How to: Holiday Party Outfits

by Meris on December 6, 2011

Now that Turkey Day has passed, the December page of your calendar is probably filling up quickly with holiday events and obligations. You’ve got your company party, your partner’s company party, your friends’ Secret Santa gift exchange, an evening at the Nutcracker Ballet, you might have a choir performance at your church, possibly multiple dinners with family members back home, and let’s not forget New Years Eve!

That can add up to a lot of outfits and the clothing stores know it. It can be hard to resist the many new beautiful (and quirky) holiday dresses, shirts, skirts, and shoes on display in the shop windows. But a lot of us need to save money this year. I took a look inside my closet and found a number of clothes that could be suitable for this year’s holiday events. They just required some mix-and-matching and a little “holiday-ifying.”

First do some research:

Where will your company party be held and is there a suggested dress code? Is it at a fancy hotel and semi-formal dress is recommended? As it turns out my coworkers are planning a “Goofy Holiday Sweater” party at a laid back Irish pub–so that was an easy outfit to plan. Ask your friends and family if they have specific attire in mind for their parties. Your family holidays might normally be casual, but Mom could be planning a formal family photo with your grandparents.

Take some time to check store windows, websites, and magazines for holiday outfit ideas:

I won’t pretend that I have outfit suggestions for every combination of event dress code and personality type. Take a look at the fashion magazines or the stores that you enjoy shopping at to see what outfits and accessories you like. Take note of fabrics, colors, and textures.

Holiday clothing trends use “luxury” fabrics like velvet, satin, and lace in reds, greens, white, black, metallic colors, and deep jewel tones. Sparkly or shimmery embellishments (glitter, metallic threads, and beads) are also commonplace.

Then take a look in your closet

Before you buy anything new, take an inventory of your wardrobe. You might already have outfit components that you have forgotten about. Basic wardrobe pieces like nice jeans, slacks, and sweaters can be embellished for the holidays. I have a pencil skirt that goes with everything and a black suit that I bought for job and graduate school interviews a few years back. This could save you a lot of money (and closet space) in the long run.

If you own…

Bridesmaid dress + velvet jacket + gold/metallic jewelry

…a bridesmaids dress:

Challenge yourself to reuse that dress at least once more. The bride was thrilled to hear I had found a second use for the gown she had picked out.

Try paring it with a cardigan or fitted jacket in a neutral, metallic, or “holiday” color and head out to that formal charity fundraiser, ballet performance, or cocktail party. The light green dress I own was for a spring wedding, but almost any color can be made to look “holiday” with the help of metallic or coordinating jewel tone accessories and clothing layers.

(You can also tone-down your bridesmaid dress with a cotton jacket or cardigan if your event is a bit more casual.)

..a pant or skirt suit:

These traditional work-wardrobe staples have so many potential uses.

Pencil Skirt + club top = two-toned dress

Pair the slacks or the skirt with a shimmery or embellished “fashion” top (and maybe a cardigan) for the company party or for that event with the unclear dress code. (I have a shirt I bought for clubbing years ago that is not work-appropriate, but it gets a chance to come out around the holidays for parties.)

Don’t fret if you don’t have a fancy blouse. When the skirt or pants are tailored, a solid cotton shirt (perhaps in RED or deep GREEN) can appear less casual than it would with jeans. I challenge you to wear your favorite Doctor Who t-shirt, with a pair of tailored slacks, a fitted jacket, and a gorgeous pair of earrings.

Try wearing the suit jacket over dark jeans, corduroys, or slacks of a different color and a shirt (casual or embellished) to make the clothes you know you are comfortable in a bit more festive and tailored.

Suit jacket + dark denim + lace shirt

Fill in the gaps and ACCESSORIZE!

Now that you know what you already own and can use, what wardrobes gaps do you need to fill? Would a teal satin blouse help you complete a couple different outfit combinations? Do you need a fitted velour jacket to stay warm? Or maybe a new black taffeta skirt? Hopefully this has helped you narrow down that potential clothing shopping list to one or two items.

I didn’t include jewelry or shoe options for my examples, because I think accessories are more deeply connected to one’s personality. I own a black suit because that is what corporate America suggested I own to appear professional. But the green dangly earrings I choose wear with it, were a gift from my life-long friend and the necklace was a gift from my grandmother.

This is where all that window shopping data comes into play. Choose some of those holiday elements showcased in the magazines or in the shop windows to holiday-ify your everyday or work wardrobe. A long necklace or big, dangly earrings can go a long way to make an otherwise plain cotton shirt appear festive.

If you want to save money (and help keep unwanted clothing and accessories out of landfills) check out used clothing and consignments stores like Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co., Plato’s Closet, or Goodwill. The available clothes might technically be a season or year behind the first-hand stores, but if you choose classic shapes and colors, you can get a long life out of what you buy.

Keep your eyes on the sale racks after the holidays for current clothing trends and accessories that you can use to enhance next year’s outfits.

Bonus Tip: If you are creatively-minded and have enough free time, try embellishing a shirt or cardigan yourself. Embroider some snowflakes with silver thread around the hem of a black cotton shirt, or sew beads to the collar of your sweater. There are a lot of blogs out there devoted to DIY clothing enhancements.

Happy Holidays, Girlhack Readers! Have fun celebrating with your friends, family, and coworkers!


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