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How to Dress Festively Without Looking Like a Holiday Decoration


Can you tell me where to find party outfits that feel elegant and don’t look like a Christmas decoration? Plus, I have a real office party, so a pointer or two on that would be gratefully received!

The party season is upon us and there are plenty of crazy sleeves, cutouts, fringes, bows and diamond details to contend with right now. If you don’t want to look like an overgrown toddler, read on.

I like a little drama at Christmas (well, in my outfit, at least). As I’ve suggested in previous columns, before figuring out what to wear, you need to be very clear about where, how you’re getting there, whether you’re sitting or mostly standing, and what the temperature expectations are. You want to be in the right gear for your environment.


A sleeveless evening dress with silver sequins

Mulberry Kelsey dress, rental from 70,

A long black dress with straps

Bevza Seashell wetsuit, 711 (on sale),

First of all, you really need to have a nice coat to go over your party outfit. If you’re tall (over 5ft 6in), go for the full length as it will work with any hemline and you won’t look like you’re taking out the trash in the rain. Raeys leopard coat (895,, Toves Mio (995, and Rebecca coats (995, or Anine Bings Hunter Coat (855, are all winners. Plush coats are everywhere and surprisingly versatile too. Keep it simple and neat (even John Lewis has a good one!) and relish the cozy hug they give you.

If you’re petite, I’d suggest a knee-length coat, which works with any hemline that sits above it, or pair it with skinny pants a la Audrey Hepburn. It’s always classy. Try Harris Wharf, Hugo Boss or Zadig and Voltaire.

When it comes to the outfit itself, I like to start by focusing on one key fabric. Perhaps you favor velvet or satin, silk faille or cashmere, supple silk or sequins.


A black round neck sweater

NavyGrey Pullover The Neat, 180,

A black sweater with sheepskin sleeves and a cinched waist

Isabel Marant Boucl Giamili peplum sweater, 525, net-a-porter

Sequins are a Christmas staple. And with good reason. They do it all of a sudden. Sparkle and glamor on the big screen? Do. However, they are terrible for the environment, so consider renting or buying vintage.

There are a few glitter options on the Hurr rental site. I love this Stella McCartney gold dress (rent from 184, Wear it with a blazer and matching ankle boots or sandals. Mulberrys Kelsey loose sequined maxi can be worn with a blazer or you can dress it up with a fine jersey top underneath (rental from 70, Keep the accessories simple and let the dress do the talking.

Depending on where you are going, you can wear a long leather boot with either one as tight as possible on the leg. This suede form of Manolo is very sexy (1,075, and has the added benefit of keeping your legs warm. If you want a cheaper alternative, LK Bennett makes a great sock (367 on sale, Finish the look with Lulu Guinness’ signature lip bag: this fun Perspex style has been in her line since 2008 (206 on sale,


White earrings with inlay of round crystals

Dries Van Noten crystal-embellished gold-tone hoop earrings, 295,

A choker necklace

Dries Van Noten silver crystal choker, 295,

If you want something special, you can always opt for a simple but interesting skirt. I love this pink recycled tulle confection from Raey, which also exists in mint and yellow (525, I would always use a knit with this type of skirt, so you can gently tuck it into the waistband. Make sure it has a ribbed hem, like this one in Charcoal from NavyGrey (180, Lisa Yang, Loulou Studio, Allude, Alabaste Cashmere and Joseph also have great knitting options. Add a necklace like this shimmering choker from Dries Van Noten (295, or her equally fantastic earrings (295,

If you have a shorter neck, choose an open-neck or v-neck style and wear your hair up. Don’t fancy a tulle skirt? Rixos easy Kelly skirt (235, comes in various prints and iterations, the latest of which has a feather border. It works well with round shapes, like its bias cut.


A long red ballerina-style skirt

Raey recycled tulle midi tutu skirt, 525,

Black stiletto boot

Manolo Blahnik Pamfilo 90 stretch suede boots, 1 075,

A feather adds a whimsical touch to any party outfit and always evokes the Roaring Twenties for me. If you have a small bust and narrow shoulders, dress up the skirt with a puff sleeve top like this Isabel Marant sweater (525, Or dress it up with a t-shirt or a simple knit.

How about a jumpsuit for that office party? It’s still a solid alternative to a costume. This one from Bevza is best for larger women with smaller busts and wider shoulders (711 on sale, spaghetti straps and soft cups can’t really handle full busts.

For a more formal option, look to Galvan. Her signature stretch corset jumpsuit is pure class (1,095, Layer a loose blazer over the top and add a strappy sandal, ankle boot or simple pump. For alternatives, see Melissa Obadash, Norma Kamali and Saloni.

If you’re still in the mood for a dress, this draped stretch fit-and-flare style from Roland Mouret flatters both straight and curvy figures, plus it half covers the dreaded underarm area (650, Another option in a great color is this tight stretch jersey from Richard Quinn (700, Pair it with this amazing necklace from Swarovski (840 on sale, and a silver, gold or purple shoe.

If you can’t completely give up the comfort factor, opt for a set: two-piece knit, silky pajamas, loose velvet suits. Try this from Dea Kudibal (289, with accompanying pants (239, These can be prepared for the party with some sturdy accessories. I promise.

I wish you a happy time whatever you end up wearing!


Anna Berkeley is a London-based personal stylist and style columnist for FT Weekend. She has worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years, previously as a buyer for Selfridges and Prada, and a consultant for Margaret Howell. Each month, she will answer readers’ questions about fashion and what to wear. Have a question for Anne? Email him at [email protected]

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