I have had a couple of pertinent questions about outfits for 40th birthday parties and also school or university reunions (where most people will be 40). One question even asked about a 40th birthday party “capsule” as she had more than one event coming up that would have the same people at it, so could not wear the same showstopper dress to all parties. And as you know I am pathetically desperate to please, so here we go.
I would say the absolute building-block of any wardrobe, no matter where you are going or what you are doing, is a pair of black trousers or jeans. Especially when it comes to parties – no-one will see your bottom half, so it might as well be a pair of black trousers as anything else.
I know I bang on about them, but this pair from Frame denim are absolutely terrific. Loads of stretch and a nice weight of material that will not add any bulk to any area.
Here is a pair from TopShop if Frame is out of the question (ignore the insanely skinny model – they will fit normal people too). These jeans have the advantage of coming in Petite and Tall).
If a trouser is more your thing, JLP womenswear collection have a very good pair of slim, black tailored trousers:
Other Stories are very good on trousers and they have a lot in at the moment – I mean from the picture it’s just impossible to tell if these will look okay on a normal-shaped person, my advice is just to order about 4 different pairs and try them all on.
Once you have found a really brilliant pair of black trousers, evening wear is pretty much your oyster. To be completely of the moment I would say buy one or two really wacky blouses to wear on top. Blouses are just so incredibly now, right now (see the blue one that hit girl wears in an episode of Killing Eve – channel her).
If you need more evidence, the last few times I have seen Alison Loehnis, who is the CEO of Yoox, she has been wearing black trousers with a phenomenal, billowing blouse on top – and if it’s good enough for her it’s good enough for us. Possibly too good?
This one from Equipment is wonderful. There is only an L left, but unless you are very petite, give it a go as you want it nice and loose. If the cuffs are too loose, you can move a button.
This is also great and incredibly good value from Michael Kors (it also comes in green):
Another absolute bargain – this will suit you best if you have a small frame:
Cor and look at this one! See by Chloe for £100 – come on someone’s got to have it…
I love this mad one from Sister Jane. It has the air of Prada or Gucci or something about it
And look at this tremendous thing:
I have mentioned before how much I love this 70s one. I am VERY close to buying it for myself.
Nothing uncomfortable, ever. As above, at a party no-one will really notice your shoes so there is no point crippling yourself with some seksay pair of torture heels.
Now, look, these are bloody marvellous from Ted Baker:
You could stand up all night in these and still be smiling:
If that level of minimalism is just too depressing for you, these look comfy, in gold:
This style of sort of fetish Victorian bootie thing are about to come right back into fashion, if you’re feeling edgy
These are absolutely standard and will do right by you:
I am so into these embellished bovver boot things at the moment. If I didn’t already have a pair of buckled ankle boots I will get these because I tried them on and they were amazing. Absolutely 100% okay to wear in the evening and look so incredibly cool with some sort of floaty dress OR your black trousers and blouse.
For those of you who need or just want a WOW dress for a big 40th coming up, or maybe your 40th, here are the dresses I really rate right now.
This yellow cutie from Claudie Pierlot
I love this velvet mini dress – to be worn with black opaques and boots.
This from Kitri is bonkers but very forgiving and wearable
From the revamped Karen Millen – who I think is doing vg things at the moment – a dress to wear if it’s YOUR 40th. Though you do have to be in pretty good nick to wear this without feeling like a loonie
Ba&Sh are doing some wonderful dresses at the moment. I wore my black prairie dress from here all summer and was constantly asked where it was from.
This one is pretty amazing:
Utterly love this one – I picked it out for my friend Charlotte for the christening of her daughter, it’s really great – a bit Vampire’s Wife (but not too much)
I’ve got a lot of time for this one from Asos, which looks a lot like a Maje one from last year (but no-one will know that except me)
ONE LAST THING
As always, if you are dressing for a high-pressure event, make sure you just buy lots and lots of things online – literally spend £1k on your credit card – and mentally commit yourself to sending back absolutely anything that isn’t quite right. Leave yourself at least 3 weeks, if possible, before an event or series of events to find your outfit
Actually another thing – don’t forget you can literally wear any old black dress you’ve already got to any party and you’ll look fine.
I celebrated mine in a bikini this summer 😀
Love the skinny jeans and flowy blouse look, would you tuck it in? Do you not have to have a super flat tum to look ok tucked in? I have an event in mind for that asos dress, would be just perfect.
The glorious thing about a blouse is that you can tuck the bottom edge in and leave an overhanging bit to waft gently over and disguise anything you’d rather have disguised. If you do feel a little self-concious about that area, definitely go for one with a pattern. You can lit be 4 months pregnant and no-one would know x
THOSE BOOTS! I must own them. MUST. xx
I saw Kate Silverton in the most amazing pink leopard print blouse last night from Tabitha Webb and now I have to have it. She is rocking it at 48. Agreed blouses are the thing!
That velvet dress!!!!
That BA&SH dress is divine.
Yum 🤪 – literally edible recommendations today Esther! Good job. Now going out to buy myself a 43rd birthday capsule wardrobe 👍💕
This is invaluable. Thank you! I have a 40th party to go to on Sat. Last one I was mildly fat shamed (I’m a 14)by my very overweight friend so won’t be wearing the dress I had planned. Can I get away with blouse, boots and pleather trousers, in a 🖕🏻to the fat shamer (who will also be there🙄) Am thinking edgy rocker without going to far. Or am I being a total twat??
I love this look although I am 52 so that may put you off! I try to make some part of any outfit a bit less ‘done’, or I can find myself looking the same as the lovely twee 62 year olds wearing the same outfit. So maybe slightly knackered trainers rather than smart boots? Or very casual hair and no jewellery? Wear what makes you feel great, give your friend a big hug and tell her she looks amazing. Hope you have a wonderful time. X
Great bit of advice from Petra. Who are these people fat shaming their friends? Jesus. I hate parties but the bit I like is seeing what everyone is wearing and telling them they look great.
Yes sorry everyone I am slightly late to this – Lucu I’m sorry your friend felt the need to put you down – probably – in order to make herself feel better (why does anyone ever put someone else down ever except for this reason?). I agree that Petra’s advice is very good
Will take advice on board
1. Casual hair
2. No jewellery
3. don’t punch friend in face.
Fat shamed at size 14 by a very overweight “friend”?! Jealous much?
Oliver Bonas also doing lovely blouses atm.
Yes I’ve noticed that too
If you want to feel amazing go and get a really good blow dry or your hair put up at the hairdressers on the day of the event, it’s really worth it.
yes this is quite right – I was going to suggest doing this or even getting an in-home blow dry via one of those apps like Ruuby or whatever and then didn’t so thank you for adding this
You’re so right Esther about the shoes – you can stand up all night on a pair of blocky heels and feel no pain.
And DEFINITELY plan at least 2 weeks ahead especially if you have a few events to go to! Try the outfits on at home in advance when you’re in different moods, too, so you’ll feel right when it comes to the night.
no more uncomfortable shoes ever for anything ever
Sharon in Scotland says
40 was fine. I did not acknowledge my 50th in ANY WAY. I was genuinely appalled, I stayed at home by myself and completely ignored it and wiped it from my memory.
I’m 55 in December and have got over myself, so I’m looking to have a retrospective 50th. I’m finally going to do a TM course and am on the look-out for what else to do!
Just did my 50th in Ba&Sh dress and got lots of nice comments. Going to wear it with knee high boots to an investment meeting on Thursday.
Ahhhh a beautiful last sentence – sooo true ! Xx
What a wonderful timely post. Going to a wedding on Saturday and very late to getting an outfit together. Have unearthed 2 pair of wide crepe trousers in black and blue so now will only buy a stunning blouse that will instantly transform me into a complete babe. God I’m in trouble ….
Just bought this blouse in Amsterdam from Zara. It’s really lovely! Not sure if it’s available in UK but it was as cheap as chips. That’s sort me out for my wedding on Saturday.