Fashion Editors' Full-Proof Formula for Elevated Going-Out Outfits

Part of growing up is realizing that style and comfort can coexist.

woman wearing brown co-ord
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Every time I went out to dinner or dancing with friends, I would experience a state of fashion-related paralysis. Gone are the days when I could rely on my tiny tank tops and mini skirts to get me through an evening on the town. I would stand in front of my closet, puzzled by my attempts to create adult-appropriate going-out outfits.

Having grown out of the majority of my trendy pieces from my early twenties, it was time for me to invest in a capsule wardrobe of nighttime-friendly looks that embody a more polished aesthetic—without looking too prim and proper. The goal is a dress code that lends itself to late-night dinners and chic cocktail lounges.

I approached this capsule collection of going-out outfits with an investment mindset. If you want your wardrobe to last for the long haul, It's essential to pick clothes and accessories from brands that specialize in quality, which may mean paying a heftier price up front, but you're an adult now, and you'll have these pieces for the long haul.

Part of maturing is also realizing that you don't have to sacrifice comfort for style. An ideal going-out wardrobe consists of pieces that have both—i.e., dresses that aren't too tight, heels that aren't too tall, and pants you can easily slip on and move around in.

Determined to master the art of dressing for a night out, I turned to stylish street-style mavens for inspiration. Here, I've pinned down a range of easy-to-replicate outfit formulas—including denim-on-denim for casual hangouts, sleek suit sets for reservations at the newest hotspot, and slinky slip dresses for date night plans.

For an Impromptu Get-Together

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woman wearing denim top and bottom

Next time you head out for a casual evening, take the denim-on-denim trend for a spin.

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Sometimes, going out just means heading to a friend’s house for a fun game night or stopping by your local pub for a casual drink. Consider going the laid-back route for these moments with a trusty pair of relaxed jeans. To spruce up your look, lean into the Canadian tuxedo uniform and style your denim pants with a matching jean top. Not only will you look put-together, but you'll also be right on trend. Fashion It girls like Bella Hadid, Sydney Sweeney, and Katie Holmes have been test-driving the denim-on-denim trend recently.

For a Classy Cocktail Bar

woman wearing black blazer, black trousers, and lace top

Yes it's true, you can indeed wear suit sets outside of the office.

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Suit sets aren’t just reserved for your work outfits. You can easily slip into a blazer and trousers for an evening at a swanky cocktail bar. Instead of wearing a button-down, as you would for the office, style your tailored outfit with a lace-trimmed top. Complete your look with strappy sandals, a matching handbag, and delicate gold jewelry.

For an Engagement Party

woman wearing satin slip dress

Raise your glass to the bride-to-be while wearing a sophisticated slip dress.

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As an adult, it’s not uncommon to have a jam-packed schedule full of engagement parties. In that case, you can never go wrong with a satin slip dress and an elevated blazer with coordinating accessories. This going-out outfit formula is sophisticated but easy to pull together.

For a Birthday

woman wearing black blazer, white tank top, and sequin skirt

This going-out outfit formula will make you shimmer like the candles on a birthday cake.

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Whether you’re the birthday girl or you’re celebrating someone else’s special day, ring in the evening of festivities with a fun metallic mini skirt. Take the sparkly theme a step further with a dose of trending silver jewelry. Opt for more subdued pieces to ground the rest of your look—like a black blazer and a white tank top.

For a Night of Dancing

woman wearing brown co-ord set

Wearing a coordinating set is the ultimate pulled-together style hack for your going-out look.

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If you plan to dance the night away, you’ll want to wear something comfortable. A sleek, bustier-style top and a pair of relaxed trousers will allow you to freely jump around to the beat of your favorite song. Wear a pair of kitten heels in lieu of sky-high platforms to make it through the evening.

For a Dressy Date Night

woman wearing black maxi dress

Did someone say date night? Consider a black dress with a striking silhouette.

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A lot of pressure comes with choosing a date night look. But you really only need a great black dress to get the job done. Choose dramatic design features like a plunging neckline or a floor-grazing hem to add intrigue to your look. Throw a blazer over your shoulders for extra warmth, and pair it with a statement red accessory.

For a Casual Night Out

woman wearing white top, white jeans, and leather jacket

Swap your regular going-out heels for a pair of cozy sneakers if you plan to be on your feet for long periods of time.

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For a casual night—like spending an evening at a bowling alley or an arcade—sneakers are your best bet. Make a statement with one of the biggest sneaker trends of the year: Adidas Sambas. A fashion crowd favorite, Sambas are also extremely practical and fuss-free. Play up the colorway with an all-white outfit and a black leather bomber jacket.

For Dinner with Friends

woman wearing gray top and black skirt

Sometimes, the best going-out outfits are rooted in versatility. You can take this look to dinner and beyond.

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A fancy meal with your closest friends is the perfect excuse to get all dolled up. Since dinner could easily lead to an evening of cocktails or a visit to your favorite lounge, your outfit should be versatile enough to serve several purposes. Keep things classy and straightforward with a fitted top, a flowy slip skirt, and a pair of kitten-heel sandals

Lauren Tappan