Even the most style-savvy among us can get lost in the closet when it comes to dressing for events and meetings where impressions are everything. Whether it’s a first date or your first meeting with the future in-laws, we’ve put together some simple style suggestions for dressing for success – in any situation.

1. The cocktail party
The little black dress, or LBD is your number one, no-fail outfit for a cocktail party, says Sarah Collins, President of Sarah Collins Image Consulting in Toronto. “Everyone should have a little black cocktail dress they feel good in.” Collins also suggests making sure your LBD has about five pounds of “wiggle room” for those days you don’t feel as toned as you’d like, or, for instance, there happens to be a buffet table at the party. Plus, we all go up a few pounds around holiday time, so it’s best to leave yourself room to breath in any all-purpose cocktail frock.

The dress should be a sexy, yet flattering length which will depend on your height. Someone petite should avoid dresses that cut them off at the knees and instead choose a hemline that falls about an inch above the knee. Someone taller can get away with more variety, but just above the knee or mid-calf are always classics.

Pair your LBD with a simple string of pearls for instant elegance, Collins says. It’s an accessory you don’t have to think about. “It immediately adds class and takes your outfit from ordinary to extraordinary.” Now throw on a pair of black pumps (always a classic), grab a clutch purse big enough for the essentials (lip gloss, car keys and tissues) and you’re ready to impress!

2. The job interview
You can’t go wrong with a well-tailored, crisp-collared white shirt, says Collins. “It will always ensure you look polished and well put-together.” You can go affordable (H&M, Club Monaco) or more upscale (Pink Tartan, Jill Sander), but the result will be the same – professional and sophisticated without trying to hard. Pair your white shirt with a narrow black pant and fitted blazer, and the look is complete – sans headache from stressing about what to wear.

Tucking in your shirt for an interview is also an absolute must, says Collins, so you look as neat as possible. She also suggests you avoid being overly feminine. This means lay off anything frilly, lacy or too pink. A job interview also isn’t the place to strut your fashion-forward sense of style, Collins says. Her advice: Keep it simple and polished and you’ll do fine.

How to dress for business meetings, first dates and meeting the in-laws on the next page!3. The important business meeting
Don’t take business-casual too far if you’re trying to close a deal. A proper business suit, something tailored and that fits you properly (not too tight and not hanging off of you) will always do the trick, Collins says. Keep your accessories muted and no logos on any pieces of clothing, please.

This is another situation where your well-tailored white shirt will come in handy. The neckline is always flattering without being too feminine, and it will give you a professional, tasteful look. Pair it either with a chic business suit in basic black or charcoal grey, or add a black pencil skit, black pumps and fitted blazer. One big business meeting no-no is lugging your purse in with you. “It’s just not business-like,” explains Collins. So if you can, leave your Birkin behind until you’ve sealed the deal.

4. The first date
To start with, dress like you want to be there, Collins says. This means, no ripped jeans, leggings or sweat pants. But alternatively, don’t over-sex your outfit, and avoid too much cleavage. You want an outfit that lands somewhere in the middle. For an elegant, go-anywhere outfit pair narrow black pants with a black turtleneck, ballet flats and a fitted denim jacket. Grab a mid-size, Hermes-style Birkin bag and you’ve got a casual, yet stylish outfit that exudes confidence. Above all, you want to be comfortable on a first date. The last thing you want to be worrying about is your choice of outfit, so it’s best to stick with flattering, yet simple attire.

5. Meeting the future in-laws
He wants you to meet his parents for the first time and you have no idea what to wear. “Be yourself but err on the side of conservative,” says Collins. For this, or any other stress-inducing meeting that doesn’t involve work or the office, strike a balance between professional and casual-chic.

Try a narrow black pant, paired with your crisp white shirt, but instead of going with a blazer, choose a fitted cardigan in a pretty pastel. A splash of colour will help brighten you up, without going over the top. Complete the outfit with round-toe flats or a low-heeled pump and a trench coat. You’ll look naturally stylish and pulled-together, but also be comfortable, which helps tremendously in high-pressure situations.

Do you have a fashion question? Ask ELLE Canada’s fashion expert, Miss Chic!