What to Wear For The Holidays (Hint: Your Next Party Outfit May Already Be Hanging in Your Closet)
Tis’ the season. It’s celebrations, parties and events galore for some of us. For others, it may be as simple as the office Christmas party or a small family gathering.
Mostly, it’s all good, of course. Still, if you’re anything like me then dressing for seasonal events can be tricky, especially in today’s world where the trend to casual dress seems to influence every occasion — even the more special ones. It’s easy to overdo it.
While I no longer attend as many Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties as I once did, those I do attend tend to be on the more casual end of the spectrum. For this reason I rarely shop seasonal party attire anymore - New Year’s or otherwise…not unless I’ve already been invited to a formal gathering where dressing up is expected.
For one thing, much of what’s available around holidays is overpriced. Quality, too, is often questionable. Some of if it even looks downright cheap on the hanger. At the risk of sounding a little like Scrooge…if I’m going to spend that kind of money on clothing then I expect it to be well-made and something that I can wear often.
Still, I definitely want to look festive during the holidays when the opportunity arises. More than that even… I want to look great. After all, who wants to be the wallflower at the holiday party? So what’s the answer then?
The solution to this holiday dress-up bedevilment is flexibility. Over the years, I’ve developed a personal formula that solves what I consider to be the three biggest challenges to dressing for holiday-related events; not knowing what to wear, not having anything appropriate to wear, and not having the time and energy to shop for the occasion.
If any of this sounds like you then you’ll be happy to know that there’s probably a solution already hanging in your closet, or at least enough of one that you can easily whip something together with a single online purchase, or a quick, last minute trip to your nearest retailer (Target included).
Strategy #1 - Pull from all seasons and re-purpose. Do you own a black dress or skirt? How about a black, navy, cream or white skirt, or a nice pair of pants? It doesn’t matter whether they’re made for summer, winter or fall. They don’t necessarily have to be black, either. (It just happens that most women already have something black hanging in our closets so black is a no-brainer for most of us.). What you’re looking for is a base for your ensemble. You can even use a silky slip or slip skirt as a base - believe it or not. One year, I topped a lavender silk slip with a three-quarter length, black lace beach cover-up and paired the ‘dress’ with black stilettos and an antique rhinestone bracelet for a New Year’s eve cocktail party. The compliments kept coming all night long.
Strategy #2 - Think out-of-the-box. Layer and pair with creativity and courage.
Now try to imagine your entire wardrobe. Think of everything from undergarments to scarves that you might be able to pair, or wear to dress up your base. Again, season doesn’t matter. You’re going for a holiday/party look here, not a seasonal one. Season isn’t all that relevant on special occasions. If you don’t believe me, just look at all of the sleeveless, backless, holiday party tops and dresses out there right now. Nobody is thinking about how cold they’re going to be. They’re thinking about how great they’re going to look.
Strategy #3 - Accessorize creatively.
This is where you get your holiday sizzle; your color, your sparkle, your sheen. Don’t be afraid to turn your wardrobe inside-out in search of anything you might be able to use. Turn a silky scarf or chain necklace into a belt. Layer beads, pearls or chain necklaces alone, or in combination with one another, and pair with a simple top or dress. Wear a glittery pair of stockings with a simple dress or skirt. Add a dressy broach to the lapel of your suit blazer. Don’t forget to finish with your dressiest shoes or boots. Bright colors are especially festive-looking and can add that single point of color that makes you stand out in the crowd. This goes for purses, clutch bags, too.
Holiday Party Outfit Ideas
Wear a silky or sparkly camisole as a top, or let it peek from underneath another top or dress to create a festive feel. Wear a silky slip as a skirt and pair it with a sweater and/or leather jacket. Turn a cardigan around and wear it backwards, with a few of the buttons unbuttoned to create a backless look. Don’t be afraid to mix materials, patterns and fabrics; leather with silk, dressy jeans with pearls and/or a satin blouse or top. Take a page out of Sharon Stone’s book and pair a crisp white button-down, or even white t-shirt, with a dressy skirt or pants and great jewelry, accessories and shoes.
A Holiday Party Outfit Formula That Uses What You Have
First, Choose A Base From Any of the Following
- Black, white, or cream pants or skirt in any material, including leather
- Black, white or cream dress in any material
- Nice black leggings or leather pants
- Satin skirt in any color. Wear with an under body shaper to create a streamlined silhouette
Next, Choose A Top or (Second) Dress-Up Layer
Silk or satin camisole in black, white, cream, or in any bright or festive color. Don’t forget those with gold, silver or other metallic threading and decorative accents like beading, lace, flowers, cutouts, etc..
Blouse, top, or other shirt in any of the following colors; black, white, cream. Can be cotton, satin or silk.
Knit Tops/Sweaters with long sleeves, short sleeves, or sleeveless. Any color is fine, really but excellent quality and fit are musts in this category. This is not the time for a baggy sweater or top, or anything with strange sleeves. Think “classic.”
Now, Choose An Outer Layer, or Overcoat, if Desired
Cardigan, blazer, leather jacket, long or short coat, shawl, long scarf in cashmere or silk,
Add a Belt
Jeweled, patent, metallic, chain or fabric belts. Silk scarves make great, dressy belts in a pinch.
Select Jewelry With Care
Choice is important here.Think high-impact, sparkle and/or shine. Pearls can dress up just about anything. One-to-three pieces at most. Don’t over do it!
Shoe Choice Is Extra Important Now
The shoes you choose can make or break this outfit so think of these up-front as you're assembling your outfit. Any color, even brights will do. They can be flats, boots or stilettos, but wear your best. Shoes matter with this look. If you’re buying shoes for an event then this is a great time to think “spring.” Go ahead and invest in that killer pair of heels, stilettos or boots in a high -impact color and wear them now. They’ll pair fabulously with your holiday ensemble.
Don't Forget The Right Purse
See ‘shoes’ above. No purse is better than a purse that detracts from, or dresses down your outfit.
#1. This look is about two things: Creating a classic base and then accessorizing well. It’s the accessories that lend a festive, celebratory air and determine how dressed up, or down, you’re going to be while, at the same time, creating a look that’s uniquely yours.
#2. Black is always reliable and easy to wear and most always appropriate. It’s hard to go wrong with black. (But you already know that….) This is a great time to wear a black leather skirt, or pair of pants if you have them. Black cashmere sweaters and black silk or satin blouses are also festive-looking and tasteful. If you don’t have a lot of black in your wardrobe then good for you! Navy or white (yes white) can serve as a great substitute in these situations.
#3. Silk and satin camisoles can usually substitute for dressy blouses, tops or sweaters, or can be worn underneath. Pair with a skirt or pants and top with a jacket, or belted cardigan.
#4. White and cream are beautiful worn alone, or in combination with one another, and can look very festive when worn around the holidays. If you want to stand out in the crowd think monochromatic shades of white and cream. Pair with silver, gold, rose-gold, pearl, platinum or diamond accessories.
#5. Casual dresses, skirts and spring or summer attire are easier to dress up and wear for the holidays than you might think. Layer them with other basics in your wardrobe for warmth and to create contrast/interest and then accessorize for the occasion.