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You must dress to impress for a banquet dinner, but how formal you need to go depends on the occasion and the host. If it someone you know, ask what to expect to arrive in style. If you can't ask, dress to impress anyway and feel confident all eyes will be on you -- looking too good is never a faux pas.
You're always safe in a dress. For a banquet dinner, think maxi dress or a dress that's long enough to cover your knees. This isn't the time to break out your new mini. Stockings are a must, unless it's a summer banquet. Go with flats or heels that complement your outfit, and layer to stay warm. A shawl, dressy sweater, scarf or light coat can keep you warm without compromising your sweet style.
If the banquet dinner is business rather than pleasure, you're under pressure to look just right. Play it safe with the boss by wearing something classic that will impress clients and management alike. Cover up with a trench coat or a sleek blazer. Keep your dress classy and definitely avoid plunging necklines. You can make a bold color statement with accessories, shoes or by pairing a bright top with a black skirt.
For holiday formal dinners, you can go a bit more jazzy than your typical banquet. Think glitter, shimmer and shine. Look for satin dresses that shine and shimmer, ruffle dresses that flounce or dresses with sequins, rhinestones or other embellishments. Try dresses all in one hue, or those that combine a couple hues. Bright colors, jewel tones and black work well, and avoid pastels and soft colors. If the dress is glittery, choose jewelry that is complementary, without overpowering its sparkle -- less is more in this case.
Make sure you're comfortable standing and sitting in the whole outfit. If the dress has side slits that inch up far too much when you sit, don't wear it. Since you can't control the temperature in the banquet hall, do bring a layering piece and do assume you'll be taking it off. No plunging necklines, you want to keep cleavage-revealing "wardrobe malfunctions" or other mishaps off the menu!