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Interpreting dress codes for holiday parties can be tricky. Often, invites these days aren't specific about attire, and over the years, people have become more creative with their holiday wear, making getting dressed for a winter soirée a confusing affair.
Luckily, Stacy London is here to help us navigate these muddy waters so we can all look our best:
First, a few do's and don'ts. The most common mistake people make is taking it too far with their holiday flair. Big mistakes include:
- Christmas sweaters with Santa or reindeer (or both) on them — they are shapeless, bulky and downright hokey.
- Leave the mistletoe hats at home. There's bound to be mistletoe hanging from someone's ceiling and you don't want to be mistaken for vegetation. (Someone might water you.)
- Wearing red and green together is not only unattractive on most skin types, it is a bit of a cliché. Wearing red or green is fine if these colors look genuinely good on you — mix them with metallics and neutrals. The trick is to wear clothing that you could wear in any season and invest in pieces that you will be able to wear more than once a year. (Otherwise, they have about as much use as Halloween costumes.)
Keeping those in mind, here are a few more tips to looking your best:
‘Dress your best’ (office party)
For some reason, many office invitations seem to have this dress code of late. It's a little awkward, since most holiday parties are during office hours or directly after work. So office attire may be all you have to work with as a base.
The most important rule: Remember you are still at work and representing your company. Never show too much skin; it can be inappropriate and unprofessional, so try to avoid it. I usually recommend adding and switching — for example, bring an extra pair of shoes or a layering piece in a bag to work. Monochromatic prints and neutrals are always appropriate in the office but make a nice base for a switch to festive. Throw on a bright-colored shoe and add a shiny, loose-fitting jacket, like matte sequins, which aren't quite as shiny as traditional ones, or a metallic tweed.
Shine is always appropriate for parties, in any season. It looks sophisticated when mixed with matte fabrics and doesn't look garish if done subtly, in one piece. Add a clutch and you're good to go.
‘Creative black tie’ (formal party)
You can have a bit more fun with your options here, and long or short can be appropriate.
One option I really love is going with a long, but "blank canvas"-style dress. Pair a simple, solid-color dress in a more casual material with bold jewelry instead of the traditional rhinestone variety. Matte gold or bronze jewelry is very popular and because it is less shiny, you can wear bold pieces without looking over the top.
Look for a material with sheen and some draping to make it formal enough for a creative black tie affair, but one made of cotton jersey feels a bit more relaxed! The combination of the cut, color, interesting jewelry and high heels says creative-but-formal.
This is an ideal dress for travel and works in a variety of climates as well. You could always have the dress shortened a bit for more regular use and wear it with ornate or metallic flats instead of heels and be the chicest, most comfortable person at any party. You'll be ready to dance all night!
‘Festive attire’ (casual party)
This may be one of the most abstract dress code directives I've encountered. "Festive" can mean so many things. What it does not mean is wearing any kind of theme, an item of clothing that plays a jingle, or anything that lights up, whether outlet or battery-powered. It does not mean "quirky" but "whimsical."
The easiest way to interpret a code like "festive" is by mixing color and pattern with my old favorite standby, denim. Jeans absolutely work for a day or evening party in a casual setting. They can easily be dressed up or dressed down according to what you put with them.
Try a brightly colored top with a pattern or some kind of visual interest, like a ruffle, that has a good fit on your top half. Make sure you like the top with the jeans alone before adding a cute jacket to the outfit. How many parties have you been to where it is freezing outside and then 100 degrees inside the crowded party? Nine times out of 10 you will wind up with the jacket off, so make sure the top is a winner. Then find a jacket that really does pull the top and jean into something a bit more sophisticated. Look for a rich color that flatters your skin tone (jewel tones are good for every skin tone at any age), in a velvet or other rich fabric.
Pair the look with some fabulous high heels that are printed, metallic or a bright color and throw in another complementary print in your bag. These pieces individually will get tons of mileage in your wardrobe. The jacket and blouse can be paired with trousers or a skirt for work. The blouse will be great with shorts and wedges in the warmer months, whereas the heels will dress up any plain black dress.