Marilynn Barber

How to dress for holiday business parties

Blog Post created by Marilynn Barber on Nov 29, 2017

Dressing for business holiday parties is a delicate challenge. How do you balance appearing business-tasteful yet showing your fun side?  While there’s no perfect answer, I’ve put together some guidelines to help clear up your outfit angst.  

First, remember -- it’s still a business event. 

So here’s the simple Goldilock’s Dress Theorem to keep in mind: 

“Not too much, not too little, but JUST RIGHT”. 

Please keep this in mind when you’re shopping in your closet or out. 

  • Not too much skin
  • Not too little dress
  • Just the right amount of style that still shows you understand your business role at this event.

Look for a dress, or top/bottom, or evening pantsuit that:

  • Does not reveal much more skin than you would reveal at the office, ESPECIALLY cleavage. It’s yours - keep it private. Beware of too-deep v-necks, too-deep cowl necklines, awkward cut-outs, too-dramatic-cold shoulders and see-thru anything. Save these for personal parties. Don't go with backless either, too much opportunity for unwelcome hands-on.
  • You CAN show some shoulder, some back, some leg, body shape. Tasteful, elegant, and discreet make the best impression. If it’s short, try sitting down in it – too short? If you’re going to dance, can you safely do a turn without flashing too much? 
  • Save the leather/pleather/vinyl for personal. It’s too easy to mis-read these.

Keep in mind it IS a festive holiday event, so time to sparkle, so shop for:

  • Festive, bright colors like red, blue, green. Don’t disappear into the photo with a nude/blush.
  • Metallic fabrics – gold and silver fabrics and embellishments really pop in evening photos.
  • Lush evening fabrics like velvet and chiffon. Satin, taffeta, and silk dupioni have a beautiful sheen and beaded fabrics look elegant. Lace is lovely if you are CERTAIN it covers enough and you have the right undergarments to prevent unfortunate see-through.
  • Decorative details and embellishments like beads and crystals, sparkle of any kind.
  • Elegant ruffles, tucks, draping, fish tails, and asymmetric hems add tasteful drama that separates you from a daytime look.
  • Elegant evening wear jumpsuits are a bold statement. Be certain it fits perfectly (not too much skin, not too tight), you have the right undergarments to look smooth, and your shoes don’t clash. Get the hem length right so you don’t trip on it.
  • And the classic man’s tuxedo look is a dramatic statement. Especially good if it turns really cold.  You look elegant and feel warm. And this suit never goes out of style!
  • If you need to literally go from desk to party, add sparkly earrings and/or necklace, red lipstick, blush, bring a change of shoes. These simple transformations will signal you tried!

When shopping, please keep in mind, the SALES person is there to make a SALE. Regardless of what they say and especially if they’re pressuring you, take it home and try it on again at your leisure to be certain you feel it’s right. Buy special undergarments to enhance how you look, and give yourself enough time to have it altered in any way needed. 

I have had sales people assure me an alteration can be made when I know it can’t. If it’s suggested, don’t take the tags off until the alterations shop has agreed to the alteration. Plus, good alterations/tailors are running at high-speed at this time of year and are costly if you wait until the last minute.

And don’t wait until the last minute to shop – you’ll end up settling for something you’re unhappy with. If there’s a party on the books, start now. Holiday wear is on the racks and your size will sell out first.  And if you're renting - shop now too!

My last stylist tip is: look for interesting necklines. Since your head is always in the photo, your neckline will be too. A great hemline or shoe may not make the photo, but that interest around your neck WILL.

If you need help, I’m here and on the hunt for great looks for you – call me!