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How to dress for a 21st birthday party … at every age

Here’s what to wear to a 21st birthday party…

1. If you are the mum

If you tend to gravitate towards dresses with sleeves, those with ankle-grazing hemlines, or both, opt for a bright shade – think fuchsia-pink, buttercup-yellow or emerald-green – to ensure you err on the right side of modest fashion

Take a leaf out of the super-stylish Kristen Scott Thomas’ book and punctuate your capacious frock with jewelled accessories and elevate it with a block heel that you can actually dance in.


Dress (Coast)



2. If you are older sister

What should you wear if you’re keen to portray yourself as a fashion-forward older sister, without stealing your younger sibling’s limelight? This season’s alternative to the wrap dress, the kimono, of course. 

Follow Sienna Miller’s lead and opt for a printed, loosely-fitted variation and team it with minimal jewellery (because sometimes a simple gold chain and a watch is the most powerful combination), and a pair of strappy sandals. 

Yellow floral dress (Karen Millen)



3. If you are a god mother
If you occupy the roll of (fairy) godmother (cool aunts also fall into this category), then take the opportunity to brandish your sartorial wand and show the kids how it’s done.

A silky slip dress is a chic option regardless of whether the party is taking place at home, in a swanky restaurant or at a hotel. Not convinced that you have the honed physique to uphold this slinky style like Robin Wright? Get yourself a good strapless bra and try layering a blazer over the top – it will look just as romantic. 

Jumpsuit (Karen Millen)



4. If you are grandmother
Tonal dressing is a technique that, when done right, looks elegant on women of every age. Take your cues from perennial style icon Joan Burstein and employ this method of dressing with flattering earthy tones – think mushroom, terracotta and sage.

Don’t shy away from lace. A sheer sleeve or hemline softens a structured dress and grants it some fluidity. And experiment with texture. Burstein’s mixture of silk, lace, velvet and satin stops her outfit being one dimensional. 


Lace dress (Oasis)


5. If you are bestfriend
Tread carefully. If you need to consider the politics of 21st birthday dressing as an older sister, you definitely need to consider them as a best friend. We’re not saying you should rule out bright colours, short hemlines or any amount of sparkle, but we are discouraging any blatant attempt to upstage your mate on their special day.

In the same way that you wouldn’t wear white to a wedding, avoid anything especially attention seeking. 

Dress (Karen Millen)