There are two types of people in the world, the ones that start planning their birthday outfit ideas six months ahead of time, and those who are frantically online shopping the week before (even though the date never changes).
Another year around the sun is a cause for celebration and a more than legitimate excuse to treat yourself to a new outfit. Whether you’re throwing a party (in which case why not dial up the glamour with a shimmering outfit glitzy enough to rival the sparklers on your cake) or are enjoying a more low-key family meal or summer BBQ (look to printed midis and color-pop coords to liven up your look), you deserve to feel your best. Because, if you can’t be the center of attention on your birthday, then when can you?
Of course, it’s not just our own birthdays we’re celebrating with a new outfit, and the pressure is still on to nail a great birthday outfit so that you look good when you’re toasting to friends and family too. And if you're attending a big bash rather than throwing one, you can take the same inspiration as for your own special day, just with a slightly more pared-back approach.
Birthday outfit ideas - what to wear according to an expert
When it comes to birthday outfit ideas you want to first start with how the occasion will be celebrated. If it's your party, of course, you'll want your look to stand out from the crowd, but it's still important to pick something that is stylishly appropriate for the event itself, as what you'll need for a quiet pub dinner with family or friends, will be different to a full-blown, dancefloor party. Our expert runs through the different types of birthday celebrations and how to dress for them.
1. Dinner with friends
If your birthday celebration of choice is dinner with friends, then the classic combination of “jeans and a nice top” is the ideal smart casual outfit idea. Keep your denim dark (black or indigo) and pair with anything from an oversized shirt to a patterned kimono, a romantic blouse, or a subtle sequin cami - so your top half is the dressy part of the ensemble and your bottom half is a bit more subtle
If jeans aren't your thing, have no fear. Smart/casual can be executed in lots of ways and makes for great birthday outfit ideas. Investigate what to wear with wide-leg pants, or try an A-line midi to give you much the same party-ready aesthetic.
Styling tip: Separates are great for casual occasions, allowing you to dress them up or down and get additional wear out of pieces at a later date.
RRP: $88 / £78 | The lightweight fabric makes this kimono super versatile. Wear it everywhere, from an evening out, to a day at the beach, spinning it into one of the best beach cover-ups after your celebrations are over.
RRP: $99 / £69 | Arket knows a thing or two about what makes the best jeans, and this classic blue pair is no exception. The slightly cropped leg makes it ideal for showing off your shoes too and we love the on-trend straight cut.
RRP: $41 / £28 | Not sure which necklaces to layer? Oliver Bonas has done the styling for you with a ready-made layering set. Exploring what is boho style this season is easy when it comes to jewelry, layer up for the right effect.
2. Bottomless brunch
If you can’t let the bubbles flow on your birthday, then when can you? Heading out for brunch requires your outfit to feel more daytime appropriate than an after-dark party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress up. Look to coordinated separates to pull your look together, or try a flattering jumpsuit for an item that effortlessly feels dressed-down and party-ready all at the same time. Stick to neutral shades like safari-inspired neutrals and on-trend pastels to stop your outfit from feeling too dressy (this isn’t an occasion for black and jewel tones).
Style tip: While you're essentially looking for the best brunch outfit ideas, if you opt for a co-ord, choose pieces that can be later styled separately, such as a wide-leg pair of pants you can team with a tee or a blazer you can slip over your best dresses for another occasion.
RRP: $48 / £40 | Waistcoats are enjoying a revival, perhaps thanks to the popularity of the best gilets in the early part of the year. For a runway-ready look, wear your waistcoat as a top and button it up and team with the matching pants.
RRP: $66 / £55 | Struggling with how to style a wide leg trouser? Whether you team with a coordinating piece or want to mix and match, keep your top half fitted to balance out the width of the hem to create a well-proportioned silhouette.
3. Date night
Birthdays mean more when they’re spent with the person you love most. If your other half is treating you to a birthday date night, then you might want to inject a little romance into your outfit too. We love traditionally fiery and feminine shades, like pink and red, as well as tactile fabrics like silk and velvet. Depending on the venue, dress up your birthday outfit with your best designer heels or keep it relaxed with an oversized blazer and comfortable flats.
Style tip: Wondering how to style a blazer for a chic finish? Wear your blazer slung over your shoulders for an effortless, borrowed-from-the-boys feel. It's also a great way of balancing out proportions of more slim-fitting pieces.
RRP: $108 / £89 | A jumpsuit that screams romance. This red silky number is quite the head-turner. The strapless style will show off collarbones, while the straight leg will be universally flattering for all body types. The contrast zip at the back adds extra interest.
RRP: $69.90 / £49.99 | The mix of faux leather and Perspex gives these peek-a-boo shoes a could-be-designer feel. With the '80s a constant during party season, these heels will never go out of fashion. Just make sure your hemline shows them off.
RRP: $190 / £125 | When it comes to capsule wardrobe staples, Cos never lets us down. The drop shoulders on this blazer make for a slouchy finish. Making it ideal for layering over more figure-fitting styles. Size down if you want a slightly neater fit.
4. Big party
If you're looking for an excuse to wear sequins (and let's face it, who isn't), birthday outfit ideas are made for sparkles. Whether it’s a milestone birthday or simply another year to celebrate, throwing a big party is guaranteed to make your day feel extra special. Of course, this calls for an extra special outfit, so now’s the time to pull out all the stops. Think sequins, feathers, fringing - all of which are considered within the Fall 2022 fashion trends, so should be easy to find (particularly as we hurtle towards the Holiday season. The best midi dresses are an obvious choice, but it’s not the only option. Consider a statement jumpsuit or suit for a more modern take.
A style tip: Keep your accessories on the muted side and let your clothes do the talking on this one. The last thing you want is to lose a striking outfit amongst too much jewelry.
RRP: $136 / £75 | Made for the dancefloor, this shimmery gold dress features a leg-lengthening thigh split as well as a ruched center, making it one of the most stylish dresses to hide a tummy.
RRP: $99 / £105 | A kitten-heeled mule, one of the big fall winter shoe trends 2022, is the perfect party shoe for people who don’t love heels. Plus, there are no risks of blisters at the back.
5. Barbecue or picnic
Summer birthday? Lucky you. If you're looking for picnic outfit ideas that will work for a birthday too, match the weather and turn up the brightness by going all-out with bold prints and eye-catching colors.
To stay cool, confident, and most importantly comfortable, look to natural fabrics like cotton and linen over anything overly synthetic. If lawn games or a quick round of rounders is on the cards, stick to comfy shoes (ideally a trainer) but if it’s a less sports-focused situation, then elevate the look with a chic pair of block-heeled mules (so you don't sink into the grass, but can kick your shoes off and relax).
RRP: $96 / £110 | A top with more than one way to wear it - giving it extra mileage in your closet. Wear it off the shoulder or on, we love the summer-loving, Americana print for an added boost.
RRP: $135 / £85 | The Palm Springs-inspired print gives these shorts a retro feel. Pair with the matching top for a sweet co-ord, or maximize their use by teaming with a block color tee.
6. Overnight stay / Weekend away
If you're lucky enough to be heading off on a mini break for your or a loved one's birthday, short-haul trips can often mean limited luggage, so it pays to pack smart. We suggest choosing pieces you can dress up or down, like a floral midi dress that will look great with heels for dinner, and just as good with white trainers or your best cowboy boots for a walk the next day. Finish your look with one of the best crossbody bags, a practical choice for sightseeing, keeping your essentials safe, and you, hands-free.
Style tip: We love the idea of giving a nod to your surroundings through your outfit. Think whimsical floral prints for a weekend in the country or a smart blazer for a city break.
RRP: $320 / £265 | Looking for more ways for how to style a shirt dress? The button-down front gives you the option to wear this paisley printed dress open over jeans and a t-shirt for a fun day look, or do it up and add a slim, tan leather belt to highlight your waist.
RRP: $119 / £99 | Short boots are surprisingly versatile, but when it comes to the best winter boots, short boots don't always get the credit they deserve. These tan suede ones will go with absolutely everything, just remember to suede protect the fabric.
RRP: $48 / £39.99 | A simple crossbody bag with an adjustable shoulder strap for the ideal fit, we love that you can personalize this piece with your initials - making it an ideal birthday gift to wear with your birthday outfit - there are lots of color options too.
Just as the ultimate cocktail requires a perfectly shaken combination of ingredients, dressing for sipping them is all about bringing a little extra fizz to your outfit. Use this as your opportunity to have fun with your look and push your sartorial boundaries. Think bold animal prints like leopard, zebra, and tiger, Crayola brights, and eye-catching shapes like super wide-leg trousers and voluminous sleeves. Remember that age-old Coco Chanel quote about taking off one accessory before leaving the house? We say try the opposite and embrace a maximalist approach. Cheers!
Styling tip: Use black as a base to ground more vibrant pieces, making them feel evening-appropriate and avoid one big color clash.
RRP: $29.99 / £19.99 | A pair of pants guaranteed to bring out your wild side. The satin fabric falls beautifully, for a draped look. Super floaty, they're ideal for parties as well as a strong choice if you're wondering what to pack for a beach vacation.
RRP: $39.50 / £22.99 | Sexy and sophisticated, a black satin shirt will add polish to any outfit. The deep V offers a relaxed but dressy vibe and this shirt can be re-worked with floaty pants, skinny fit jeans or half-tucked into a new season wrap skirt.
RRP: $195 / £130 | If you've opted for what might be deemed, 'less dressy' items, inject the party back into your birthday outfit ideas with a glitzy bag. This chainmail style feels fresh and modern but gives a nod to '80s, vintage styling, for a timeless look.
8. Family lunch
Sometimes the best birthday celebrations are the ones that feel more lowkey. A family lunch might not require the same kind of glitz and glamour as a full-on party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still dress up. A nice approach is to think of ways you can make your everyday outfits feel fancier, without investing in things you won’t wear again. It might be a luxe handbag, a pair of heels, a statement blazer, big earrings - whatever makes you feel special and perhaps can also act as a self-gift to mark the occasion.
Style tip: Choose one print and complement it with similar tones to create synergy across the look.
RRP: $91 / £75 | For a more sustainable buy, this pretty midi skirt is made from recycled fabric. The pink and green print champions two of this season's major color trends for a striking finish.
RRP: $170 / £99 | Upgrade your best denim jacket and give it a military makeover for the season ahead. A smarter take on the classic style, this is easily smart enough for marking a birthday.
How do you pick a birthday outfit?
Deciding on your birthday outfit can be tricky business. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, the amount of choice available can be overwhelming. We recommend organizing your birthday plans first, and then picking an outfit - not the other way around. It’s far easier to think about birthday outfit ideas when you can imagine yourself in the setting. For example, jeans and a nice top might hit the right mark for dinner with friends but could feel underwhelming if you’re throwing a fancy party. Time of day matters too, which can impact the shades and level of embellishment you opt for. Bright and light colors will keep your daytime looks feeling fresh, while rich jewel tones and darker hues like black, charcoal, and grey are ideal for adding a sultry feel to evening looks
Thinking about previous outfits you’ve felt amazing in is a starting point, as these will help you narrow down the vast options in terms of styles and silhouettes and possibly even brands too.
Do you always feel gorgeous in a midi dress? Cool in a suit? Think about why you liked these outfits - was it the nipped-in waist? The flattering cut of the sleeves? The hue that really suited you? Taking these elements into account when picking your birthday outfit will help you choose something spot-on. Hip hip, hooray!
Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.
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