Fashion & Beauty

Festive Holiday Party Outfits: The Complete Dress Up Guide

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Are the holiday invitations starting to flood your mailbox and inbox? If not, get ready, because the holiday season is almost here! And for every invitation you accept, there’s one question you need to ask yourself:

What should I wear?

Some invitations specify a particular dress code. Some include dress codes you’ve never even heard of before (Brooklyn formal and farmhouse chic, we’re talking about you). And some invitations might call for a “festive” dress code, which tends to throw some people for a loop.

And that’s precisely what we’re talking about today.

Not sure what a festive holiday look is? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t mean you should wear a Santa hat. Keep reading for our complete guide to festive holiday party outfits so you can look fabulous at every bash from now until New Year’s!

Where’s the Party?

First things first, before you can decide what you’re going to wear, you need to think about where the party will be held.

Fashion rules come and go, but there’s one rule that never goes of style:

You have to dress appropriately for the event you’re attending.

Would you wear your workout gear to a wedding? Of course not. Would you wear a tuxedo to a baseball game? We hope not. You get the point … what you wear is determined first and foremost by where you’re going.

It boils down to this: The better the venue, the better your look should be!

Who’s Attending?

Knowing where you’re going is crucial, and so is knowing who might be there. And that’s because different settings call for very different looks.

Let’s say you’re going to an office Christmas party. There’s no need to wear a plunging bodycon dress or a backless satin gown unless you’re trying to stand out as the sexiest employee in the company. Instead, it’s best to stick to something that’s classic yet has a playful twist.

On the other hand, maybe you’re heading to a family house party that you know will be full of kids. Your Jimmy Choos and new Marc Jacobs dress might be overdoing it if you’re going to be sitting on the floor playing LEGOs all night.

If you know who you’re going to be partying with, you’ll know how to dress to fit in.

But since you can’t possibly know who will be in attendance at every holiday event, remember this one rule:

As a rule of thumb, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk outfits!

Guys, Get Festive!

Let’s make one thing clear: this guide is not just for the ladies. Guys, to save you from having to scroll through a dozen sequin dresses, we’re kicking this guide off with options for you.

When it comes to silhouettes, there’s no doubt about it; guys have far fewer options. Whether you’re going to the office, going on a dinner date, or heading to a fabulous holiday bash, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to end up wearing pants and a button down shirt.

And you probably have plenty of those already in your closet.

So let’s jump right ahead and talk about what can make a standard button-down, and pants look festive:

A great jacket.

A classic grey or navy suit never disappoints, but if you want to step it up a bit, an eye-catching blazer is a great way to add a festive touch. Look for blazers and dinner jackets in textures, such as velvet and brocade, and jewel tones like navy, emerald green, and burgundy. We love this Paul Smith Kensington Dark Blue Velvet Blazer for a holiday party because of its versatility. We know the price tag is a little steep, but you should have this in your closet for years. The dark blue color would be great for attending a winter wedding or formal gala. You could even pair it with nice dark jeans or slacks for a night out at the symphony or theater.

If the sticker shock of the Paul Smith Blazer was too much, then this Kenneth Cole Reaction Paisley Dinner Jacket might be a better choice. For only $295, this is a cheaper option, but still classy enough for a formal event. It is playing into the festive theme with its burgundy color and paisley pattern. You are sure to turn heads and get compliments on this unique piece.

Pair either jacket with slim trousers and a solid button-down shirt, and you’ll be good to go to a formal affair.

Depending on the occasion, you might want to take this opportunity to wear something…shall we say…a bit more humorous. If you’re bold enough to wear a bright color or a fun allover print, a coordinating holiday print suit might be more your speed.

With a novelty print suit, you can even style it with sneakers and throw on that red Santa hat you pull out every year. We love this Peppermint Candy Cane Suit from Shinesty, but there are plenty of other Christmas print suits on Amazon if red candy canes aren’t your thing. Also, this might be a great option for you last-minute shoppers with the Amazon Prime delivery options.

Have fun with it, embrace that Christmas tree, snowmen, gingerbread or other festive print and show the crowd what you’ve got up your sleeve!

The Classic LBD

There’s a reason that the little black dress is a classic, and that’s because it really does work for every occasion!

But just because it’s classic doesn’t mean it has to be boring. There are so many LBDs to choose from that you can find one with any neckline, sleeve, trim, or detail you want.

While we all have our fair share of black shifts and sheaths in our closet, the holiday season is the perfect time to sport a more playful look with distinctive details and trims. From delicate bows and full sleeves to capelets and fringe, texture and embellishments add tons of personality.

Exaggerated sleeves are a big trend this season, and textures are also everywhere. Look for styles that have a unique design element or have a textured fabric, such as velvet or lace.

Perhaps the best part about the little black dress is that it’s incredibly easy to style. If you’re not willing to give up your pop of color, you can add brightly colored heels, a metallic handbag, or colorful earrings. An unexpected accessory is a great way to create a one-of-a-kind look that you can be sure no one else will be wearing.

And if it’s freezing out? Layer that LBD with a colorful wool coat or a chic faux fur jacket. Now, you really fancy!

Some of our favorite LBDs:

Put On Your Party Pants

Not in the mood to wear a dress? That’s perfectly fine; this isn’t 1956. If it’s a dressy occasion, it’s absolutely acceptable to wear a pair of chic, tailored pants with a pretty blouse or a shimmering bodysuit. If the occasion calls for a more casual look, throw on a pair of sequin leggings with a cozy sweater.

When we say party pants, we’re talking party pants, not your basic black straight leg trousers that you wear to work every day. Those are the opposite of festive – unless, that is, you pair them with a festive top.

If you insist on wearing your favorite black trousers, at the very least, pair them with a sequin top, a velvet jacket, or a pretty blouse with feminine bows or puffed sleeves. Let’s be honest – you can pair a great pair of tailored black pants with just about anything.

On the other hand, if you go all out with colorful satin, brocade, metallic, or sequin pants, you’ll be bound by a rule or two…

Either create a monochromatic look by pairing those pants with a coordinating top or tone the look down by teaming them with a solid top in a matte fabric. These taupe grey Zara pleated pants are what we are talking about. Pair with the matching top or a black bodysuit would also complete this look.

For a full festive pant look, try the Camila Coelho, Aida Trousers. These fun and festive pants come with front and back pockets and belt, wins all around!

Not in the mood to coordinate separates? Go with a jumpsuit instead! A one-piece silhouette can be just as chic as any dress (plus it kind of says you’re ready to party …)

Whether you rock some head-turning pants or arrive oh-so-refined in a one-piece silhouette, do us all a favor and throw on a pair of heels. A long, lean pant paired with a three or four inch heel will make you look perfectly poised and polished regardless of your height, size, or shape.

These are two of our favorite jumpsuits: 

Stand Out in Color

Being festive means being jovial, happy, and ready to have fun! And there’s no better way to show your fun attitude than with a great color. Yes, we all agree that we will always and forever love the LBD. But something you might love more is walking into a room and getting instant attention because you’re not wearing black.

During the holidays, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wearing burgundy red or hunter green. And while those colors are perfectly lovely on some people, they’re certainly not the only ones to choose from.

The holiday season is the ideal time to step out in jewel tones, including rich plums and deep blues. (Bonus: jewel tones look amazing in velvet, which just so happens to be the perfect fabric to wear during the holiday season).

But don’t limit yourself to jewel tones alone. If you really want to stand out, go ahead and wear a pastel or a neutral like blush, champagne, or an icy sky blue.

Now when it comes time to add shoes and a bag, here’s where you need to be neutral. There’s no need to overdo your look with vibrant color from head to toe.

But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to wearing black shoes and carrying a black bag. Metallics are neutrals too, so don’t be afraid to pair your colorful dress with silver, gold, champagne, or pewter shoes.

A few of our favorites:  

Go For the Glitz

Can’t get enough glitz and glamour? Then you probably have quite a few festive looks in your closet already! But we all know that won’t stop you from buying something new…

Sequins are MADE for the holiday season, and for a lot of women, the holidays are the only time of year when they feel comfortable wearing them.

But if you’re going to choose a sequin look, you have to be strategic about it; otherwise, you’ll have to listen to all of those “disco ball” jokes all night.

A sequin cocktail dress is always a holiday favorite, but not every holiday party is the place for head to toe glitz. If you want a bit of shine without being too flashy, pick one sequin item, like a skirt or pants, and balance the look by pairing it with a matte black top.

Sequin fabrics are not easy to mix and match, so unless you have a top and bottom by the same designer that is intended to be worn as a set, don’t try to put your own sequin-on-sequin look together. Again, it’s best to pick one sequin item and pair it with a solid, matte companion piece.

Depending on the type of party or event, you can make sequins look sweet and ladylike or a little bit edgy. Keep it classy with a strappy black heel or add some edge with a funky ankle boot. Whatever shoes and bag you decide to go with, keep them solid and neutral. There’s no need to wear a sequin dress with a sequin handbag with sequin shoes. Please don’t do that.

Our favorite sequin items:

Get Ugly (aka Get Comfy)

Ugly Christmas sweaters come in varying degrees of ugly…so if you get invited to an ugly sweater party, you’ll need to decide for yourself just how far on the ugly scale you want to go.

The funny thing is, this silly dress code is one you really need to abide by. It’s kind of like going to a Halloween party and being the only one not wearing a costume. So don’t be that spoilsport who shows up to the ugly sweater party wearing a cute red dress.

If you can’t get past the “ugly” part, don’t worry – do a quick Google search and you’ll find some silly holiday sweaters that are kind of cute.

The best part about an ugly sweater Christmas party is that you get to be comfy and cozy all night long. To style your uggo sweater, just team it with your favorite jeans and boots!

Ugly Favs: 

What to Wear to a Holiday Party?

What you should wear depends on where you’re going and who you’ll be partying with. Year in and year out, our favorite festive looks include:

  • Classic little black dresses with modern details
  • Velvet dresses, skirts, or pants
  • Jewel tones in everything from jackets to shoes
  • Sequin fabrics, glitzy accents, and shiny metallic hues

Fashion is a way to express yourself. It’s a way to say who you are, tell a story, and convey your attitude without ever having to open your mouth. Festive means fun, so it’s more important to show off your personality than to chase the trends that just aren’t your style.

Whether you get one office party invite or have a different event to go to every night for the next six weeks, remember this:

The best way to feel festive during the holiday party season is to wear an fantastic, festive look!

Jessica Heston

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