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What to Wear to a Holiday Party

Updated: Apr 13

Twinkling lights, mistletoe and a calendar brimming with plans this most wonderful time of the year require a lot of outfit planning. Thankfully, Nordstrom Styling Director Ruth Basloe has thoughts on dressing for office gatherings, family fêtes, cookie exchanges, and a dinner or two.


A Holiday Work Party Leave the laptop behind but power up your party attire. A holiday office party is an invitation to add some polish to your usual work look. Basloe suggests suiting that's more fashion-forward. "Suits this season came through with updated cuts, patterns, and details that are far from stuffy. You'll look instantly put together but still festive." If the party is out of the office, you can go for a deeper décolleté. "Swap (or lose, if the jacket cut is high enough) your buttoned-up worktop to reveal more neckline, and then fill the space with the season's newest layering necklaces or add some sparkle with a statement earring. Take the look one step further, into evening territory, by adding a deep berry lip."

A Casual Festive Gathering Your near and dear ones will love you no matter what you wear, but a Christmas party with friends is a chance to break away from the usual jeans routine and celebrate this special time of year. According to Basloe, there are a number of ways you can upgrade your denim. "You'll find your favorite cuts reimagined in of-the-moment prints like snake or leopard. Or you can elevate your look by embracing the return of the high-waisted flare. The fuller leg has a more dramatic, elegant look, especially when worn with heels and hemmed long it adds inches to your legs! Keep the look soft with a silky blouse, or throw on a tailored jacket to add polish." When it comes to makeup, go for gold. "For an extra festive touch, try adding a gold eye using a shimmering shadow or even just a liner," says Basloe.

A Family Function The presents are open and the wrapping and ribbons have been cleared away, but if there was ever a day to stay in your loungewear, this is it. You can start the day in elf-embellished red, white and green holiday pajamas, but Basloe has some seasonal suggestions for laid-back looks—and there's not an ugly Christmas sweater among them. "Sweaters in soft neutral shades with subtle patterns or textures are perfect for when you want a cozy look that is low-key yet elevated. Instead of sweatpants or jeans, try the season's silky fluid pants. You will feel like you are wearing pajamas but look far more sophisticated. If a traditional pant is more your style, you can still keep it comfy by choosing a pair with enough stretch, and you will appreciate that extra stretch when tucking into indulgent holiday meals. Finish the look with a shearling slipper that will keep your toes cozy in style."

A Cocktail Party The time-honored tradition of raising a cup to celebrate the season is one worth maintaining. Whether it's a work cocktail party or fancy drinks with friends, you want to be in the right spot on the sparkle spectrum. Dazzle with luxe velvet, sumptuous satin, or pieces with exaggerated tailoring, like sweeping pant legs or billowy sleeves. If you're raising a glass to your conference room colleagues, dial things back to lower-wattage levels of shine by adding classic pieces with a matte finish, like a cashmere sweater or leather skirt. Basloe suggests footwear that stands up to the demands of the holidays. "An easy update to your cocktail party look is to swap those spindly heels for the season's festive booties. You'll find metallic, satin, and bejeweled styles that are very party-worthy. Or, if your outfit already has lots going on, try a sleek black bootie. Just make sure the shape is refined and the finish is polished."

A Formal Gala or Winter Ball An elegant affair awaits. While you don't want to be sipping champagne in anything too trend-focused, you do want to feel confident, beautiful, and fully in the spirit. Go for the full-length gown, whether it's an enchanting empire waist, a curve-skimming cut, or even a fluid pant in liquid silk or airy chiffon. Add some statement sparkle to your ear or neck and pop a highlighter in your evening clutch, and you'll be good to glow. According to Basloe, sometimes more is marvelously more. "We are seeing quite a few dresses this season that are more modest and have long sleeves, high necklines, or long hems. Despite the lack of skin shown, these dresses can still be plenty sexy and eye-catching, especially if they have a high slit, plunging neckline, or are in a bold color. The bonus is these more-covered dresses will keep you warmer at winter events."

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