Jewels: Earrings are a great way to instantly elevate a casual dress. People get their cues by what's closest to your face. And because semiformal events tend to involve cocktails, huge shiny rings look good in the twinkly lights. For a switch, wear a black dress with all black jewels, black chandelier earrings, choker, bracelets and rings. You can't overdo the drama when it's monochromatic. But for your jewelry wardrobe pearls are a must — not, Suzy Homemaker pearls but long and short strands of the Suzy Fashionista variety.
Hosiery: A lot of leg real estate typically gets taken for granted at a semiformal affair. Black is slimming, but other solid colors are mandatory. Dark, vibrant shades of purple, blue and red come to mind. Jazz up a white dress with blue legs, or punch up a black one with purple or whatever fits your mood. It's optimal to find colored tights that match the color of your shoes (you'll look taller, and it's more striking), but it's not mandatory. Your shoes will pop more if the tights or hosiery don't match, so plan accordingly.
Belts: One completely unsubstantiated fact: 99.7 percent of the time, you should throw away the belt that came with a dress. Yes, even the self-fabric ones. They are usually cheap, and they look it. Most of the time you should remove the belt loops and buy a new belt. Invest in skinny, medium and wide varieties with gold or silver accents in black, white and a few rich colors. Be mindful of proportion. You want a belt that looks like it's defining your waist not exaggerating it. Too skinny on a too-wide frame and you'll look larger. Too wide on a short torso and you'll look unbalanced.
Shoes: You can't have too many pairs. Yeah, we said it. You want flats and heels and shiny and matte. You want booties and boots in casual and special occasion. You want dramatic, and you want staid. Luckily, you can have it all without breaking the bank. Here's a little tip, don't be afraid of fancy cheap shoes (yes, we go to Payless sometimes), just don't wear them often. Maybe it's that one sparkly pair you wear once a year at different events for five years instead of five times one year.
Color: It's the one thing we didn't photograph, but imagine any of these looks with a bold infusion of red, green, cobalt blue amethyst. Eyes gravitate toward color and shiny objects. There's no better way to mask a go-to dress than a highlighting color. If your go-to dress is already brightly colored, think about color-blocking with complementary colors for belts, hosiery and jackets.
And you should never neglect the biggest opportunity for transformation: You. Hair, makeup and attitude work wonders. When you dress up, go all the way. If you're wearing your 9-to-5 hair and makeup to an after 5 affair, you're missing an opportunity to shine. A little imagination can take you far.
Model: Justine Ward, of West Model and Talent Management
Hair: Rachel McAloon, of Salon Privi, 12420 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur
Makeup: Kevyn Idoux, of Kolors Salon, 4188 Manchester Avenue
Stylist: Debra D. Bass