Sisters Heather Lee-Abbey and Laura Lee are ready for a holiday cocktail party wearing the season's hottest trends. Lee-Abbey wears an Antonia Melani beaded bodice dress, $169, with Anna & Ava crystal teardrop earrings, $28, and Anna & Ava crystal bracelets, $38 each. Lee wears Giani Bini's black knit dress with stripes of gold sequins, $119, with Anna & Ava gold and crystal earrings, $28. Fashions courtesy of Dillard's.
Fashion experts say it’s easy to pull together a look for a holiday party without breaking the bank.
Whether it’s dressing up the little black dress already in your closet or updating a seasons-old cocktail dress with a sexy wrap and pairing it with stilettos or booties (ankle boots), the look this holiday season is edgy and fun, says Rania Dabit, Dillard’s fashion specialist.
“And, the good news in today’s trends is that you no longer have to wear a floor-length formal gown to a black-tie holiday party, unless it’s specified. Today’s black-tie look is versatile, ” Dabit says. “It’s all about having fun.”
Pat Fuller, owner of Orange Blossom Boutique in Cleveland, Tenn., says fashion choices should match one’s personality.
“Just because sparkles are big this holiday season — and it always is — doesn’t mean the embellishment is for everyone,” Fuller says. “Wear what makes you feel comfortable and, if you like just a little sparkle, wear a piece of rhinestone jewelry.”
And Fuller’s right — sequins and sparkle are the No. 1 requirement for festive fashions. Dabit says pair a short, sparkly cocktail dress with opaque hose and booties and “you’ll have the season’s best look,” she says. “It’s fun, and that’s what fashion should always be — fun.”
“Anything goes today,” Dabit says. “You do want to step out of the box and choose something exciting, whether it’s a lot of bling or just a touch, sparkle is a must.”
A denim jacket embellished with rhinestones or sequins is totally acceptable for holiday fashions, says Renae Smith, manager of Deb Shops in Dalton, Ga. “It can be worn with a dress and heels or boots.”
Also look for fringe fashions, Smith says.
“We’ve got quite a lot of sequins and fringe for the holidays,” she says. “It’s popular with women of all ages. You don’t want to over-accessorize these styles, though. If you wear a sequined top, for example, don’t wear a necklace. Earrings and bangles will be fine.”
Skirts paired with feminine blouses, a plain dress with a rhinestone belt or statement necklace, or a dress covered in sequins are all ideal choices for party fashions, experts say .
“Just be careful with the jewelry, especially when you have a lot going on with the dress,” Dabit says. “I see a lot of red carpet fashions where the stars are foregoing necklaces and bracelets and wear only chandelier or stud earrings.”
Metallics, lace and velvet are the fabrics of choice for the holiday wear, but if you’re going to a casual celebration, it’s OK to pair a short denim jacket with a dress, Fuller says.
If you’re going to a casual party and don’t want to be too casual, Smith suggests black slacks and a blouse or leggings paired with a feminine blouse or tunic. “You can always add a touch of bling, especially since it’s a holiday party,” she says.
Suzanne West, owner of Frankie & Julian’s fashion boutique on Frazier Avenue, says the style choices — for all body types — are plentiful this season.
“Many things are trending for the holidays,” West says. “The styles range from swing skirts to fit and flare dresses, peplum dresses, leather and fur/faux-fur boleros and jackets, and printed blouses with skirts.”
If you want a more casual look to wear to an office party-like event, West says the business casual look is acceptable — a blouse and pant or casual black dress with a blazer or jacket. If it’s a cocktail party, think jewels or sequins, she says.
“A little black dress that has satin, sequins or is jeweled is perfect,” West says. “Or you could wear a cocktail suit or a a crepe or satin pant with a dressy top or cashmere sweater.”
And though the dress code for a black-tie event is no longer limited to floor-length gowns and tuxedos, there are some fashionistas who adhere to the rules of yesteryear, West says.
“Black tie gets a little more dicey when it comes to fashion choices,” she says. “If it is black-tie optional, it is suggested that you dress very formal, but not required, it’s acceptable that that a man wears a suit and a woman wears a cocktail dress.
If black tie is specified, then you are supposed to dress very formal. The man wears the tux and the woman wears a full-length gown or very dressy ball gown skirt and sequined top. However, if the woman wants to wear a shorter dress, it needs to be extremely dressy, should be tea length or knee length at the shortest.”
Fuller says if the black-tie event invitation notes the dress requirement as tuxedos for men and ballgowns for women, floor-length gowns are required.
“Otherwise cocktail dresses are appropriate,” she says.
For the woman whose go-to party dress is the little black dress, West says it needs to be dressed up for a black-tie event allowing cocktail dresses.
“If you don’t have an evening gown for a black-tie event and you are desperate for something to wear, the little black dress worn with a sequined jacket or fur bolero with lots of jewelry would work,” she says. “And for the man without a tux, a charcoal grey suit with a black or silver/platinum tie is idea. He would get that very dressy feel without wearing a tux.”
Still, while there are a few rules to dress by, fashion experts say the key is to enjoy yourself.
“Holiday parties are about having fun with your family and friends,” Dabit says. “So have fun with your fashions, too.”
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...