Holiday Style Do’s and Don’ts

0 Comments 22 November 2009

holiday styleIt usually begins in the office, that first little tinkle of holiday cheer expressed by a receptionist in a reindeer  sweater or a jolly co-worker
dangling Christmas bells from each ear lobe. Ho, ho, oh no! Not holiday dressing, that weird time of year when grown women wear white lace tights, floppy velvet scrunchies and way too much red.

Come December, you’ll see polyester stretch velvet, tartan taffeta and little black patent leather pumps, all on the same body. Taking too many cues from the children’s department and Norman Rockwell, Christmas dressing is often an act of
sentimental regression. Suddenly we wear clothes for emotional reasons: every gold chain ever given to us by a boy, the ugly hand-knit sweater Grandma sent from Baltimore, a red ribbon for good luck, or weird church shoes with ankle straps.

With an odd mix of piety and pigging out, Christmas Day poses a challenge for chic dressing. Who can think about donning diamond drop earrings when hunched over an oven or wrestling a stack of toddlers under the tree? You don’t want to look pretentious in front of the in-laws, and yet there remains that secret urge for something special, a little reward for what a good girl you’ve been.

Let the tree be baroque and bulbous, let Dean Martin croon about snowflakes and frisky elves, but you need to glitter with more subtlety. Scan my list of the five absolute fashion faux pas for the holidays and then comfort yourself with 10 stylish solutions.

Five holiday fashion mistakes

  1. Abuse of white and cherry red. White shoes, white tights, white angora sweaters with satin applique and glittery bits hanging off them, white blouses with pie-crust collars and mutton-chop sleeves. Red satin skirts, red overcoats with little black velvet buttons (a la Princess Beatrice), big fat red ribbons (a la Bakery window) worn on too-tight cavalry pony tails. Stop right there.
  2. Tartan and velvet in the same outfit.
  3. Clothes with Christmas motifs printed, embroidered or knitted onto them. Remember that ghastly moose sweater in Bridget Jones’s Diary?
  4. Christmas accessories like look anything like tinsel or bulbs.
  5. Fluffy hair.

10 tips for holiday chic

1. Limit yourself to one red accent: red cashmere shell, red lipstick, red French bra, red suede gloves. One great red dress needs very plain accessories: no paste, no patent leather; pearl or diamond stud earrings are fine.

2. Love a little white lace Edwardian blouse or angora polar neck sweater, but modernize them with a pin-stripe floor-length riding skirt or even black velvet capris. Think crisp tailoring meets romantic style. If anything you are wearing makes you think Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman or Stevie Nicks, stand back and then pare back.

3. Instead of swathing yourself with emerald green velvet, Scarlett O’Hara style, get that sensuous touch with accessories: velvet ankle boots, velvet handbag, velvet belt on a pretty knit jersey dress, or sew a little velvet ribbon to the edge of favorite beret.

4. One piece of great costume jewelry. Sweep your hair up and clip on some vintage crystal drop earrings or a pearl choker, frame them with a sweetheart neckline. Don’t forget cameos, pin a vintage button to a strip of thick velvet ribbon, then tie the knot. The holidays may be the only day you really have an occasion to wear a big gorgeous brooch, so put it somewhere cool like on the hip of a dress or at the center of a taffeta sash.

5. Choose great shoes. A pencil skirt and mules. A ballerina skirt and kitten heel boots. A little black dress, sheer stockings and satin ballet flats. I have a pair of black velvet Manolo’s waiting under the tree as pointy as an elf’s cap. (Budget tip: I bought them on sale in the middle of summer!)

6. Try a kilt. Mini kilts look adorable with long black boots and a plain black sweater.

7. For the annual Christmas party, try some big-band style: a veiled cocktail hat or a gardenia corsage on an electric blue dress. Think Liza in New York, New York.

8. Rent Dr. Zhivago, then invest in a really great coat. Snow feels glamorous in a long sweep of white wool.

9. See the New Year in with a dainty gold mesh handbag. Search online for Whiting and Davis ’20s and ’30s bags.

10. Collapse at the end of the day in silk pajamas, baggy enough for the ravages of the feasting, sexy enough to keep romance alive despite in-laws and screaming offspring.


- who has written 33 posts on Women Weblog.

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