Here’s a Foolproof Formula For the Perfect Summer Party Outfit

Summer parties start early and go late, so be ready for anything with this simple fashion equation.

Jun 4, 2014 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

Wondering what to wear to the slew of crazy summer parties you've been invited to? I'm not -- because I've just started back to work on a TV show. That means my whole summer is going to be spent in a wardrobe trailer, sweating to death in random parking lots across Los Angeles. There are zero parties on my horizon.

So if you see me dragging a rack of clothes across a busy street, slow down and say hi, would ya? It always makes my day when I run into xoJane peeps out in the real world. Even if you secretly leave rude comments on my posts, you're all unfailingly polite in person. 

ANYWAY, enough about my sad sack life. You've got parties to attend! But you may be stumped as to what to wear in order to look cute, stay cool, and project an aura of lackadaisical casualness all summer long. If so, never fear -- I've got a no-brainer idea  for you. Just carry a lemon slice instead of a purse! Or a cat, a camera, a book or a fish...you know, like so:

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Novelty bags, $10.00-$805.00.

An integral part of any summer party outfit is whimsy, and a fun novelty bag delivers just that. However, a toucan handbag is a whole lotta look -- so the rest of your ensemble has to fall in line accordingly. But not fade into the background! Confused? Don't be. Because the perfect summer party outfit formula is quite easy:

Kooky purse + black dress + bright lips = cute, carefree and clever. Every single time.

Plus, you can wear any old shoes you want -- as the bag and the lips are the stars of this look! Best of all? Zero jewelry necessary. The bag is doing all the work -- and any additional accessories would be overkill.

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Sleeveless colorblock shirtdress, $139.00 at Ann Taylor. Lipstick Queen's Velvet Rope Collection lipstick in 'Brat Pack', $50.00 at Ulta. Saddle shoes by School Issue Varsity, $64.00 at Zappos. Purse, straight outta my 1990s closet!

Dressing as Wednesday Addams during a heat wave (or a retired professional golfer) is one of my signature hot-weather looks, and this sleeveless collared dress from Ann Taylor is my summer 2014 go-to. It's made of an indestructible fabric (some sort of polyester) that has so far resisted being stained by barbeque sauce, red wine, grass, and other people's vomit.

It goes with absolutely anything, but I've taken to wearing it with my 1990s-era metal license plate purse and saddle shoes because I'm stuck in a time warp. You can be a more modern version of me just by plugging in a gold-chained crossbody bag and pair of on-trend open-toe lace up booties instead.

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Sleeveless Colorblock Shirtdress, $139.00 at Ann Taylor. Cappiello license plate bag, $40.00 at Aldo. Velvet Rope Lipstick in 'Brat Pack', $50.00, by Lipstick Queen. 'Trorecia' sandal, $64.00 at Aldo. 

You could also be the belle of your own garden party when you marry a lace frock and lemon wedge handbag to a pair of creamy coral lips.

And even a babe who veers into serious Romantic Goth territory can wear a fresh version of her usual summer blacks by pairing a purple-y lip stain with a fringed minidress and an antique book-inspired clutch.

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Tasseled dress, $60.97 at Asos. Book clutch, $40.00 at Aldo. Korres Lip Butter in purple, about $14.00. H&M chunky sandals, about $42.00.

Oh, and if you wanna make your very own book clutch out of a real hardcover? Just follow this clever DIY to transform any tome you've got lying around into a totally Shakespearean clutch wallet. 

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Book clutch DIY tutorial at LACanvas.com.

An Astro Turf bag is the perfect spot to stash your soaking wet swimsuit as you jet from the beach out to dinner -- and now that comfortable sandals are ruling the fashion roost, a pair of floral Birkenstocks works for either occasion!

An elastic-waist dress is the perfect piece for a surprise party held at an all-you-can-eat buffet. (And an all-you-can-eat surprise party might just be the best idea I've ever had.) Plus, a Mickey D's purse shows everyone in attendance that your competitive eating skills are a force to be reckoned with!

Even if the shindig you've been invited to is a little fancier than most, it doesn't mean you need carry a boring old lady bag. This perky palm tree clutch manages to be ultra chic when paired with a prim, proper, Peter Pan collared dress and some sky-high platforms.

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Collared dress, $80.00 at Yoox.com. Majestic palm clutch, about $450.00 at Valery Demure. Tory Burch lip color in Vibrant Peach, $32.00. Suede ankle-strap peep toe heels, $65.00 from BooHoo.

And if you are heading to see your favorite reunited 90s band in concert, you can't go wrong with a flounced babydoll dress, bright pink lips, two-tone Vans sneakers and a telephone-dial clutch. (I'll be rocking some version of this exact look to go see Veruca Salt on their upcoming reunion tour.)

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Polka dot tiered dress, about $84.00 US from Opus. YSL Rouge Volupte Shine lipstick in 'Pink Devotion', $35.00. 'M is for Murder' patent clutch, $125.00 from Lulu Guinness. SK8-Hi sneaker, $55.00 from Vans. 

The time to get your summer party fashion game together is NOW -- so don't delay, whatever you decide to wear. But you have to admit: carrying a lemon wedge instead of a boring old purse is pretty cool, no matter how you slice it. ;)

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison