You’ve got your dress picked out, your shoes and your jewelry. But how about a cover-up for your outfit? Whether you want to add a little extra warmth or you simply prefer to cover your upper arms, we show you how to cover up a formal outfit with lots of unique ideas.
This article features inspiration from women at two of New York’s biggest events: the MET Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York City Ballet Spring Gala, as well as ideas to shop, and outfits from stylish 40+ women on Instagram.
Enjoy all the stylish looks!
How to cover up a formal outfit
First, let’s look at what media queen Oprah Winfrey wore for a formal event. Her green gown goes beautifully with silver accessories.
If you wanted to cover up a similar outfit, you could opt for a cover up in the same shade of green, or a contrasting color such as gold, silver, white or cream.
The Nordstrom metallic wrap (below) would go with any color dress you have.
Or you could match your cover-up to your dress.
A white or cream faux fur stole would also go well with this shade of green.
Or, you could try a chiffon wrap in the same shade as your dress. The chiffon shawl (below) comes in a huge choice of colors so you should find one to match your gown, no matter what color you’ve chosen for your outfit.
The best cover ups for your formal outfit
1. Laced trimmed wrap
A trimmed wrap can be perfect to add texture to your outfit. Ideal if you have a bohemian style personality! The fringe scarf (below) comes in a wide choice of colors so you should find one to match your dress. Reviewers say it is perfect for dressing up a simple dress.
2. formal dress cover up – silk scarf
Choosing a silky material like silk or satin always adds a luxurious feel to your outfit. The silk scarf (below) is large so you can wear over your shoulders. Reviewers say it is light, soft, and wide enough to wear as a shawl.
3. textured scarf
To create interest in your outfit, don’t just think about the colors you choose, but also the textures. The spotted scarf (below) comes in a choice of 14 colors.
4. dressy shrugs for dresses – a Bolero
If you prefer a look that completely covers your arms, then wearing a bolero over your dress is a good choice. A satin bolero will ensure that your outfit looks dressy enough for any occasion.
While you tend to think of a kimono for summer, you can also use your kimono or ruana to cover up your evening outfit during the party season. Look for a kimono in luxurious fabrics so it looks formal enough for a special occasion.
6. formal dresses with jackets – a studded jacket
If you want to add an edge to your little black dress, you could add a studded jacket.
7. formal dress cover up – a Fur shrug
8. Black jacket
How about a timeless classic that will look stylish with everything? You really can’t go wrong with a black blazer. Or borrow from menswear styling and choose a tuxedo style.
9. formal dress cover ups – a Scallop edge jacket
If you have a fairly plain dress, then you can add style by thinking about the shape of your cover up. A scallop edge jacket can be a good choice for a party or a wedding.
10. shoulder cover for dress – Soft fur shrug
A faux fur shrug that you can wear around your shoulders will definitely add drama to your outfit. The evening cape (below) comes in a good choice of neutral shades as well as burgundy and has great reviews from women who said they were the center of attention at their event.
11. evening dress cover ups – draped shawl
You could also try a shawl or poncho. The cross-front poncho (below) drapes beautifully, and the shoulder detail elevates this cover up. There are a huge choice of colors, and reviewers say it’s the perfect cover up for evening or to elevate your everyday outfits. We think this would also be a great choice while travelling.
12. ribbed fur coat
If you love the look of faux fur, you could try a ribbed choice like the fur coat (below). There’s a choice of colors, and it would look good worn with your evening dress, or with your jeans.
13. shawls for formal dresses – sequin
Sequins are always a beautiful party choice. If you have a favorite party dress, you can change the look of it with a sequin cape. The capelet (below) has great reviews from women who say it is perfect to make a low cut dress more modest.
14. Closed with a brooch
If you have a favorite blazer, cardigan or wrap, you could always make it evening ready by adding a brooch.
Black and white is always a great option, particularly over a black or a red party outfit. Then, on casual days, you can wear with a turtleneck and jeans.
16. Red fur shrug
What could be more glamorous than a fur shrug? A red fur shrug, that’s what. You could wear over your black dress, or with a red dress for top to toe red. One reviewer said she got a million compliments when wearing it.
17. Wrap or tie jacket
The bolero (below) works on lots of levels. The tie waist will help to cover a tummy, the deep v-neck creates flattering lines, and the draped sleeves will cover your upper arms without clinging. Reviewers say it adds the perfect touch to a dress, or can be worn with a tank top and jeans.
18. Fun, feathered jacket
If you want to add glamour, you could choose faux fur, sequins, or how about feathers? The crop bolero (below) would add fun to your outfit.
19. Gold scarf
Metallics are not only glamorous, but they are neutral shades just like black or beige, so they will go with everything in your closet.
20. short Silk scarf
If you are looking to cover up a deep v-neck, rather than your upper arms, you could look out for a shorter silky scarf.
A modern way to cover up your dress is to choose a two-tone cover up. You could wear over your black dress, or match your cover up to one of the colors in your outfit.
22. infinity scarf
An infinity scarf can be casual if you choose wool, but it can also be a beautiful cover-up if you look out for evening appropriate materials or a bit of sparkle.
23. Sheer wrap
A sheer wrap is a great way to add coverage to your outfit, but still show off what you are wearing underneath.
24. Simple and elegant pashmina scarf
A pashmina scarf is versatile as you can wear for winter with your jeans, or you can use to cover up your shoulders for a special event. The pashmina scarf (below) has great reviews and comes in a good choice of colors.
If you want to channel your inner super hero, how about wearing a cape with your outfit. A cape would look great worn over your dress or with wide leg pants, or simply to dress up your favorite jeans.
Velvet is always a beautiful material for parties, particularly for festive or winter events. You could wear the L’AGENCE blazer (below) over a special outfit, and then use it over your jeans with a pair of heels for dinner.
27. cape with faux fur trim
You’ve seen a cape option, and a faux fur option, now let’s combine the two. Wearers say the cape (below) is elegant-looking and warm.
28. Oversized silky scarf
The silky twill scarf (below) is the perfect size for wearing over your shoulders or tied at your neck.
29. Reversible pattern oversized shawl
To give your versatility when it comes to your formal outfit cover-up, you could look out for a reversible option.
30. Fur collar
If it will be particularly chilly on your way to your party, you could wear a long-length coat with a cozy faux fur collar. That way, you will look glamorous when you make your entrance.
31. long evening coat
If you want to sweep ito your party in the most dramatic way, look out for a maxi length coat that is longer than your dress.
32. Sheer sparkly scarf
Choose to add a little bling to your favorite dress with a shiny scarf like the wrap (below), which comes in a choice of shiny metallics.
33. oversized wrap
If you choose an oversized wrap, you’ll find it will drape beautifully over your dress, pants or jumpsuit.
While the cardigan may not always be thought of as glamorous, it certainly can be. You’ll also find more inspiration in this article on how to wear a cardigan without looking frumpy. Wear your cardigan over your little black dress.
Lace always adds glamour, and can be a great way to cover up your arms if you have a sleeveless dress.
36. short blazer
A blazer is a timeless choice for work or party. The shorter blazer style (below) would look great worn with wide leg pants.
How to cover up a formal outfit with coats
Sometimes you just need more warmth than a simple cover up.
37. dress cover up – A leather jacket
A leather jacket can be perfect with your jeans, but can also look fabulous to “toughen” up an evening dress, so long as your event isn’t super formal.
38. formal dress with jacket – A long faux fur jacket
Faux fur is a cozy, glamorous option for chilly evenings when looking at how to cover a formal outfit. Wear in the usual way, or drape over your shoulders as a cape.
39. A statement coat
You can really have fun with your coats when it comes to your evening looks. Choose beautiful colors or prints.
40. winter white faux fur
While white sometimes isn’t a practical choice for winter, but it’s definitely a glamorous choice. White will brighten up any color.
Emms @beautifuleveryday_uk above shows how you could wear a white or cream jacket over your dress.
41. cover up for dress – A floral cardigan
A lacey cardigan is a fantastic way to cover up your upper arms.
42. A sheer wrap as a formal dress cover up
Choosing a sheer wrap is a fantastic way to add coverage, while still showing off your outfit underneath.
Jess @elegantlydressedandstylish (read her style interview here) above wears a versatile sheer wrap that you could easily use to cover up your swimsuit in summer or your evening dress during party season.
shop the best formal outfit cover-ups here:
Continue reading for more party outfit ideas:
- How To Dress For A Christmas Party: 11 Outfit Ideas!
- The best office party outfits
- How To Cover Your Upper Arms While Staying Stylish And Cool!
Do you have a favorite way to cover up your evening outfits? What do you consider when thinking how to cover up a formal outfit? What’s your favorite look?
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Event photography by Denton Taylor
Feature image by Nancy @nancysstyle
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