Easy peasy partywear

The invitations are starting to mount up, and so are your stress levels. But don't panic - party wear is easy when you know how.

The summer party season is fast approaching and you need to put your decision making hat on (no, not the fascinator with the feathers; this job needs something substantial with a bow and brim the size of a dinner table). Summer parties tend to be relatively informal, fun, outdoor events with good food, good wine and good friends. They should be a breeze to dress for, but they can prove tricky. Yes, they are informal and fun, but you still want to look stylish... but not overdressed... but not too casual either... but, well we could argue this one backwards and forwards all day.

Before you get bogged down in too much detail, the first thing you have to do is buy a dress. And there's no hiding behind muted tones this season. You have to buy a dress and it has to be colourful. The catwalks looked like an explosion in a Dulux factory, with splashes, strokes, streaks and squiggles of chaotic colour on every available surface. But you don't have to look like a walking canvas if you don't want to. You can go for a dress with a more subtle motif or incorporate colour through your accessories (a zingy scarf, bag and shoe combo can work wonders for an otherwise 'safe' outfit).

When it comes to shoes, you really have to consider the heel carefully. A chunky heel gives a shoe strength. It is unlikely to snap in half when you're trotting across the lawn to the terrace and it also gives the wearer a sense of authority. With a chunky heel, you get the height you need without the pain (they are ridiculously comfortable). But, let's face it, sometimes you are happy to put up with a bit of pain for a pair of sky-high stilettos that slim your calves, flatter your ankles and make you feel like a million dollars. And then, of course, there are flats. Ballet pumps are still going strong and are great for warm, summer days. But be careful wearing them on warm, summer nights out because they can leave you - literally - looking a bit down at heel.

Feel free to have some fun with your bag though. There are some great bold floral designs this season and fantastic geometric designs - and you don't have to pay the earth for them. Go for something bright, eye-catching and reasonably priced for a summer party and give your discreet Chanel clutch the night off. Give your shades the night off too. Sunglasses are great for during the day, but as dusk approaches they rapidly start to lose their style credibility. And so do you.

So, now you've got the basics: a colourful, flattering dress; seriously stylish shoes that you can wear all night; and a bag with bags of fun. Now all you have to do is have a good time.

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