This time of year, we look for ways to bring in brightness and light for the holiday season. (And we could really use some brightness and light right about now!) One way we do this is by blinging up our holiday outfits.
Winter party wear is always about the bling. But this year it’s a va-va-voom level of bling. For a younger demographic that means sequined mini dresses worn with high heeled sandals or even head-to-toe sequined tops pajama-type bottoms.
Unless you have the personality to carry off the latter (very few of us will be wearing minis dresses and high heeled sandals this holiday – and if you are I want photos!!) let’s just borrow a few cues from all the holiday old reliables: sequins, but also velvet, satin, rhinestones, and faux gemstones. These are the textiles that speak to the holiday season.
In the interest of conscious consumerism, I wanted to share some ideas about how to do this on a budget without having to buy a new entire and expensive outfit that you only wear at this time of year – or only once.
If you plan to attend any events this season – family or other social – get clear on the level of formality or casualness expected of the attendees. That will help you determine whether you actually need to buy anything new at all. And it also helps you decide between incorporating the flashier elements (rhinestones, sequins) and the more toned down ones (velvet, satin).
Then consider your comfort level, both physical and psychological. You never want to sacrifice comfort for style. Make sure you will be warm enough but festive enough so that you don’t feel underdressed. You can keep your basic outfit fairly tailored and simple, but especially if you live in a colder climate, consider adding one of the 50s’ type cocoon overcoats that have become so popular this year. If you’re good at thrift shopping, you might even find a vintage one on the racks.
If you really don’t have something party-appropriate in your closet, consider carefully how much you are willing to spend on something new. Almost every retailer is offering very tempting discounts right now on seasonal merchandise, the likes of which we usually don’t see until after the holidays are over.
But before you whip out the credit card, take a look through your own closet. Is there something there that you have been saving for a special occasion… and just haven’t worn yet or haven’t worn in a long time? Instead of recycling it just yet, play around a little bit with possible combinations that could be workable.
Now, just about any holiday party outfit can start with the basics. For example, a pair of perfectly tailored slacks. Although hem lengths and styles change every few years, some just never go out of fashion. You would more likely find big changes in trendy pieces that have a short shelf life.
Since we’ve been seeing classic tailored slightly slouchy, loose leg trousers for the past three years or more, it’s possible you have something like this in your closet. If they are in a neutral color, you’re halfway to building a great outfit.
Also, did you buy something a while ago on sale that has some shiny or sparkly element with the thought “someday I’m going to wear this to a party.” It could be almost anything: a tank, a jacket, an accessory. That actually might be the focal point to create the outfit around.
The good news is that you’ll see a lot of flashier items (sequined tops and bottoms, satins, sequined and rhinestone studded sweaters) worn with jeans these days. Actually, the “glitter ball” look of head-to-toe sequins or satin, can be slightly passe unless you are attending a very formal event.
By wearing jeans with something like a sequined tee or sweater or a luscious satin blouse you will be creating what they a “high-low” look. It’s a hip and fashion-forward way to dress for a slightly more casual event.
But let’s say you really do need to pick up something to bring some sparkle to your outfit. If, like me, you are bombarded with dozens of emails lately offering huge discounts on party wear, this could be the right time to pick up something new.
You’ll see really gorgeous sequined tops just about everywhere right now. They range from simple shells to sequined sweaters (which will keep you warmer.) You will also find sequined jackets and blazers. Depending on the weather where you live, you can use that jacket as the focal point, buttoned up and worn alone, or worn as the top piece over a simple unadorned shell.
A lovely satin blouse or satin slip skirt (still very popular and thankfully for us they are showing them mostly in midi and ankle-length versions right now) in a festive color can make the entire outfit as well. Wear either of those with sling back lower heels or dressy flats.
Just make sure whatever you buy is returnable and guaranteed to arrive before the event. If the item is extremely reduced in price, it might even be worth it to pay the extra for expedited shipping, if necessary.
Now, if you have daughters or granddaughters, maybe they can loan you that sparkly item because they very likely do have one… although your wearing it may affect how they feel about it in the future (Wow! Grandma wore this to a party… can I ever feel cool in it again?). But since we are, in fact becoming “cooler” by the minute, they may actually get a kick out of helping you pull together something! You might even end up in the Instagram feed.
If you plan to attend a New Year’s Eve party, maybe you could drop a hint to your ever-loving about that new pair of earrings, satin blouse, or shoes you’ve been eyeing for Christmas.
And of course, there is vintage shopping. There is no limit to the wonderful things you might find if you have some patience and persistence – and know what you’re looking for. Yes, you can open yourself up to serendipity – something just jumping out at you that is perfect and that you didn’t even know you were looking for. But having a plan can help you avoid wasting money and costly mistakes.
Is there something you already own that you can wear slightly differently? One of the nicest ways to create an instant party look is by adding embellished flats to your outfit. There are a lot on sale these days, but if you have a pair of ballet flats that you like and that are in fairly good condition, here is what one of my very creative friend Judy does.
She goes to her favorite local vintage shops to look for clip-on rhinestone and faux gem earrings. Then she simply clips those onto the top of the shoe and voila! Instant bling! If your ballet flats are looking a little tired, consider dyeing them first. If you dye them a bright color and add some bling you can make your shoes the element that speaks for you about the season.
And maybe you just need to re-think what you wear a lot already. Is it possible that the fluffy white fleece jacket you wear for cooler weather, but that nobody at the party has seen you wear, can be jazzed up a bit with, say, an inexpensive silver and rhinestone belt? You can probably pick up such a belt on Amazon very inexpensively, and, frankly, nobody will know its cost. You aren’t likely to wear it out by using it every day anyway.
“Grandma” button down cashmere cardigans are all the rage lately. Consider picking up some rhinestone or faux gemstone pins at a resale shop and pinning them strategically onto your sweater. Button up all but the last two or three buttons, and you’ve got a fun, hip party sweater.
Also, simple monochromatic outfits can be made festive by adding a sparkly clutch. Again, you can get these inexpensively online, but it’s likely you can find one at a resale or vintage shop. Let the proprietor know what you’re looking for and ask them to stay in touch if something like that arrives. If you’re really “craftsy” you can always buy rhinestones and glue them onto an inexpensive second hand or even new clutch.
Some things to look for in vintage might include velvet pieces. A beautiful velvet blazer or jacket will not only serve you for the holidays, but it can also be worn throughout the cooler season year after year. Velvet tops or pants are a little more season specific. But pay attention to the nap. If it is worn down in any area, it would be better to look for something new.
Another great item you might find in a vintage shop is a faux fur jacket. They’ve been so popular over the past few years that it’s very possible they will show up in your local resale store. That could be the “wow” item that takes a simple lbd or a tailored outfit up a notch.
And of course, searching the second-hand market for jewelry is always fun. We’re seeing cascading drop earrings in lovely faux gemstone colors right now for the first time in a couple of years. Maybe you or your daughter or granddaughter still have a pair you could borrow? If you do wear a cascading earring, keep the top part of your outfit simple. You don’t want them to compete with anything shiny in your top or jacket.
One of my favorite memes these days goes something like this: “What used to be our punishment is now our preference: going to bed at 9:00 and avoid big parties.”
A lot of us welcome the luxury of just staying home on major holidays. Frivolity with large gatherings isn’t as attractive as it once was. When we were younger and still looking for potential partners or just wanting to blow off steam, we craved such events on New Year’s Eve. But now, and especially with the seasonal flu, a lot of us consider that staying home is a blessing.
If you’re staying home, that will make it very simple to figure out what to wear. Slip into your most comfy pajamas, raise your glass of bubbly, and make a toast to a healthy, happy, and peaceful 2024!
Are you going to a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party? What are you planning to wear? Have you bought any new holiday outfits this year?