Navy Formal Dresses Are the New Little Black Dress

Switching the classic shade of black to the more understated color, navy is nothing new for fashionable women. The rich blue shade is just as elegant, goes with anything, can easily be dressed up or dressed down and offers immense style versatility. If you ever needed any proof, just check out the sartorial vanguards of fashion week—the front row mavens from Vogue to Bergdorf’s who have been snapped sporting navy formal dresses in place of black frocks.

While it’s a color that’s tried and true, typically associated with elegance and class, it’s a shade that comes off as severe, stern and maybe a little harsh, if you’re not careful. Navy, on the other hand, sidesteps these in favor of effortless and chic sophistication. Slip into a navy formal dress and you instantly feel as if your inherent sense of style is coming alive.

The absence of black in women’s closets is understandable. While versatile, some consider the hue to be drab and bleak just as much as it can stylish and fierce. If there are no trendy colors the likes of radiant orchid, puce or mais, it may be a sign of women’s aversion to trends and penchant for more lasting pieces. But a woman with no navy in their wardrobe? That’s rare.

Dress Cuts

Everyone looks good in navy. It’s certainly less severe than black and is equally sophisticated; it’s classic but still sharp—and if there was ever any doubt that you should switch your little black dresses for something fresh and new, navy formal wear is the way to go.

That said, shift dresses are a universally flattering cut that can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the occasion. Wrap dresses are also a good option, which easily takes you from day to night, depending on how you accessorize your outfit. You can also go for navy long shirts or tunics, which are great for casual afternoons and even for work.

There’s also no shortage of navy formal dresses on the red carpet if you’re opting to go with the hue for a fancy event.

navy formal dresses 2

Fabric

Generally, navy is a flattering color that slims down your silhouette. But to achieve the most flattering look, choose them in flattering fabrics that are more forgiving for most body types, such as the flattering effect that a simple silk blouse provides.

For cocktail and semi-formal occasions, jersey or cotton will usually work. They can easily be packed away as well and are lightweight making it an easy go-to option. More formal events usually call for richer and more delicate fabric. Silk, satin, and chiffon are great options.

Shoes

Depending on the style of your dress, you can basically wear everything from flats to high heels, boots, and even flip-flops—it all depends on how adventurous you are when it comes to fashion.

For formal wear, navy formal dresses go best with neutral shoes. Try champagne colored stilettos, nude pumps, or even mauve-colored footwear. To be more on trend for the season, gold accessories showcase a more updated look. But a classic combination of silver and blue also works.

For trendier options, you can try mixing and matching different shades of blue. Since your dress is navy, you can opt to go for a lighter shade of blue as a way to give your outfit contrast.

Accessories

For any formal occasion, a purse and some jewelry will be necessary. While the old rules of fashion dictated that purses should always match your shoes, know that sartorialists have more room be adventurous these days. In fact, try to avoid doing that matchy-matchy vibe. The trick is to look effortlessly put together. So if you’re already wearing neutral shoes, you have more room to be colorful with your purse options.

Make sure you dress is appropriate with your purse options. Clutches can basically be used for any occasion, including formal events, and most especially when you’re wearing a neutral shade like navy. But for cocktail events, you can choose roomier bags such as hobos and satchels.

A similar rule also applies to jewelry. Gone are the days when you had to match everything. The trick is to create a focal point and to stick with that theme. So if you’re wearing a low cut navy ensemble, choose a statement necklace and keep other accessories such as bracelets and rings or earrings simple. There are no hard and fast rules as to whether you should use gold or silver, you can easily mix and match it to create a boho look.

Make Up

Keep it classic. A neutral palette works best for a navy. Draw focus on your eyes for a night out or keep your peepers simple and add drama by swiping red lipstick.

General Dos & Don’ts

Do be adventurous. Blue goes best with neutral but can also be worn with black for a dramatic and edgy effect. A button-down shirt in navy is great if it has silver buttons, and would go well with a lighter colored skirt. Don’t mix navy blue with bright yellow unless you want to look like a walking ad for Ikea.

Do keep the look classy. Pairing navy with white is a sure option but can border on being too nautical. Instead, try an all blue ensemble and mix it up with a pop of color. Red is a great option.

Don’t go navy blue from head to toe. Navy is such an interesting color that it seems like such a shame to waste it by playing it safe. Mix it up and add more colors and textures to your look.

Do try mixing and matching textures when you’re trying to achieve a formal look with navy hues. A delicately tailored chiffon top paired with an edgy leather pencil skirt and topped off with a luxe cashmere coat is the pinnacle of style and elegance. Finish the look with a pair of classic black pumps and clutch and you’re good to go.

Don’t be afraid to add color to your all navy look. While the look doesn’t necessarily run the risk of looking too severe, it’s still a very neutral palate that makes it easier to accessorize and have fun with. Jewelry is the best way to experiment with the look.

navy formal dresses

Do mix it with other neutrals. Navy goes well with everything. See for yourself by mixing your formal navy dress with soft or dark grays, black, nude or even silver.

To create an elegant evening look by choosing lengthier hemlines—as opposed to the shorter, slinkier little black dresses that you’re used to.

Don’t be too worried about accessorizing your navy dress—add a sparkling update to the subdued palette by pairing it with metallic accessories, whether it’s for footwear, a clutch or jewelry.

Do try to add a casual spin to traditionally formal navy dresses. Add a belt, pare down the jewelry and switch the quaint clutch for a satchel. Sport a motorcycle jacket over your dress and you can easily take the look from evening to daytime.

Don’t shy away from colors. If you’re unsure about using color as a way to accessorize your dress, try doing so with jewelry instead.