From Runway to Closet

Dress to Impress: Holiday Party Outfit Ideas for Every Sort of Soirée

by Rebecca Casamayor

a little black dress is perfect for your holiday party

The annual office soirée season is upon us, and you need holiday party outfit ideas ASAP. As much as you might be looking forward to cocktails, non-work conversation, and figuring out who drew your name for the “Secret Santa” gift exchange, from a fashion perspective, this occasion can be a little stressful. You want to dress to impress–but you also want to look appropriate.  

Many offices have gravitated a much more casual dress code recently, which makes it even trickier to determine what to wear to your party. If you’ve been living in leggings lately, maybe you’re itching to go all out in a gorgeous brand-new cocktail dress, strappy heels and blingy jewelry…but you don’t want to be the only one dressed to the nines if everyone else is in denim. By the same token, maybe you’ve come to embrace office casual and it’s been so long that you’ve worn more formal clothes that you don’t know where to start. 

Not to worry—we’ve got the inside scoop on how to shine at your office holiday party without looking over-the-top…and, if you’re worried about trading your joggers for sequins, here’s how you can nail a stylish, festive look without sacrificing an ounce of comfort.  

Follow these simple steps to identify the perfect look, based on the event, your office culture, and what holiday styles align best with your personal aesthetic.  

1. Consider the Timing and Location

cocktail dresses are perfect for restaurant or hotel parties

Before you do any shopping for your holiday party outfit, review the key event details. Where and when is the party being held? As a general rule, the earlier the time of the party, the more likely the dress code will lean toward casual, as opposed to cocktail attire. Similarly, the more casual the venue, the less formal your outfit should be. 

Here are some popular office holiday party venues—and how to dress for them: 

  • Holiday luncheon (in the office or at a restaurant): The best thing about a holiday lunch party is that odds are, you’ll get to call it a day after work. These are usually pretty casual events, too. You can likely keep on what you wore to work—just show up with your hair and makeup on point, and maybe choose a holiday color, like berry red, a deep teal, or an emerald green. Metallic accessories are a nice touch. 
  • After-hours event at your office: Management likely is not expecting you all to crowd the restrooms to change into something new once the workday is over, so this is also a more laid-back event. You can add a blazer to what you have on, or change into an atelier blouse if you want to quickly refresh your look. 
  • Happy hour at a restaurant or bar: When you get the email that drinks are on the boss, over at the watering hole down the street, you know this will be a casual event. Wear your favorite, most flattering jeans, some sleek high-heeled booties, and add a dressy holiday top to keep it festive.  
  • Private event at a restaurant or hotel: Your company booked the back room in that cute little café—fun! Get ready for a tasty, pre-selected menu, and either a buffet or sit-down menu. Swap the jeans for the slacks, and elevate your outfit with a blazer and high-glamour jewelry. 
  • Banquet at hotel or catering hall: This is your chance to get decked out in a sophisticated cocktail dress. If you prefer pants, a holiday jumpsuit is a great option; just make sure your shoes, jewelry, hair and makeup are a little more formal.  

2. Decode the Dress Code

Holiday invitation

If there’s an official invitation (yes, an email invite still counts), double-check to see if there’s a dress code. If it’s something along the lines of “festive attire,” that means you should stick with your usual work dress code, but choose holiday hues, or add a little sparkle to your outfit for the party with the right accessory, like a crystal belt. This look also will work if the invite says: “dressy casual.” 

On the other hand, “semiformal” or “cocktail attire” means a cocktail (knee-length) dress or a pants suit. It’s pretty rare for a holiday office party to be “semiformal” or “black-tie optional,” but these dress codes are your signal to get all decked out in a gown.  

3. Take into Account Your Industry

a standout blouse and classic black pants are perfect for a more conservative industry

You should also consider the industry you work in when putting together your holiday party outfit. The answer to this will help dictate just how far you push the boundaries with your look. 

If you work in a creative space, like fashion or design, it’s probably safe to say that the more exciting and interesting your outfit, the better. Wear the bright red dress or the faux-fur coat.  

If you work in finance or a more conservative industry, dress to impress, but make sure the hemline isn’t too short, the neckline isn’t too plunging, and the fabric isn’t too tight. Avoid bright, eye-catching colors like orange or lime green in favor of dark, muted tones (think: black, navy, or burgundy), and go for a more body-skimming silhouette, like a pencil skirt, in a structured fabric. 

4. When in Doubt, Go Sophisticated

a midi dress is perfect for your holiday party

When in doubt, lean toward sophisticated pieces that are well-tailored, feel chic, and make a statement–rather than opting for an over-the-top flashy look. You can’t go wrong with an LBD or LWD. Or, pair a suit in bright red or sleek white with an effortless statement coat on top. Stick to silhouettes and styles you typically like to wear, but punch it up by opting for luxe fabrics or rich, jewel-tone colors rather than your usual neutral tones. To add the final touch, swipe on some bright red lipstick to add that extra glamour. 

‘Tis the season to add some glitz to your party look, so the key is finding the outfit that’s right for both your style and the occasion. Not a dress gal? No problem. There are so many chic alternatives out there this holiday party season, from holiday jumpsuits to cashmere denim paired with a gorgeous silky blouse. 

Alternatively, if you love a good party dress, this is your time to shine, and there are plenty of options to choose from. 

For more ideas on creating party looks that are new, modern and adapt to every occasion, read on 

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