Recently, I came across a website highlighting the worst in holiday wear. While the list had a few misses, the hits were hilarious. I love hearing the sound of jingle bells and realizing that the noise is coming from a person's earlobes. Oh, jingle bell jewelry is fantastic, but who doesn't get a secret thrill (or an internal laugh) when you see someone walking around in a Santa hat? And then there is the holiday sweater, an item completely in a league of its own. It says so much on its own that it leaves me quite speechless.
It's been so thoroughly burned into our brains that this time of year is about giving, not receiving. We spend every available hour making shiny, happy time for others. We cover our houses in glowing lights, wrap and elaborately decorate gifts with intricate, curled ribbons and shiny, metallic bows. We spend more time spinning twinkly lights around a tree than we do in getting ourselves ready for holiday fêtes. We invest so much energy abiding by that giving and focusing on others than when holiday parties arrive, we have invested no energy into ourselves. We aim in keeping with that festive theme, so we grab Santa hats, jingle bell earrings and holiday sweaters.
I know this might sound like something the Grinch would say, but I've never proclaimed to be filled with festive cheer. As you embark on an event-filled next few weeks, you'll encounter holiday parties for work, nighttime outings with friends and, of course, yuletide hours with families. And, of course, there is the New Year; the holiday we build up so much that it is almost always a letdown. There will be people to meet and pictures to be taken, so as you're out locating the perfect toys for your children or the most appropriate gift for your wife or husband, take the time to find something that sparkles, dazzles and shines for yourself.
Shiny, Happy People
Oh, ladies. For you, entering a clothing store right now is like a child in a toy store. There are so many goodies, you'll be fraught with what to try on first. What really says it's time to party is a dress. This isn't the time to break out your little blah black dress. No, the words to describe you and your holiday outfit should be something like, glittery, shiny, bold, sparkly, and radiant. Find something made from silk (or the cheaper, silk-like material) or satin. Accents can and should include bugle beads, sequins, rhinestones and/or crystals.
Keep the dress no longer than mid-calf or you start wandering away from holiday dress and into high school winter formal dance.
Your dress can be sleeveless or cap-sleeved and you can find a fitted cardigan or shrug to wear when the party gets chilly. Find something that mimics your dress completely or go with something less obvious in a contrasting color or texture. Be brave and go bare-legged or wear a pair of trendy tights. Don't be concerned if the perfect shoes for your dress are open-toed; tights and peep toed shoes are considered perfectly a-okay, for now. But do retire your leggings for the evening. They don't give off the air of grown up or glamorous.
For a look that is less obvious in its sexiness, try a fitted top in a shiny, non-synthetic fabric and pair it with a high-waisted pencil skirt or wide-legged trousers. This is an appropriate way to still look festive and stay warm--perfect for office-related merrymaking.
Let your dazzling and shining be minimized. Jewelry that sparkles and strappy shoes that shine in tones of silver and gold are fabulous, but when you pair them with a metallic pair of tights, bejeweled dress and sparkling eye shadow, you don't parallel a Christmas tree ball, you are a disco ball from a 1970s disco. And while festive means great make up, pick a feature to focus. Don't do red lips and smoky eyes. Glittery shadow or a frosted lip--one feature should look bold and the rest should look flawless.
Glitter for Boys
Holiday parties shouldn't be attended alone, so bring along a sexy sidekick. Men, sexy for you does not equal silky, so leave that look to episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" or for the background performers of a Broadway musical. Men can be glimmery and shiny, but you have to be low key.
For starters, take a button-down, long-sleeved shirt. I'm sure you boys are sick of me telling you by now how important these are to your wardrobes, but it can never be overstated. This time, to spice up your look, add cuff links. Nothing shows how sophisticated and dapper a guy can be quite like a pair of cuff links.
For you modern men who rely on a daily diet of t-shirts, the cuff link is the man's most reliable accessory. These jewelry-like pieces are used in lieu of buttons to fasten the cuff of a shirt. Try a French cuff shirt for a little extra dazzle on your sleeve. As for the cuff links themselves, try asking members of the older generation in your family if they have any. If you're looking for something with less history and less use, shop around. Like ladies' jewelry or men's ties, you'll find more than you bargained for. Buy a pair that you know you'll use more than just for these next few holidays.
Speaking of ties, if you want shine, this is the place to wear what glitters. And by glitter, I mean a small amount of metallic thread running through a pattern on a tie. It's not time to break out something that appears to have come off a Bollywood production.
If all of this sounds like too much, stick with a sweater. Fair Isle has its place and time, but something simpler makes a much more complex statement. Bulky knits are great for times that require warmth, but for a festive holiday party, choose a thinner knit, something slim fitting. Yes, black is nice and navy is gravy, but with ornaments, lights and wrapping paper in a kaleidoscope of colors, perhaps you should follow suit. Find inspiration from the wrapping paper colors, not the patterns. The only thing Cosby about your holiday should be your great aunt's Jell-O.
And since holidays are about family, don't neglect the little ones. While it's true they may not be joining you for the grown-up office parties and may spend their New Year's Eve in bed, they still have holiday time with extended family, parties at school and pictures with Santa. As a little girl, I loved going to pick out a Christmas outfit. I loved being dressed up fancy, surrounded by grownups. Now, I realize that most children aren't like me (i.e. a 12 year-old masking as a woman of 25) so it may take force to get your young ones into adorable little blazers and slacks or dresses with ribbons and bows. You are bigger than your little holiday angels, so use your extra years of knowledge to con them into the clothes and into staying clean and looking fresh. I mean, Santa doesn't deliver toys to naughty little boys and girls, does he?
If that little ploy doesn't work, you can always offer to let them open a gift early if they stay looking sharp. I have no idea if this is good parenting, but it seems like a plan for your child to cooperate for the few hours it takes to mingle and shake at the holiday extravaganzas. If you're hoping to get more bang from your buck by having it be the go-to outfit for school party/Santa photos/maternal grandparents' house/paternal grandparents' house, etc., find something that washes well. "Fancy dress," no matter what age you are, often translates into hand-washing or dry cleaning. Certainly keep that label warning in mind when buying holiday party wear for the whole family, but for the kiddos who get sticky, stained and whatever else, really try to opt for something that can go straight into the dryer.
Perhaps this foray into fine holiday dress will inspire those around you. You might arrive at next year's holiday party to discover Aunt Polly looking svelte and chic instead of (Santa hat) felt and geek. And you'll realize that you have given back. I hear that is what the holidays are all about.
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