How The F*ck Do You ‘Dress Festive’: Debunking The Christmas Party Dress Code

Festive Christmas Dress

By Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse

Every December we’re invited to a myriad of Christmas parties, family gatherings, and work do’s.

Each invite hits you with the demand to ‘dress festive’, and year upon year we’re stumped at how to achieve the look. It’s a notoriously confounding dress code that adds an extra layer of pressure to the already stressful activity of getting party ready. 

Some people see festive dressing and take a literal stance. To them, the festive dress code means all in attendance should aim to dress like the baubles, tinsel and stars that adorn our trees. Candy cane tights, hideous christmas jumpers, monochrome red and green outfits, maybe even a sexy Mrs Clause costume is squeezed on. 

Some may go down the route of channeling characters from classic, hallmark Christmas movies. The brave may attempt a Cindy Lou Who hairstyle, the unimaginative may don mean girls-esque red co-ords, the downright Christmas obsessive will appear in all their Buddy the Elf glory. 

In truth, most of us will give up on festive attire and simply add a Santa hat or festive pair of socks to our otherwise christmas-free party wear. The trouble is the festive period is short. For 11 out of 12 months a year, there is hardly any need for red sparkly ball gowns or Christmas tree green three piece suits. Sure, some may have the budget to splash on fancy festive gear, but for most of us, we want versatile pieces in our wardrobe that can be worn all year through. 

So, with the start of Christmas events now upon us, we must find a way to channel the christmas spirit while staying true to our personal style. We want to find pieces that can be worn for our Christmas events but aren’t so festive that when we pull the piece out to wear during the post-festive period, we look like we’re anticipating next year’s holiday. 

Lucky for us, the term ‘festive attire’ is so vague that a wide scope of clothing can be worn to tap into the holiday vibe. If we focus on specific colors, patterns, and textiles, any silhouette that makes you feel good can become festive. To fit the requirements of festive dress, we want sequins, velvet, cashmere, satin, jewel tones, tartan, feathers, corduroy, tweed, reds, greens, golds, and just a touch of sparkle and glitter. 

Christmas ‘tis the season to wear velvet. For some unknown reason, no fabric screams ‘Christmas spirit’ louder than velvet does. The smooth, swanky material makes everything feel ten times more festive than anything else you could cover your body with. Velvet doesn’t merely exist in the form of dresses and skirts. We’ve got velvet suits for all genders, velvet blazers, blouses, two pieces, wide leg power pants channeling all the best parts of Austin Powers – velvet is groovy baby!

While Santa-suit red is considered the ‘colour of Christmas’ for some, we’re overlooking the versatility offered by other Christmas associated colours. We have pine tree green, but we also have khaki, emerald, sage, olive, lime. We have burgundy, maroon, scarlet, ruby, berry, and wine reds. We can lean into the reddish browns and neutrals that are perfect all year round; mahogany, gingerbread, chocolate browns. When you break it down, finding a Christmas association to whatever colours you own is incredibly easy.

Christmas festive dress

Deep, sumptuous jewel tones are made for winter in the way they perfectly channel festive vibes. The winter nights creep in quickly, bringing with them freezing temperatures and the desire to drink exclusively hot chocolates and mulled wine. These deeper colours play into the cosy, ‘sitting round the fire’ atmosphere arguably more so than the traditional bright reds and greens. Think deep purples, emeralds, mustard yellows, ruby tones, midnight, navy blues, rich sapphires, and bold, deep pinks. These tones on fabrics like the aforementioned festive velvet, but also on satins, silks and velour fabric, look effortlessly glamorous and festive. In all their dark, moody elegance, jewel tones channel expensive regality, showing off an understated decadence that can be worn for the festivities and remain in your wardrobe all year round.  

Knitwear, while forever a winter staple, has been slowly making its mark in the mainstream consciousness thanks to internet trends like cottagecore’s crochet obsession and dark academia’s promotion of school uniform attire. On top of this, Harry Styles has been redefining Grandma-chic in chunky, vintage knit cardigans resulting in many of us risking the inevitable itch to look somewhat like him. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the warm, woolen staple can take many forms – all of which can be dressed up or down to work for any festivities you may attend. 

We’re seeing woollen pieces hitting the high street in the form of dresses, co-ords and tight-fitting skirts alongside the classic jumper or cardigan. Obvious pro’s include warmth and comfort as well as the elasticated waistband allowing for as much free, party food to be stuffed into your mouth as possible. Pairing your knits with plaid or tartan is a sure fire way to fit the look of a Christmas movie extra in all the best of ways. 

While we’re in the cosy realm, anything faux fur, fuzzy or fleece is always going to look festive. There is nothing more festive than being wrapped up nice and warm, donning an oversized hat or earmuffs and cradling a hot beverage.

Christmas festive dress

The Christmas party theme is also an opportunity to play up elements like your jewellery and accessories. Accessories are often vastly cheaper than clothes and, if you’re at a complete loss with the idea of festive clothing, your choice of jewellery can bring an overall jolly, holiday feel to an otherwise un-festive fit.  

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You’ve got two channels to explore with festive accessories. Terrifically tacky, or understated holiday glam. Small business sites like Etsy are full to the brim with festive jewellery, from earrings resembling gift bows to more simplistic shiny snowflakes that can be worn all year round. 

A simplistic yet effective route to take with festive jewelry is with either pearls, not necessarily real ones, or our beloved jewel tones. Beaded necklaces are having a moment this year and taking this trend into the colder months with a pearlescent twist or by adding statement pendants in moody deep tones, is a great way to up the festive feel of the trend. 

Tights are a given when dressing for any Christmas event. But just because they’re a necessity to keep you warm, or to get you out of waxing, they should still be seen as a chance to work in some exciting element to an outfit. White tights are stealing the spotlight at the moment and are perfect for Christmas festivities.

On the flipside, we can go super tacky. Tacky is often used to diminish something, to make it sound bad, but here we embrace tacky – when it’s appropriate. Festive tights, plastic Christmas tree earrings, headbands with attached antlers or Christmas pudding boppers, jumpers with battery powered red reindeer noses, fairy lights and tinsel for your beard – it’s all in good fun at this time of year. 

Christmas festive dress

If all really fails, get out those festive socks your mum got you an undisclosed amount of Christmases ago and rock them. At the end of the day, whether you celebrate Christmas for religious reasons, just for the fun of it, or you don’t celebrate the holiday at all, it should ultimately just be a fun time to spend with those you love. It really doesn’t matter what you wear. 

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