What To Wear For Festive Parties

Former fashion director at Tatler and revered stylist Anna Bromilow has been to a few festive parties in her time. In the latest instalment of her fortnightly SL column, she reveals exactly what you should wear to this month’s big events, whatever the dress code…

Party season is both thrilling and exhausting in equal measure. The diary begins to bulge with dinners, ‘squeeze it in before Christmas’ lunches, work events, festive drinks and even the odd wedding. Dates with Netflix become a distant memory and by the end of December you are willing January to arrive. On the other hand, what a way to end another year. I love really wearing my ‘party’ wardrobe – items that are investment pieces and have relatively limited wear.

I’m not one to do huge amounts of forward planning when it comes to outfits, though I do tend to have an idea of what’s in store. This is particularly true when there's a dress code. Perhaps it’s because of the years I’ve spent as an editor, but I tend to approach each event with a distinct feel and colour palette in my head. I also just love dressing up. My mood is massively altered by what I’m wearing, and often a more flamboyant outfit provides an immediate injection of fun and glamour. My general motto is: once you’ve left the house, don’t give it another thought.

My mood is massively altered by what I’m wearing, and often a more flamboyant outfit provides an immediate injection of fun and glamour.

Festive Fun

I have been known to wear a singing Christmas jumper but for serious fashionista style, go for winter fantasy dressing with a palette of white, black, gold and ruby. I always think of Alexander McQueen’s AW08 collection (probably the most beautiful show I’ve ever seen) for high-end Christmas fashion. Velvet capes, gold embroidery, white diaphanous chiffon – think Russian opulence, the Nutcracker, regal romance in the snow. The best investment you can make is the perfect white or ecru faux fur coat. It will go with everything and feels appropriately winter wonderland - & Other Stories does a version that’s luxurious and flattering. For an investment buy, head to Each x Other or Paco Rabanne.

Depending on how dressy your event is, white on white is the ultimate in winter dressing. It’s a colour often overlooked at this time of year but you’ll stand out amid all the black. This dress by & Other Stories is heaven and you can always rely on Self Portrait to deliver. I’d dress it up with gold, filigree-style accessories, like these beautifully decadent earrings from Pat’s (a hidden gem if you are looking for bold, antique-effect jewellery), snake hair slide from H&M and this acrylic clutch from Edie Parker. I’ve also fallen in love with the brand Avavav which is seriously on trend this season. The gold flared skirt and puffed-sleeve ecru shirt is a modern, sexy way of doing all white.

Sumptuous velvet capes, gold embroidery, white diaphanous chiffon – think Russian opulence, the Nutcracker, regal romance in the snow.

Red - particularly a rich, ruby shade - is the perfect festive choice. Again, Avavav has done a sublime baby doll dress – a cross between Cecilie Bahnsen and Batsheva at a very attractive price point. A pearl headband is the perfect accompaniment to its high ruffle collar – there are so many available from Dolce & Gabbana to Zara’s milder interpretation. With a shorter, fuller dress like this, it’s incredibly chic (and practical) to go with party flats. I adore these from Malone Souliers. Add spotty sheer tights to take the look in a quirkier 80s direction.

Rixo always does a good sequin number and this red one is just the ticket. It’s far more elegant to do pailettes in a longer midi length (sequined minis can generally look a bit cheap) and these sweet puffed sleeves give it a pretty, feel. If all over bling is just too much for you, a great way of getting into the festive spirit, but with a more carefree attitude, is to wear a sequined skirt. This one from Lost Ink on Asos is a perfect shade of plum red with long fringing. Wear this with a matching jumper – from Uniqlo to Tom Ford - and it’s an item that will prove a useful addition to your everyday wardrobe, working well with grey, pale pink and leopard. Make sure you accessorise well if you are going down the knitwear route – a pair of sensational earrings will elevate a more relaxed upper half. Simone Rocha’s elegant embellishments for AW are top of the list.

Sumptuous Christmas dresses call for red velvet. Just don’t go too long! Everyone from Asos to Ghost and Beulah have great options, but my favourite has to be Dodo Bar Oh’s crystal embellished mini dress. Again, black sheer tights are a fun option. I’d wear black heels with bows to dress up the look. Balenciaga and Jimmy Choo are ideal but Zara also has a good version. If you love to go matchy-matchy, these beautiful crystal-adorned red velvet shoes from Attico are spot on.

Playing it safe with black doesn’t have to be boring. Velvet feels more in keeping with the festive spirit, but it’s important to look for detailing and embellishments. How on trend is this bustier dress from Asos? And I can’t stop looking at this super pretty velvet midi from Saloni. It’s the most flattering, wearable shape – a real investment dress to cherish. The Attico rule when it comes to 80s mini dresses and this is no exception. A key investment piece if you are addicted to black, but want to look seasonally appropriate, is a bolero or black tailored jacket. This one from Givenchy is super pretty but Zara has a gorgeous, slightly longer version. Throw it over a black dress or high-waisted trousers to give a dark festive flourish and find some fab black earrings like these bow ones from Zara.

1. Ruffled Velvet Bolero Jacket, £2,855 | Givenchy
2. Wiggle Beaded Drop Earrings, £360 | Simone Rocha
3. Crystal Embellished Mini Dress, £875 | Dodo Bar Or 
4. Fluted Sleeve Velvet Midi Dress, £550 | Beulah 
5. Crystal Buckle Velvet Mules, £475 | Malone Souliers 
7. Velvet Jacket With Bow, £69.99 | Zara
Shop the rest of Anna's festive picks below...

Work Party

Depending where you work, the office party or Christmas drinks is probably not the time to don your shortest, shiniest mini. Instead, show off your sophisticated fashion credentials and stop being lazy with black. Look to seriously chic shades of grey, silver and green. Have fun with accessories that would be deemed too much for the office day-to-day. Ditch the work bag, grab a clutch, let loose with some serious heels – the type you would never dream of wearing to work.

I’m such a fan of Samantha Cameron’s label Cefinn. She’s an office-to-evening pro when it comes to fabrics that won’t crease. If changing pre-party isn’t an option, this gorgeous bottle-green long-sleeved dress with a high-neck collar is fab. Take some decadent black heels - like these Jimmy Choo satin and crystal mules - and a matching clutch to instantly elevate the look. I also love these green bow mules from Asos if you want a more demure finish. Putting your hair up is another instant formal fix. A pussy-bow blouse and pencil skirt is a streamlined clever alternative to a dress – look for contrasting rich fabrics in matching tones. How chic is this peacock blue velvet skirt from Anthropologie combined with Beulah’s teal printed top? Add a bit of bling with Louboutin’s pompom gold shoes and Erdem’s emerald disco ball earrings.

Don’t be scared of such a neutral, urban tone - just enhance it with crystal or silver.

Soft grey is an underrated colour for evening. Don’t be scared of such a neutral, urban tone - just enhance it with crystal or silver. I can’t get enough of this trumpet hem dress from Vika Gazinskaya. Give them something to talk about by wearing it with these long silver sock boots from Miu Miu or if you’re playing it safe, these tweed embellished sandals from J Crew still scream serious style. A teal velvet clutch from Tyler Ellis and some formal drop earrings from Vicki Sarge give an elegant contrasting finish. Trousers, particularly silk ones, are an unspoken hero item for smart evenings and there is nothing more stylish than a printed, coordinated suit. Find a belted jacket to avoid the pyjama look and go for a bold print to feel exotic. This Saloni two piece is gorgeous with its warm mustard tones and eye-catching mosaic effect pattern. Aquazzura has done a great collaboration with Begum Khan and these pineapple earrings are a great match. Finish with a velvet mule like this one from Malone Souliers.    
1. Kelly Velvet Midi Skirt, £98 | Anthropologie 
2. Flying Saucers Grey Drops, £190 | Vicki Sarge
3. Emerald Crushed Velvet Bag, £480.88 | Tyler Ellis 
4. Funnel Neck Maxi Dress, £360 | Cefinn
5. Maxima high-rise jacquard trousers, £450 | Saloni
6. Maureen Embossed-Velvet Pumps, £475 | Malone Souliers
 Shop the rest of Anna's work party picks below...

Dress To Impress

This is the green light simply to go for it – my favourite type of dress code! The parameters are wide open, depending on your own personal style. If you’re a more conservative dresser, approach your look from the feet up. An off-the-charts pair of statement shoes can make an outfit and lift a look to disco status. Why not have some fun and go metallic mad with these rainbow creations from Loeffler Randall? Midnight Zero and Brother Vellies are also worth checking out for an investment buy that has serious foot flair. If flats are more your thing, these neon bow beauties from J Crew will liven up even the most neutral wardrobe. A white shirt is the simplest wardrobe staple, but this season there are a huge variety to choose from that have a dramatic twist. Impress them with puffed sleeves and 80s draping like this Coast blouse; give it a boudoir spin with this Zara feather-trimmed version or dress it up like a present with this giant-bow Ganni one. If you want to go for a statement colourful top, but also want to stay safe with flattering black trousers, a pink puffed sleeve is a show-stopper: head to Nackiye or high-street favourite Zara.

Rainbow metallics are a good direction to go in and give serious wow factor.

When it comes to dresses, more is more. Rainbow metallics are a good direction to go in and give serious wow factor. Self Portrait’s flattering striped tiered dress is the perfect blend of disco and ladylike. Sister Jane has a great long-sleeved star dress that is super flattering and, as ever, good value. I love the idea of wearing these with long metallic boots if you are bold enough. Zanotti, Saint Laurent and Marant have some great versions and the Outnet has some Jimmy Choos currently on sale. Sequins are, of course, a go-to for a dress code with such extrovert intentions. I will never fall out of love with this full-on Gucci creation. For such an extreme look, Asos is a great, affordable alternative: draped, fluid designs in sequins look immediately designer and it has a few on offer. If comfort is your thing, The Sleeper offers the ultimate in glam evening pyjamas. My favourite is the polka dot with marabou trim. A pair of matching black mules and some chandelier earrings, and you are Holly Golightly in impressive, contemporary form.  

1. Party Pajama Set with Feathers in Polka Dot, $320 | SLEEPER
2. Tiered Striped Sequined Tulle Midi Dress, £380 | Self-Portrait
3. Sequin Gown, £995 | Galvan 
4. Bow-detailed sequined silk-georgette midi dress, £8,010 | Gucci 
5. Satin Pussy Bow Blouse, £41.30 (was £59) | Coast 
6. Camellia Rainbow Heels, $395 | Loeffler Randall

Shop Anna's dress to impress picks below...

Follow Anna @anna_bromilow

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