Crushed velvet pantsuits. Earrings made of tinsel. An errant Santa brooch — or five. Holiday party fashion can go from chic to sheesh...
Crushed velvet pantsuits. Earrings made of tinsel. An errant Santa brooch — or five. Holiday party fashion can go from chic to sheesh in a snap.
Maybe that’s why so many women pull on a black dress and workaday heels and consider themselves done. They’re blinded by all the bling, and who can blame them? The sight of a usually conservative co-worker in a sequin-spangled minidress is enough to make the least style-conscious member of the office wince. Less is always more.
Still, there is such a thing as playing it too safe, which is why bejeweled cuff bracelets and lacy cardigans have a place in otherwise minimalist closets. At their best, such pieces are nothing more than elegantly wrought excuses to have fun with fashion, to be the belle of the ball for an evening. (So what if the ball in question is a Tuesday night party at your neighbor’s house?)
This holiday season is a great time to try a new look, be it a blouse that works with tuxedo pants and jeans or a black-tie frock that’s the stuff of fashion fantasy. And in the name of fantasy, you could wear a Notte by Marchesa $850 strapless dress that comes swathed in a cloud of tulle.
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Of course, most people don’t have the occasion (or the bank account) to justify such an ensemble, but there are other ways to look festive. The trick is to dress up in small doses. Take one or two ornate elements — a satin top in deep cranberry, sleek d’Orsay pumps, a gleaming metal-mesh clutch — and mix them with the pencil skirt or cashmere tunic you already own.
Some say red and green should never meet on the same outfit, but green, leavened with black, gold and a shot of crisp, creamy white, can be stylish and seasonally appropriate. The result nods at the holidays without feeling overdone: You’ll look like you belong standing next to the tree instead of gift-wrapped beneath it.
The strapless, A-line silhouette is a fashion staple for good reason: It’s one of the easiest styles to wear. The full skirt is almost universally flattering, and the cut emphasizes the shoulders and collarbone, areas most women feel comfortable baring. A dress from Delia’s features a ruched bust that works well for women with smaller chests. Banana Republic’s silk jersey take is less structured and more casual. But its slouchy cool dresses up or down easily — you can wear it with opaque tights and animal-print stilettos or simply over jeans. The gathered hem references the bubble skirt trend without overdoing it.
Delia’s “Victoria” dress, $45 at www.delias.com.
A pretty blouse is a simple way to make your favorite pair of jeans party-appropriate. Worn with tailored pants and major jewelry, it can also sub for a dress in many situations. Edun’s sheer-sleeve version would pair wonderfully with chandelier earrings (its floppy bow tie means necklaces are a definite don’t). Ann Taylor’s sleeveless top could be worn under a suit jacket by day, on its own after hours. Funkier types might even try it over a clingy long-sleeve tee.
Edun bow-tie chiffon blouse, $325 at www.nordstrom.com.
The pashmina wrap has gone from “in” to “out” and back more times than anyone can count. These days, it’s a safe option — the kind of fashion choice that makes sense if you want your printed tank or colorful pendant to take center stage. If you’d prefer something more special, scour vintage stores for beaded capelets. The more elaborate versions, featuring artful embroidery and scalloped hems, could turn a Hanes T-shirt into something worthy of the red carpet. Another elegant option: The cardigan that much-lauded New York designer Behnaz Sarafpour created for Target. Its clean lines and restrained palette add up to a lacy look that’s anything but froufrou.
Behnaz Sarafpour lace-covered cardigan, $35 at select Target stores and www.target.com.
Wreath pins and jingle bell bracelets? Leave them to Mrs. Claus. The best pieces are decorative without being holiday-centric in any strict sense. Kenneth Jay Lane’s chunky cuff bracelet is about as serious as costume jewelry gets. More suited to everyday budgets: the dainty gold-filigree and black onyx earrings created by Potomac, Md.-based designer Alexandra Samit. When wearing these, keep other jewelry similarly delicate in scale.
Kenneth Jay Lane stone-embellished cuff bracelet, $145 at www.net-a-porter.com.