1. It looks like you're going to da club.
You shouldn't be able to see a short club dress hidden under your long evening gown. If you like the look of these kinds of lightweight, sheer evening dresses, make sure you choose one that has enough going on—like pleats or abstract prints or embellishments — so that whatever is underneath doesn't show through. If the sheer fabric being used is too simple or flat, it will seem flimsy, and that's never an expensive look.
2. It's so bright. I'm blind! (I wish!)
Neon is not sophisticated. At least, not the way the makers of most formal dresses do it. Givenchy can make neon look classy. Chanel can make neon look classy. The dress store in the mall, across from the food court, cannot.
When it comes to formal dresses, bright colors, in general, are especially difficult to pull off. Sure, there are exceptions depending on your skin tone and the quality of the fabric, but if you want to avoid looking cheap, it's really best to either skew lighter—pastels, muted colors, and white—or darker—jewel tones and black.
3. The embellishments look totally stuck-on.
It's a bad sign if it looks like you could repair your dress with a hot glue gun.
The smaller the individual embellishments, the better. That way, they will look like they are actually part of the fabric, and not like they were just slapped on at the end. It's also a good idea to stick to more abstract embellishments, which are less likely to distract from the overall look.
4. The embellishment looks like jewelry. Bad jewelry.
Not only do big, jeweled necklines make you look old, they also make your dress much less versatile.
Keep necklines simple. Big, blinged-out statement necklaces, whether they are accessories or actually part of your dress, are not your friends. If you want to add some sparkle to your look, do it with bracelets, earrings, shoes, and bags, and remember that a little bit goes a long way.
5. You look like a Disney princess.
Or, at least, like you are trying to look like a Disney princess. If you really want to channel Elsa at your next formal event, do so in spirit only. A cool, icy color palette or some sparkle action on the sleeves is plenty of Elsa-inspiration for any real-life human not working at Disney Land. Leave the train and giant side braid in the movie where they belong.
6. You're a grown-up, but you look like you are going to your debut.
Teens rarely understand or appreciate subtlety and simplicity. That's fine. It will give them something to be mortified about when they grow up. But while it is one thing for a 18-year-old to wear a flurry of ruffles, ombré polyester, rosettes, and rhinestones, it is quite another for a grown woman. Don't get me wrong. If all that noise is really your jam, then, hey, you do you.
Less is more, especially if you are shopping with a limited budget and can't afford high-end embellishment. And if you really care about making sure your formalwear looks its richest, do yourself a favor and just avoid ruffles altogether.
7. Is that tulle?
Unless you are a ballerina performing on stage, tulle just looks childish, especially synthetic tulles, which are just so damned stiff and coarse. They have no flow. They just sort of stand there, and your dress should not be able to stand up without you in it.
You will look more womanly and sophisticated if you choose a dress that follows the lines of your body. And if you miss the femininity of tulle, try lace instead.
8. Those cutouts are cutting you in all the wrong places.
Cutouts can be sexy, but they can also be really unflattering, and if they are not done correctly, they can make even the most expensive dress look totally trashy.
In general, cutouts look more sophisticated when they are placed at or above the line of your natural waist. High slits, of course, are great too, as are low backs, which can still look very elegant, even when they go well below your natural waist.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.