I find that, for me, dinner and drinks usually fall on a Friday evening right after work somewhere near my workplace. Sometimes a couple of my coworkers want to unwind and start the weekend fun a bit early, or sometimes I'll meet up with friends. Because I work downtown and the restaurant is usually downtown or very near it, I don't always want to leave work, commute home to get ready, and then return downtown to meet up with others.
If you are leaving for dinner and drinks straight from work, consider adapting your work clothes to an evening out. When I know that I'm going to be meeting friends after work, I pack a fancy top to change into, a clutch, dangly earrings, and perhaps a pair of kitten heels or fancy flats if the shoes I wore to work that day are very casual. This stuff can be packed into one shopping bag that I can stash under my desk or in my filing cabinet until I need it. My favourite top to wear for a night out right now is a grey microfibre blouse with draping and pintucks, and slightly puffed sleeves. The microfibre material means that any wrinkles come right out when I let the top air out a bit. My blouse looks a bit like this Noblita blouse ($51 from Bluefly), minus the wide waistband, ruffles, and buttons.
Dresses are another option that can take you from day to night. A simple V-neck or wrap dress, can strike the perfect note for a restaurant. If the fabric is a matte material like jersey or a fine knit, add some glitter or shine via accessories can make the dress evening-appropriate. Picture this black knit 525 America dress ($50 from Bluefly) with patent leather shoes and purse, a gray pashmina, and a long knotted rope of white pearls.
A final note: Whatever outfit you decide on, keep in mind that there's a difference between dressing for dinner and drinks and dressing for a club. Clubbing attire tends to be racier, more revealing, and more extreme, whereas the dinner and drinks outfit tends to be a bit more low-key and conservative while still maintaining an elegant vibe. If you plan to show skin, only show a bit at a time (arms or cleavage or legs, but not all three at once). Think face-framing necklines rather than plunging ones.
Some other essentials to consider:
- Mascara, lip gloss, concealer, and a rosy blush. Even if you don't wear makeup regularly (I don't wear makeup to work), a little can go a long way in making you look polished and your skin look flawless. These items are easy to pack and take about five minutes to apply in the office bathroom.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. Actually, this is more of an essential before you go out rather than after. If you're going to be in a social setting with other people, making sure your breath is fresh and your teeth are clean is a good idea.