How to Look Perfect at a Holiday Party: 3 Simple Dressing Strategies

During the holidays, everyone seems to sing from the same sartorial hymn sheet; glitter, sequins, and the color red everywhere you look. Want to stand out in the crowd this year? We’ll show you how.

During the holiday season, a “more is more” approach to dressing seems to have become a permanent part of our cultural vernacular. Main street shops are packed with sequins, theme sweaters (ugh, I know…why!?), and other varieties of embellished goodies.

Even those of us who are normally a bit color shy during the rest of the year can’t help but find ourselves seduced by the pull of a fire engine red manicure or lip color during the festive season. We all feel it…go on, admit it. Resistance is futile.

This sudden omnipresence of all of this holiday bling often means that a majority of us are thinking along the same lines when it comes time to prepare for upcoming holiday parties. It is not uncommon to see more than one person at a party dressed so similarly that you would swear that they had planned it.

Hence the conundrum: How does one satisfy that insatiable holiday desire we all have for all things festive and sparkly, yet still appear effortless and unique? The following few strategies should show you how to look perfect at a celebration and stay on the right side of chic this holiday season.

1. Prep like a Parisienne

Parisienne style

Those of us who take an interest in fashion are always holding-up the French as the benchmark of chicness against which we should all measure ourselves. As you might have guessed, dressing for holiday parties is yet another of those areas where French women seem to excel at the sartorial side of life.

The French are used to having fewer, higher-quality pieces and wearing them more often, which definitely comes into play during the holidays. This was the subject of a recent article in Vogue magazine, in which several Parisian women were interviewed on the subject of their holiday party dressing strategies.

The consensus was that the most important thing was to “not overdo it”, to take pains to not end up the girl who is wearing one too many reflective fabrics or tottering around in a pair of ridiculously high platform heels. The goal is to look effortless – to look like yourself.

The Parisian strategy for dressing for a holiday party is one of subtle shifts in one’s personal style. You don’t necessarily need to do anything different at all, and probably have plenty of things in your wardrobe already to create a memorable and sophisticated holiday look; the key is just combining the pieces differently.

If you are inclined to wear skinny trousers and jackets, perhaps you should swap the trousers for a pencil skirt. If you love girly dresses, try something a bit more tailored. The key is to select one element that stands apart from your normal “uniform”, and augment it with quality footwear and a few well-appointed accessories. Just not too many accessories – that would be gauche.

2. Take it easy and save money

peplum and skinny trouser style

As with the Parisian approach, there is no need to rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe for the holiday season. Finding that perfect party dress (the thing that we all agonize over finding year after year) is not only a waste of money, it’s a waste of energy. Dressing for a holiday party can be as easy as dressing for any other day of the week using just a few well-appointed pieces in your closet.

A peplum and skinny trouser combination is a sure bet for any holiday party. Clean, sophisticated lines, feminine detailing, and the ability to dress it up or down with shoe and accessory choices make this a very easy option. Add a jacket and a flat, and you’re ready for the office. Take off the jacket and add a strappy sandal or metallic stiletto and you’re ready for the office Christmas party.

3. Go ahead, if you must

beaded shift dress and sequinned dress

For those of you who simply cannot give up the bling (hey, don’t feel bad…I count myself among you), all is not lost. A bit of holiday dazzle can also be simple and sophisticated, provided you choose your silhouette wisely.

Select a simple sequinned or beaded shift dress in a cut that has some ease to it; body conscious bling is just trying way too hard, so pick something with the smoothest, cleanest lines you can find. A short hemline is fine, but keep in mind that you want to look effortless and the shorter the hemline, the more difficult this can become.

Choose a solid metallic fabric (no prints!) like burnished gold, silver, or bronze (depending on your skin tone), and pair it with a quiet pair of pumps in a shade that disappears into the leg – either a nude or matching metallic shade works best. Austerity reigns here, so leave the platforms and crazy colors at home and focus on elegant simplicity.

The easiest part of this look is that with a blingy outfit, you are one walking accessory, so you can leave everything but the simplest pair of stud earrings at home; you are the accessory!

While not everyone will be able to give up the mad dash to the shops at the start of the festive season to find that perfect holiday party outfit, it’s most likely that your perfect look is already in your closet. Even those of us who are addicted to a bit of holiday bling can benefit from the aforementioned three strategies; you’ll not only look chic and sophisticated, your bank account will likely thank you as well.

About the author

Kristin Buchholz-MacKillop

Kristin is an American writer based in the Scottish Highlands. She is a saxophonist, an obsessive tennis player, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, and holds a Master's degree as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. She is the author of the online style blog

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