How to Dress for a Party When You're Not a Glitzy-Dress Kind of Girl
Am I the only person who has a complete fashion meltdown every time party season emerges over the horizon? You'd think, for someone who works in the business of clothes (and spends a great deal of time hunting down the best party dresses, for example), that all ingenious after-dark answers would simply filter into my own (surely epic) festive wardrobe. Not so. And there are two reasons for this. 1) These days I find it hard to differentiate going-out clothes from going-to-work clothes. 2) I'm really not one for teeny-tiny frocks or the standard sequin-fest just because it's past 6 p.m. and there are mince pies around. So how can I get into my calendar's spirited schedule?
I discovered I'm not alone in finding this line hard to walk, but upon discussing the Who What Wear team's #partyoutfitstruggles, we realised one woman's weakness may be another woman's sartorial strength. Scared of short hemlines? Then we know a girl who has a great rule for getting it right. Think you can't wear jeans? Guess again. We did all agree on one thing, however: No fashion girl wants to look basic or predictable when it comes to fun times.
And so, 'twas our duty to step in, step up, and find some quality solutions once and for all. Off we popped to the West London concept store, The Shop at Bluebird, to raid the rails and find the kind of combinations we've long been searching for. The kind of holy-grail outfit ideas that feel easy to throw together pre-party, as well as providing you with pieces you can wear long after. Keep reading to see what the team's top picks and style tips are for cocktail hour…
Party outfit tip #1: Jeans are a totally legitimate choice
Style Notes: "I'm a London-based Leeds girl. The north-south divide manifests itself in my wardrobe—it's right there in every outfit choice I make," says CMG's GM Europe, Kate Stephens. "I'm a style schizophrenic with a penchant for playing dress-up (Leeds girls, you know what I'm talking about) and an aversion to all things obvious, overdone or fashion-literal (a little London right there, no?). I live in jeans and tees, so mixing it up with the robe, heels and a bit of bling is the perfect office-to-party look for me."
See the casual way Alexa Chung does denim for after dark.
Party outfit tip #2: Remember short hemlines call for high necklines
Style Notes: Amy Lawrenson, Byrdie UK's editorial director, has one rule that she now swears by: "I love the barely there bra look, but it's not something I feel particularly comfortable wearing; however, put me in a short skirt, and I'm happy," she explains. "My party dressing mantra is short hemline, high neckline. Be it a dress or separates, this is my go-to formula."
Check out the other dress brand you'll love if you already adore Self-Portrait.
Party outfit tip #3: Let your jacket do the talking
Style Notes: Hannah Almassi, Who What Wear UK's editorial director, chooses practicality first. "I may not opt for the sparkliest, shortest, tightest or fanciest piece on offer, but I certainly like to go OTT where possible. However, I'm a bit of a grandma when it comes to feeling the cold, so a statement jacket or coat is key for me during the Christmas party dash. Who am I kidding? I'd probably wear 60 denier tights with this IRL too."
Shop for more of the season's best winter coats.
Party outfit tip #4: not all LBDs are born equal
Style Notes: Kate explains the all-or-nothing rule required: "If you are going to do 'party,' have fun with it. That's why I'd go for this Isa Arfen dress—it's an outré take on the LBD. Reminiscent of '80s sparkle, a whole lotta tulle, and therefore exceptionally fun to twirl in. Boomerang-tastic."
Shop for more little black dresses.
Party outfit tip #5: Don't fear knitwear
Style Notes: As a "big fan of texture," Amy was the perfect candidate for this season's myriad party sweaters on offer. They provide warmth but also a nod to the excess of the festive period, without looking glitzy or kitsch. Amy's advice? "To balance the texture overload, I tend to stick with a neutral palette of nude, grey, navy and black, then play up the look with accessories." You won't feel like you're mistakenly wearing that basic weekend jumper, we promise.
Party outfit tip #6: Realise it's okay to wear a day dress
Style Notes: "Not all party frocks have to be high-shine," says Hannah. "In my opinion, you can make just as much of an entrance wearing a pretty, billowing number. I'd do this by day with knee boots and then swap in some heels and add red lipstick come party time."
Makeup by Ioannis Tsangaris using BareMinerals.
So are you now on the hunt for a look? Check out the 17 best party dresses we've discovered.