The post-Thanksgiving party season has officially arrived. With a million reasons and ways to celebrate, choosing what to wear can often be as overwhelming as the Christmas Eve mall rush. How do you get dressed when you’ve got no idea what the dress code means? Worry not, style-pressed Washingtonians—our guide to holiday attire is filled with outfit ideas for every occasion.
COOKING WITH FRIENDS For a casual meal at home, stick to comfy flats, cozy cardigans, and cheery kitchen accessories. Short sleeves will stay out of your way in the kitchen, a tweed skirt adds both texture and a touch of class to the ensemble, while a cranberry-based color palette keeps the whole thing holiday-oriented.
DINNER OUT WITH NEW FAMILY First holiday with the significant other? Impress in-laws and new relatives with layers of quirky-smart style. The rich colors of this winter floral strapless dress showcase a cheerful personality, while the turtleneck-and-blazer combo proves you’re taking the first meeting seriously. Rich brown leather and suede accessories add warmth, while fly-girl diamond hoops are an unexpected and glamorously casual final touch.
FORMAL OFFICE EVENT To get fancy without losing your professional edge, choose a structured shift in a shimmer-infused work fabric such as tweed. Additional sparkle is appropriate if done subtly, so we paired the dress with complementary diamond-and-silver bangles and earrings. Whimsical bow and feather accents on an evening shoe and satin clutch round out the ensemble. Added bonus: The green-and-ivory mix incorporates Christmas colors without sacrificing grown-up style.
CREATIVE BLACK TIE Formal events don’t always demand a floor-length gown. Here, a sequined capelet and coordinating black clutch—both ruffled for a dash of romantic whimsy—dress up a shirred jersey shift far beyond the means of its fabric. Designer drop earrings and classic peep-toe pumps add a final dose of sophisticated elegance without dating the contemporary ensemble.
WHEN A SKIRT WON’T CUT IT Why not fake the romper look? Tuck a sleek tube top into this season’s peg trouser for a silhouette you won’t see on every other girl at the party. To avoid taking this ’70s throwback too seriously, stick with all black and keep accessories to a minimum—of-the-moment ruffled heels and a modern statement necklace are all you need.
CLUBBING ON NEW YEAR’S EVE There’s no night quite like December 31 when it comes to dressing to get noticed. Ring in 2010 with an avant-garde micro-minidress, patterned with black-and-white stripes for an ’80s-rocker edge. A boyfriend-length tuxedo jacket will keep you warm while waiting in line—just make sure it ends at the hem of your dress so your electric-purple ankle-strap pumps will be properly showcased. With an outfit this loud, an extra-large graphic cocktail ring and simple black studs are all the jewelry you need.
Arty Party Hipsters will always appreciate a funky belted cardigan paired with tights and peep-toe booties. Individualize your version of the ensemble with a holiday-green fedora and a bold red lip—these rich pops of color hint at just the right amount of smug sophistication.
Glitzed Out Even your most basic dress will turn heads with piles of take-notice accessories. The smart way to go purposefully over the top is to keep all outfit additions in the same color family. Sequins, sparkle, and a feathered slip peeking out from the bottom are three unforgettable touches that work surprisingly well together when done in a classic black-and-gold palette.
For Every Occasion You can never go wrong with diamonds and rose. When the invitation’s dress code is utterly indecipherable, reach for cocktail jewels and satin heels—these pieces are party gear in its most basic form.