When the holidays roll around, most of us don't have time to stand in our closets for hours deciding what to wear to the boss's house for dinner or to brunch at Aunt Jane's. But if we do a little homework before the invitations arrive, then we'll be ready to rock 'n' roll no matter where the party's goin' on.
Here are some ways to dress up for the holidays, whether you're attending a casual family get-together, an office party or a formal affair on New Year's Eve.
*Rocking the Casual Party Scene
Most holiday parties are on the casual side when it comes to the dress code. And some of us just can't wait to "decorate" ourselves with enough kitschy baubles and beads to light up an entire Christmas tree. But try to control yourself and keep the glitter (especially the stuff that glows) to a minimum. Having said that, you still can shine at casual holiday parties.
One of the best outfits for an informal get-together is a pair of tailored jeans dressed up with a great sweater or wrap top in a festive color. Red is an all-time holiday favorite (just don't wear it from head to toe!), but this year, purple and hot pink are rosy-hued picks, too. Stick to dark wash jeans that aren't too "distressed," and please leave the holey denim at home. Add suede ankle boots and a soft pashmina wrap scarf in a contrasting color and you've got plenty of low-key style.
Another one of my go-to holiday outfits for casual gatherings is a pair of black velvet pants. I have them in boot-cut jeans and in flowing pajama pants. Depending on exactly how fat I feel at the moment, one of these two items always seems to be the perfect base for a festive holiday top or jacket. A long black cashmere turtleneck can dress both of them up; I also like to wear a deep turquoise satin shirt with them. The possibilities are endless. For real fashion appeal, opt for a pair of slim-cut leather pants. Or wear a leather pencil skirt with a holiday sweater and over-the-knee boots. All you need is a pair of long, feathery earrings for a touch of bohemian style.
*Rocking the Corporate Party Scene
This is probably one of the hardest holiday dress codes to crack. But in most offices, there is usually a definite look that everyone goes for at a corporate event. So if you don't want to raise too many eyebrows, then it's best to stick to some variations on the theme, if you get what I mean. However, it doesn't mean that you have to dress in a boring black dress or an all-black pantsuit to fit in. Try to vamp up the wow factor at least a few degrees without going over the top. This is particularly true if the invitation reads "Creative Black Tie." So if black is the norm at your office party, this is the year to add the pop of a bright color to the little black shift dress or the tuxedo pantsuit, whether it's in a scarf, a jacket or a festive clutch. Or concentrate on jazzing up your shoes. There is plenty of artsy footwear out there this year that can deck the halls of any stuffy office function. Add some twinkle to those toes!
The metallic top or jacket is another festive way to dress up your black basics and not give away the fact that you wore those velvet pants to the same party last year. Look for shimmer that smolders in gunmetal silver, burnt bronze or deep copper. Add a wide cuff bracelet and chandelier earrings. When it's party time, you don't have to worry about wearing too much -- unless, of course, your earrings are battery-operated and blink the whole night!
The one "it" item that will dress up any formal office do this holiday season is a one-shoulder top or dress. While not quite as sexy as the strapless dress, for a party with professional peers, this look provides just enough glamour without overdoing it. You also can find blouses and dresses this season with more discreet slits and cutouts that reveal only slivers of skin and shoulder.
Long or short is always the question, and much of your decision will depend on the event itself. Long gowns are always stunning; short sheaths are considered chic and more modern. But this is a wardrobe question that leaves much to the imagination -- and the budget! You have to decide what flatters you, whether it's a long and lean satin column in an exquisite shimmering bronze or a fun, foxy hot-pink sheath dress dripping with fringe. Let's hope neither of them resembles any party dress you've worn at a high-school prom.
Finish your whole look off with a stunning wrap. From faux furs to frilly feathers to a simple cashmere shawl or a sweeping cape, you'll be swathed in holiday elegance. Go easy on the accessories; if your dress is stunning, you don't need much else to gild the poinsettia, if you know what I mean.