What to Wear to an Office Holiday Party

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Keeping it classy at the office holiday party.  photo by Ashley Fagerstrom
Keeping it classy at the office holiday party. Merchandise in photo courtesy of Meridian LTD.
photo by Ashley Fagerstrom

The halls are decked, sugarplums are dancing in children’s heads and the partridge is almost in the pear tree. The holidays are upon us, and many of us revel in the persistent celebratory vibe in the air this time of year. However, there are others who find that the unrelenting joy can be a bit stressful.  Our to-do lists can seem endless. One of the things near the top of that list may be the slew of holiday parties we are expected to attend, or more specifically the work-related holiday gatherings. Spending an evening fidgeting in uncomfortable clothes that you only wear once a year, sipping underwhelming red wine, faux smiling until your face hurts, and bonding with your boss sounds joyful right? Well, let’s make things a bit easier on ourselves this year by proactively tackling one aspect of the party season known to throw a wrench into any modern gal’s plan. Let’s answer the age-old question: What am I going to wear?

Get your game face on ladies, it’s officially party season.

We all know that each year around this time, our schedules can overflow with social gatherings of the personal and professional kind, so let’s get right to it.  What you wear to a non-work related function of course must differ slightly, if not significantly, from what you would wear to an office party or to a partner’s holiday engagement. Such circumstances require shall we say, a bit of thinking “inside the box”. Okay, I know this doesn’t sound like the blast and a half that you want party dressing to be, but there are ways to inject a bit of glamour into your professional holiday work wear.

The ‘At-the-Office’ Holiday Party

To ensure sartorial success at all of your functions, there are a few guidelines to follow. If the party is at your office, then odds are the attire will be more “business casual”. In which case, adding a few fun accessories can carry your daytime look into the evening. Transitioning from desk to party while remaining festive and professional is not as hard as you may think.

  • Consider an extra pair of fun, brightly colored shoes or a pair of chandelier earrings to add a bit of drama to your professional wear.
  • Intensifying your make up to go from day to night, or adding a red lip in combination with your more formal accessories, will give you just the right amount of flare to feel appropriate and not overly done.

The Semi-Formal Work Holiday Party

If your holiday party is off premises, at a more formal venue then you can take a few liberties with your adventures in finessing your look.

  • Consider putting a new twist on a classic, like forgoing trousers or slacks and opting for a black lace pencil skirt.
  • One crucial element to pulling off authentic personal style is to keep it, well…personal. The most fundamental element to finding your style “sweet spot” is to wear the things that bring you pure, unadulterated joy. Dress yourself in the things that speak to you and make you feel good!
  • That being said, this is the time of year to take it up a notch. Instead of playing it safe, keep a few things in mind. Color, pattern, texture and shine are always central components to any outfit. Including at least one of, if not a combination of these elements will add visual interest to your look, conveying a sense of modernity through your style.  For example, bring in color through rich, highly saturated, jewel tones. Adding a pop of color in your blouse, scarf, shoe or bag can stand out in an unexpected way.
  • Creating dimension through choosing textures like velvet, suede or chunky knits can be very sophisticated and functional during the winter months.
  • Shine can be a playful way to approach showing holiday spirit without taking things overboard. I am not advocating that you should cover yourself in sequins, actually to the contrary, sequins at a work event should probably be kept to a minimum, but including some metallic accessories can bring youth to your ensemble.

Holiday fashion should be celebratory, so have fun with creating a look that may be a bit unpredictable!

The ‘Don’ts’

Of course, there are those taboos. The “don’ts” for office party attire include…

  • Anything cut too low or too high, too sheer, or over the top. Remember, your fellow partygoers are still your colleagues.
  • One more thing, it should go without saying, but for goodness sakes don’t wear a “holiday sweater”.  Unless of course, you happen to be one of those lovely ladies who is devoted to her quirky holiday sweater persona, refusing to attend any holiday shindig wearing anything else…heck, if you love something THAT much, just go ahead and run with it.

Gathering Inspiration

Heaven forbid, if you find yourself in fashion purgatory and are in desperate need of some motivation, fear not. Simply head to your nearest Internet connection and log on to the mecca of virtual inspiration…Pinterest. Perusing the “Company Holiday Party Attire” section of Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) can be an eye-opening experience. Odds are, you will stumble upon a look that strikes a chord with you, or a pin that looks similar to something you might already have in your closet. Building your outfit from there, around the pieces that you already own will save you time and money when planning for your event. If it means adding a bit of attitude to your favorite dress with a piece of statement jewelry, or a leopard print scarf, just pumping things up a bit can have a big effect.

There is a mental exercise used by psychotherapists to help people in their quests to make difficult decisions that I think applies here. Visualize yourself six months from now standing on a balcony high above the ground. The wind is faintly blowing through your perfectly coiffed hair and you look back on this moment of choice, will you regret the decision you are about to make? Therein lies your answer. Please don’t stand on the hypothetical balcony of the future and regret your Christmas party outfit. If in doubt…keep it simple. Always opt for chic over sexy.

Now with the stage is set for an interesting evening, some of your office mates will be focused on prudence, determined not to embarrass themselves like they did last year. You on the other hand, will rest easy knowing that because of your pre-game planning, not only will your dance moves be pretty darn fantastic, but you’ll also look as good as you feel.

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