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Cocktail Party
If you want to feel really, really glamorous, rent an on-trend dress by a big name designer. Digital print + Prabal Gurung = ideal.
Cocktail Party
When going the always polished, always easy all-black route, don't forget a punchy lipstick. It'll make your outfit a little more festive.
If your plans involve more Solo cups than champagne flutes, go ahead and wear a sweater and jeans. Opt for a knit with a cool print like this one, and crisp white denim instead of standard blues. You'll stand out without looking try-hard.
Black Tie
Don't bother buying a gown you won't wear more than twice a year (max?) anyway. Rent one instead, and splurge on a really fabulous one like this Jennifer Lawrence-approved style. (You'll get to tell everyone you're wearing Calvin Klein, which is always fun. Or so I imagine.)
For in-between dress codes, mix a fancy pair of pants and a sharp jacket with a more casual element or two: a t-shirt, maybe, or perhaps some flats. That sort of eclectic mix is perfect for so many occasions.