We need more occasions to celebrate. In a cynical age, we need to find celebration on a regular basis (if only so that we can dress like we mean it once in a while). Barring that, let’s pull out the stops for the holiday season: the guaranteed, once-a-year, month-long, cross-cultural celebratory festival that begins on Thanksgiving and trips glitteringly through office parties, galas, cocktail parties, holidays with the family and New Years Eve. Let us take the (platinum-plated) bull by the horns on every one of the occasions we are presented with to Dress with a capital D. The fashion-chatters can say what they will about the new formality, about Victorian influences, about prim and ladylike dress, but on the streets, day in and day out, we see the denim uniform. Denim as far as the eye can see, from streetwear to clubwear. For this brief and shining moment, let us set aside the denim, ladies. Let us Dress.
In opulent satins and glamorous charmeuses, in crisp dark organzas and rich velvets, in beaded collars and hems, in jewel tones and muted metallics, ’tis the season to shine. It’s a great time to get away with all of the looks that at another time of the year might be an inch or two over the top. Fur stole or capelet? Check. Chanel-esque ropes of pearls or jet beads? Check. Heart-stopping bloody red charmeuse halter dress? Check. Chandelier earrings to challenge the chandelier itself in size and shimmer? Check.
At the same time, holiday dressing comes with its own list of caveats. When entering into unfamiliar social territory like the off-site office party requiring you to socialize with people you only see in the elevator or the cocktail party at which you are scheduled to meet the main contingent of the family of your significant other, dress is your armor, the knowing and right look that allows you to comfortably walk into any room and own it instantly.
Unfortunately, dress can also be your downfall. No matter how lovely, well-spoken, and confident you are, if you are squeezed into a too-small, low-cut turquoise acetate something-or-other that looked hot on the hanger, you’re going to have to fight back from a major social deficit at kickoff time. As for office gatherings, we all know the story of Becky from accounting who kicked off her tweeds and wore red satin to the office party, sloshed a martini on the CEO, and vomited in the foyer. We can’t tell you what to drink (red wine, of course), but we can tell you what to wear … or offer gentle suggestions. This month, we’ll be offering a guidebook of sorts for dressing for the major occasions you’ll see in the coming month. Let the games begin!
Dressing for the Company Holiday Party
You want to be taken seriously on the job. You dressed to impress when you had your interview and no matter how creative the environment in which you work, you probably give plenty of thought to what you wear day in and day out, something appropriately professional but with an infusion of what makes you you. The holiday office party, while it might seem like a time to let your hair down and celebrate with your co-workers, is really, in the big picture, another night on the job. Especially if you work in a large company, this is a chance to network and you want your dress to reflect that. Unless you’re Cher.
We probably don’t have to tell you to leave the snowman sweaters as well as the décolleté bombshell dress at home. Instead, your dress can range from the ultra conservative, a jewel-toned satin blouse under a dark day suit, to the very hip, a gun-metal charmeuse long-sleeved dress or dress with pin-tucked bodice and knife-pleated skirt both, exquisitely, from Banana Republic.
For can’t miss choices, try a black wool knee-length shift or a cashmere sweater set over a skirt with some shine to it (shot through with metallic thread, a brocade, or a satin) in one of the season’s statement fuller styles. There is a reason that the little black dress is a failsafe. But that doesn’t mean it has to be dull. A shirred front halter in a drapey rayon, a black satin full-skirted frock, a rayon shift adorned with just a hint of black sequins.
Separates but Equal
If you think holiday dressing has to be all about the dress, think again. A drapey velvet wrap top, silk georgette blouse, or beaded jersey drape neck tank in black, champagne or jewel tones over wide-legged slacks or a pegged wool crepe skirt would work wonders.
Owning the Room
If you want to own the room at your office holiday party, you’ll wear red. Not ’80s fire engine red, but a bloody, muted red that is the most riveting color in the spectrum. There is a reason Vogue editor Diana Vreeland had her entire drawing room done in a million shades of red. “I want it to look like a garden in hell!” she is supposed to have said. Your red can be a satin a-line skirt over which you’ll wear a camel colored short-sleeved cashmere sweater. It may be a blouse worn with tuxedo pants. But the red dress is the killer, just make sure that for this occasion the shape says boardroom not boudoir. A princess-seamed shift with a straight or a-line skirt will part the waters.
It’s sparkle time. Especially if you dress fairly conservatively, feel free to decorate with chandelier earrings or more necklace than you would usually wear. This season’s faceted jet necklaces and earrings are terrifically contrasty and still provide shine. A brilliant cocktail ring can make the mundane marvelous.
If you’re in pumps all day, now’s the time for strappy sandals, and if you haven’t already added a little shine to your outfit, muted metallic, strappy sandals are the ticket. Keep your clutch small, or forget it all together. You need one hand free for shaking hands…and of course one hand for drinks and snacks.
A few don’ts. Don’t wear strapless or any other garment that might need adjusting from a bra to a slip to a strap. Don’t show more skin than you would at your grandmother’s funeral. And don’t do metallic accessories from head to toe. Understatement is the watchword.