 11.18.15 Reply

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