What to Wear Over Formal Dress When Cold

formally dressed couple by Christmas tree

So many big events happen in the colder months of the year. While June might be the time for weddings, it seems like almost everything else happens from November through February.

Formal dresses are the peak of fashion, but not known for being practical and cozy. You can find some of our favorite show-stopping looks in Sherri Hill’s formal dress collection, but no matter what brand you choose, a girl’s got to survive on her way to the New Year’s party.

If you have some formal events coming up during the not-so-summery season, you probably need a cute solution to winter’s chill. You need to consider what you’ll wear on your way, but you may also need to consider whether you’ll be warm enough at the venue.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options, both classic and daring, for you to explore for all your cold-weather events.

Choosing a Coat

While you may only be wearing a coat on your way to the event (and while you look for the coat rack), you want it to mesh well with your overall look. You might be embarrassed to arrive at a fancy soiree wearing your old puffer coat. There are some more elegant outerwear pieces that you should consider adding to your wardrobe.

Wool Coat

A wool coat, particularly one that is knee-length or longer, is a classic piece to take you from formal events to the office, to a weekend brunch.

You can go with a classic double-breasted peacoat or look out for vintage and vintage-inspired options with unique details like embroidery or faux fur cuffs.

A Trench Coat

Trench coats have been an it-girl staple for decades because they make any outfit look polished while protecting you from the elements. They aren’t as warm as a wool coat, so they work well for transitional seasons like spring and fall.

Choose a classic beige or black trench coat and you can’t go wrong. For something more modern and daring, you could choose a trench coat with some fun details or contrasting color options.


While not strictly a coat, capes are a fun outerwear option that is having a bit of a revival at the moment. They can be lightweight or super warm and they add a touch of vintage drama to any outfit.


They come with the added benefit of not compressing puffy sleeves or decorative shoulder details on a dress.

Layers for the Event

Once you get in the door, you still might be a little chilly. You probably don’t want to wear your coat all evening, but you still may need a little something to keep from shivering all night. The best option is something that won’t take away attention from your dress but will enhance your overall look.

Bolero Jacket

Boleros can be soft knitted garments or more structured like a blazer. They cover your arms, shoulders, and back, but cut away in the front. This makes them ideal to add to a sleeveless or strapless dress.

The cut-away front helps keep your dress as the center of focus. We recommend choosing a bolero in a neutral color so you can wear it again for other events throughout the season.


Depending on the event and the style of your dress, you might choose to wear a blazer over your formal dress. You can amp this up from a basic everyday blazer by choosing one that has unique and feminine details.

A silk or velvet blazer creates more of an evening look and brings a unique texture to your outfit. You could also choose one with some embroidery or rhinestones to add some bling to your look.


A Pashmina-style scarf or shawl is a simple and classic option for staying warm at formal events. You can wear it as a scarf on your way in and then drape it around your shoulders as needed during the evening.

This style of shawl comes in many colors and patterns so you can choose one that will flatter your dress.

Look Great, Feel Warm

There are plenty of things to worry about when you’re preparing for a formal event, and catching hypothermia shouldn’t be one of them. Fortunately, you don’t have to wear a turtleneck or a puffer coat all night.


There are plenty of simple and cute options for layers you can wear over a formal dress when cold. Some of these tips can also be used in the summer if a venue is blasting the air conditioning.

No matter the environment, with a little preparation, you can look your best and be warm enough.